The Children of Henry VIII

ISBN: 140254703X
ISBN 13: 9781402547034
By: Alison Weir

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Genres

Biography England Historical Historical Fiction History Non Fiction Nonfiction To Read Tudor Tudors

About this book

At his death in 1547, King Henry VIII left four heirs to the English throne: his only son, the nine-year-old Prince Edward; the Lady Mary, the adult daughter of his first wife Katherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the teenage daughter of his second wife Anne Boleyn; and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. In her new book, Alison Weir paints a unique portrait of these four extraordinary rulers, examining their intricate relationships to each other and to history.Weir opens her narrative with the death of Henry and the accession of the boy king Edward VI. Often portrayed as weak and sickly, Edward, in face, had a keen intelligence and flair for leadership. Had he not contracted a fatal disease at the age of fifteen, Edward might have become one of England's great kings. Instead, his brief reign was marked by vicious court intrigue that took the monarchy to the verge of bankruptcy.Edward's death in 1553 plunged England into chaos, and it was in this explosive atmoshpere that the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. A fragile, intellictual girl, Jane was only too happy to end her nine-day rule when the rioting English populace proclaimed Mary their true and rightful sovereign. Despite her innocence, Jane was brutally executed at the age of sixteen.Mary's reign was marked by her savage persecution of heretics (non-Catholics) and by the emotional turbulence of her marriage to King Philip II of Spain. Weir describes the mounting tensions of the final days of Mary's bloody reign, as the shrewd, politically adroit Elizabeth quietly positioned herself to seeume royal power. The Children of Henry VIII closes with Elizabeth's accession and most spectacularly successful, reigns in English History.Deeply engrossing, written with grace and clarity, The Children of Henry VIII combines the best of history and biography. Weir's devoted readers will recognize this as her finest book yet.

Reader's Thoughts

Lukasz Pruski

And now for something completely different. Not a mystery book review. First, a disclaimer: I have quite a limited experience with history books, having read fewer than 10 of these in my lifetime, in contrast with well over a thousand mysteries and several hundreds of “serious fiction” titles (not to mention non-history non-fiction titles or books in my profession). I understand that Ms. Weir’s “serious” books, meaning her historical non-fiction, are frowned upon by “serious” historians as being too popular, simplistic, and too focused on the “plot”. This may well be true; however, on the spectrum whose endpoints are research-level study of history on one side, and fictitious story based on selected historical facts on the other side, “The Children of Henry VIII” lies quite close to the former, “serious” endpoint, in my view. True, there is perhaps too much focus on stories of individual people, the movers and shakers. Critics claim that there is not enough emphasis on socio-economic and global factors in Ms. Weir’s non-fiction. I tend to disagree. She shows how the heavy political interplay between the Habsburgs, France, and the Holy See affects England. She also shows the influence of mass movements (protests or expressions of sympathy) of “ordinary people” on the course of political events. And even if the socio-economic background is missing, I can always read a “serious” history book for additional depth. Also, the focus on the intertwined stories of individual people makes this book so interesting to read.Ms. Weir vividly presents the four children of Henry VIII (three children and a grand-niece): Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, each of whom would end up ruling England. I find the characterizations deep and revealing. The book is also a fascinating study of how powerful people’s greed for more wealth and more power is not an insignificant driver of history. The events take place in the 16th century so religion plays a crucial role; these are the times of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Ms. Weir’s portrayal of the contrast between religious fanaticism and treating religion as an expediency is quite sharp. I would love to learn more about where would most of the so-called “ordinary people” be on this spectrum. The real-life “plot” of this book is more thrilling than the plot of 90% of the so-called thrillers, with their contrived, artificially convoluted, and obfuscating “twists and turns”.For the Internet generation, it must be hard to take that in the 16th century news traveled by foot or, at best, on horseback. It might have taken days or even weeks for people in the country to learn that the king is dead, even if it was not a secret. Finally, I loved the book because I had to read it slowly; it took me so much time to get through it! There was no skipping over sentences or paragraphs! Four and a half stars.

Jennifer

I love those Tudors. And I'll read just about anything about them.The Children of Henry VIII is a work of non-fiction and covers the span of time from when Henry VIII dies to when his second daughter, Elizabeth I takes the throne. So though the title says "children," the book covers the reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey (who was Henry VIII's great-niece), Mary I, and finally Elizabeth's ascension. This book is a straight-forward look at the time and the players. Not much new, just solid stuff. It would have been more fascinating if there was more to the story than what I have already read before. If you are interested in the period, I would recommend half a dozen historical novels that you can get close to the real story but in a more entertaining way.

Lisa

I recommend reading this book after Alison Weir's "the Six Wives of Henry VIII" as this picks up right where that left off. At his death in 1547, King Henry VIII left four heirs to the English throne: his only son, the nine-year-old Prince Edward; the Lady Mary, the adult daughter of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. Weir examines the relationship between Edward and Mary, Edward and Elizabeth, and Mary and Elizabeth. The reigns of Edward and Mary are covered in good detail: Edward the Protestant, and Mary the Catholic who became known as "Bloody Mary."

Stephanie

I absolutely adored this book...and not just because I'm wild and crazy about the Tudors. Let's be honest, people. Long before Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon's Landing, Another World, and even Passions, there were the Tudors, and they were wonderful! My only regret regarding the reading of this book is that Sundance Channel played 1998's Elizabeth directly I was through, and of course, all I saw during the first screening was all of the historical inaccuracies committed for sake of cinematic appeal. Before I knew it "Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, look at that Joseph Feinnes," became "Kat Ashley was not the same age as her charge; wtf is Emily Mortimer doing there?" ... Yet is not that the most primal function of literature in general, and historical record in particular: not merely to educate, but to make us think? Irritating on the part of the studio, yes, but if irritation is the pound of flesh owed for a well-functioning, healthy intellect, well...My apologies to Joseph Fiennes (it is a crying shame) but then of course, we'll always have Shakespeare in Love . Le sigh.

Aspasia

One of those rare history books that's actually interesting and enjoyable to read. I couldn't put it down, and now I feel compelled to get and read all her other books. I did have a major problem with the book (hence the loss of a star) in that nothing is mentioned about Elizabeth's reign. A book titled The Children of Henry VIII should include far more on the child who ended up reigning the longest. Then again, the author is coming out with a book on Elizabeth in February 2009. As long as you're aware that Elizabeth the Queen won't be covered, you won't be disappointed in this book.

Allison

This is an incredibly detailed account of the fate of the legitimate heirs of Henry VII. Quotes from source materials are used generously, which adds to the veracity of the book as whole. History can be dry, but Ms. Weir includes accounts of the states of mind of the people she is writing about, and faithfully records all facets of their lives, from the clothes they wear, to the illnesses that they suffer, to the food that they eat. Most people know the general story of Henry VII, but not as many know who his heirs were, and what they accomplished in their lives and in their reigns. The book is essentially focused on the conflict in England between Catholicism and "the reformed faith", or Protestantism. Since two of his heirs were reformers and one was a devout Catholic, there is no shortage of skirmishes, executions, plots to overthrow, and general scheming and jockeying for position within the favored court or with the favored heir. The highest compliment I can give to a history book is that it reads like a novel, and this book earns that praise.

GoldGato

Alison Weir always delivers, and it's a pleasure to have one of her books in my greedy-for-more-history hands. Here, she focuses on Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI, the Tudor Children. She paints the picture of papa Henry and how his lust for power, and women, led him to be father to three different children from three different mothers.There is even a biographical portrait of Lady Jane Grey, the unfortunate girl caught between avaricious parents and power-hungry opponents. Believe me, you will not want to put the book down, as you flow from Henry's death through physically weak Edward, then through Bloody Mary's reign, and then to Elizabeth's ascension and the beginning of the global empire for England.It always amazes me that so small an island can have produced such magnificent historical figures. Get your Tudor groove on with this great read.Book Season = Summer

Michelle

Alison Weir always does a nice job of blending history with a sort of understandable drama that makes it easier to read, and more interesting. This book focuses primarily on the short reign of Edward, the even shorter reign of Lady Jane Grey, and mostly the reign of Mary, the Catholic Queen later called "Bloody Mary". Elizabeth is featured here and there, but she is not the primary focus here. I always enjoy Alison Weir's lively recapturing of the court life and personalities involved which is something I find lacking in many other historians who cover the same historical figures. If you're not familiar with the Catholic/Protestant issues happening at this time in history, I'd recommend beginning off with the War of the Roses, and then the reign of Henry VIII, which in itself was really interesting, as he flouted his power any way he could.

Andrew

Best place name: FotheringhayBest adjective: bedeckedBest phantom pregnancy: Mary's firstMost unwelcome death: Jane Grey'sMost welcome deaths: Tie between John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland's and Queen Mary'sBiggest asshole of a Pope: Pope Paul IIIMost unfit parents: Henry Grey and Frances Brandon (Duke & Duchess of Suffolk and Jane Grey's parents)Most scantily mentioned former queen: Anne of ClevesBest hunchback: Mary Grey

Destiny

I have previously started this book, but I only got forty pages into it before something else caught my attention. After I finished The Six Wives of Henry VIII I wanted more Tudor stuff, so what better to read than this? After I've always been fascinated by those three royal children.This book gave me more insight into Edward VI. Although it didn't delve too deeply into his reign. Edward seems to me to have been a puppet through most of his reign. But he did set the groundwork for the Protestant religion in England and he desperately tried to prevent his sister from undoing that by naming Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Although that was technically illegal.Mary undid Edward's work and return England to the Church of Rome. She married the foreign Phillip II of Spain, which wasn't received well. I really did feel sorry for Mary when her pregnancy turned out to be a phantom. She really wanted that and with all the drama in her life, I think it would have made her happier.Of course after Mary died, Elizabeth came to the throne and this is very the books ends with Elizabeth receiving news of her ascension and her uttering that famous line from the Bible. I'm ordering Weir's biography of Elizabeth, which I don't know why I haven't done this already since I acquired two of her books before 2009 and not one on my beloved Elizabeth? For shame. But I will devour that biography as soon as it's in my hands. Oh and I've forgotten Lady Jane Grey. I knew her fate before going into the book, but I felt for her because she never wanted to be Queen and was pressured into by her parents. Her story is a sad one.

Leeanna

The Children of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir"The Children of Henry VIII" is a nonfiction history that reads like a narrative. One interesting, engrossing, detail-filled narrative. The book follows the ascent of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I to the English throne. Also covered are the men around the throne, such as John Dudley, Thomas Cranmer, Edward Courtenay, Philip II, etc.The basic story is known by many, especially fans of the Tudor period. Weir's book is perfect for lovers of historical fiction, because this history is so easily readable, yet also very educational. The author clearly did her research, and includes abundant source material in the text, including quotes from letters and privy purse accounts; and also tells the reader the importance of the historical material. I found myself reading late into the night. I was a little sad when I finished this book; I greatly liked living in the world Weir recreated, an England awash in political and religious machinations. An uncertain world, to be sure. And while I knew the outcome, who would succeed who, I wasn't sure of the exact route each monarch took. For example, my view of Edward and Mary changed quite a bit after reading Weir's book; I used to think Edward was a sickly boy, and Mary heartless, but I learned that wasn't necessarily true. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in the Tudor dynasty. 4/5.

Erik

Fresh off her earlier work, Henry VIII, I dove headfirst into this follow-up that recounts the tumultuous period between the great monarch’s death and the ascension of his second daughter, Elizabeth. The title, as many have observed, is a tad misleading as only three out of the four monarchs featured were actually children of the late Henry; the teenage Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for a mere three months after the death of the equally young Edward VI and before being deposed by Mary and her allies, being technically his grand-niece. Despite this slight error, The Children of Henry VIII is a work of remarkable scholarship that shed light on a period of Tudor history that is often fast-forwarded over in popular scholarship, if not the popular imagination through the cinematic and television mediums.One interesting theory that Weir plays with is in regards to Elizabeth’s refusal to marry, which has long been a juicy gossip and rumor-mill by both professional and lay historians alike. "…with the executions of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Thomas Seymour in mind, she had come to equate marriage with death. This did not affect her desire to flirt and court male interest, but it prevented her from ever making the final commitment in any emotional relationship." Of course, it is just as likely that Elizabeth’s aversion to marriage stemmed from the very real fear that if she married a Continental monarch, she would be putting the control of her realm and her English subjects under potential foreign dominion in the event of her death. Combine that with the unsuitability of marrying any of her supposed lovers – Robert Dudley and Walter Raleigh, to name but a few – and it is easy to imagine just how hard it was being in her position. Then again, there are those who speculate that she was barren, or even that she chose to proclaim her status as a Virgin Queen in order to appease and persuade Catholics to her accept her Protestant reign. Whatever the reason(s), Elizabeth’s reign is the more remarkable for ushering in the Golden Age. Before Elizabeth, Mary was the second woman to reign from the English throne. (The first being the Empress Matilda, who reigned during a turbulent time in the twelfth century.) And for this very reason, many were wary of a woman holding the reigns of power – which was best expressed by Mary of Hungary when she remarked to Emperor Charles V, “A woman is never feared or respected as a man is, whatever the rank. In time of war it is entirely impossible for a woman to govern satisfactorily. All she can do is should responsibility for mistakes committed by others.” Of course, Elizabeth’s long and remarkable reign proved them completely wrong on all counts.Sandwiched between the reigns of the commanding personalities and the politically and socially astute minds of Henry VIII and his second daughter, Elizabeth, the short-lived reigns of Edward VI, Jane, and Mary are often overlooked as a result of their political naïveté and lack of genuine leadership skills – the first two being mere pawns of more powerful forces in the end. But it is precisely because of these short-comings of these ill-fated monarchs that reading about them becomes absolutely absorbing and fascinating.

Trache Can

When reading, getting distracted easily doesn't really fair well for the whole expierence. But that's just a problem I have, the book now?Alison Weir calls this a more personal story, to which I agree. There are politics, as is necessary when talking about royalty, but more than anything, the book is dominated by the four mains, Ed, Jane, Marye, and Liz.The Marye thing is gonna stay, btw.Mostly, you just feel bad for everyone. Ed was a spoiled kid who was taken advantage of; Jane was a less spoiled kid who was taken advantage of and killed because of it (that and her Protestant convictions); Marye was an unhappy person who seemed to be a half decent sovereign until her shit hit the fan and she started burning protestants in the hundreds; and Liz, as it seemed she always did, was trying to survive.It's hard to look past tyrannical rule, but given their ages and their upbringing, there's a good deal of sympathy we can afford to the lion's cubs.Until Marye starts her fires of course. O! and Liz trying to kick all the black people out of England (that actually happened guys).Weir shows a good deal of sympathy for the chillens and seems to show them all im what is a fairly honest light. They aren't divided into saints and sinners, more just kids thrown into turbulent times, often without the tools or the guidance to help them properly navigate.I actually came out really loving Marye, up until the whole burning Protestants thing came along. She has complicated relationships with most of her family, and you really can't help but wonder: what would she have been like if she had a better childhood?All and all, a fairly enjoyable book! Pleasant and rather informative informative.

Summer

For all his worry about heirs, he spawned three drastically different Monarchs, one a puppet, one infamous for religious fanaticism and murder and one celebrated as the greatest Monarch in English history. I knew of their adult lives, but reading this really put the pieces together for me and I saw how their childhoods dictated their future actions. I thought it was a fascinating peek inside, so to speak.

Paul

On that day a dead dog with clipped ears, a rope around its neck, and its head tonsured like a priest’s was hurled into the Queen’s chamber at Whitehall.This is history at its best, with utterly intense soap opera plots and weird glamorous characters and all of it true. This book picks up where Henry VIII and his collection of calamitous chorines left off and tells the story of the next eleven years. And what eleven years they were. Heads rolled, the stench of burning flesh hung in the air, and there was a coup d’etat, and in the middle of it all, three unfortunate children, one of whom was beheaded.When Henry expired of (it is thought) type II diabetes he’d already laid down what should happen to the crown. It should go to his only son Edward, then if he died without any heirs to his first daughter Mary, then if she died without any heirs to his second daughter Elizabeth. No one paid too much attention to the back-up plan with the girls, since the likelihood of them succeeding was thought remote, but that is exactly what happened. The Tudors were really bad at having kids. There’s a woman at my office who had two sons in quick succession recently. I said “you would have made a great wife for Henry VIII” and she said “No, I would have been dead, they were both C section, and one was breech”. Being pregnant was often a death sentence. Extract from Mary’s will, 1557 :I, Mary Queen of England, thinking myself to be with child in lawful marriage…and being at this present (thanks be unto Almighty God) otherwise in good health, yet foreseeing the great danger which, by God’s ordinance, remains to all women in the travail of children, have thought…to declare my last will and testament.So Edward VI became King aged 9 in 1547. He sounds like a precocious spiteful arrogant brat, God rest his soul. The big shot lords who ran the government were pushing through a religious revolution in his name, and this was the big issue of the day. Henry VIII as we know had told the Pope to go chastise himself, and declared Henry himself to be Supreme Head of the Church of England, but that didn’t mean he was a Protestant – no sir! But Edward’s handlers, they were.Meanwhile, half sister Mary, aged 31, was a hardcore Catholic (she was half Spanish); and half sister Elizabeth, aged 14, was becoming a hardcore Protestant. The salty English soup was coming to the boil.Edward VI started to die when he was around 14 and completed the job aged 15. He probably had tuberculosis. For lurid descriptions of lingering vile fatal illnesses, Alison Weir is hard to beat here.After this teenage death the salty soup boiled over. THE NINE DAY QUEENThe guy running the government at that point was one John Dudley (Duke of Northumberland, Lord High Admiral, blah blah). He went just a little bit completely crazy. He saw his meal ticket subsided into the arms of Lethe, and his mind was racing – if Mary is Queen, I’ll be for the chop. She’ll throw out all the Protestants and bring in Catholics. I’ll lose everything. What can I do to rescue this damnable situation? So he came up with a Plan. 1. Persuade the dying 15 year old King to disinherit both his sisters2. Persuade him to nominate another child as his successor3. Persuade the regency council and the entire country to accept this insane plan. Then I can carry on running the country.The hapless girl he fixed on was a 15 year old called Jane Grey, a cousin of the king and a great grand daughter of Henry VII. John Dudley bullied her parents, bullied the council, and bullied her. His line was, it’s either Jane Grey or the Pope, by which he meant, it’s either me or the Pope. For a few days after Edward died it looked like the whole thing might work. Dudley was like a chessplayer on crack – move this here, block this there, swap those off, get that and that round to here… but then his great plan began to unravel just like in my chess games. As soon as they announced the succession of Queen Jane through England people (the nobles and the hoi polloi) started spontaneously drifting to Mary’s residence in Framlingham to declare support for her. Dudley got an army together to go and take Mary prisoner, he realised that would be essential, and he was running around bribing the solders and they were melting away, deserting, shamed by the nastiness of the enterprise. Yes, Mary was a Catholic, but she was Harry’s daughter. Everyone knew that. So Dudley was left with a melting posse, not an army, a loutish gang, and Mary arrested him, not the other way round, and that was the end of that.QUEEN MARY’S TO DO LIST1. Suppress rivals to the throne by force of arms2. Imprison Elizabeth in The Tower (we can’t prove anything but just let’s make her sweat a little bit)3. Behead Jane? 4. Get married to Catholic toy boy5. Convert the whole country back to Catholicism6. Give birth to boy7. Burn heretics by the scoreQueen Jane Approximately was clapped in the Tower of London with her immediate family and fiancé. Mary was Queen, the nation rejoiced. How quickly their songs of love and celebration turned to tears and gnashing of teeth. As Catherine of Aragon is the agonised heroine of Henry VIII’s reign, so her daughter Mary is the agonised antiheroine of the following ten years.At first Mary was all sweetness and mercy and didn’t want to execute Jane or her family. Until there was another rebellion, also feeble, which also melted away. That convinced her to remove her rivals, so she threw her sister into the Tower, and Jane, aged 16, went to the block.After that, no more Mrs Nice Mary. She got married to a Spanish Catholic prince. She was 38, he was 27.Description of Mary by Ruy Gomez, her husband’s best mate :rather older than we had been told. She is not at all beautiful and is small and flabby rather than fat. She is of white complexion and fair, and has no eyebrows…. [Philip] treats the Queen very kindly and well knows how to pass over the fact that she is no good from the point of view of fleshly sensuality.Anonymous Spanish courtier : What shall the king do with such an old bitch?After the wedding and the honeymoon came the serious business of burning human beings alive, however. Back to work. It turned out that this sweet woman, who pretty much everyone liked personally, who had been sorely mistreated most of her life, called a bastard, rejected and imprisoned by her father and brother, who everyone had such sympathy for, when by a simple twist of fate she broke free from this wretched life and became queen, the first ever English queen to reign in her own name, the thing she really wanted to do was burn people alive if they disagreed with her.HERETICS : BURNINGS PER MONARCHElizabeth – 5 in 45 years (0.11 per year)Henry VII – 10 in 24 years (0.41 per year)Henry VIII – 81 in 38 years (2.3 per year)Mary – 295 in 4 years (74 per year)ENGLAND UNDER MARYI never saw England weaker in strength, money, men and riches. As much affectionate as you know me to be to my country and countrymen, I assure you I was ashamed of both. Here was nothing but fining, heading, hanging, quartering and burning.. taxing, levying and beggaring, and losing our strongholds abroad. A few priests ruled all, who, with setting up of six foot roods, thought to make all cocksure.Thomas Smith, 1560IN CONCLUSIONMy kind of history book, a great story told with meticulous detail. Alison Weir isn’t the most personal writer, she keeps her own counsel, refrains from comment, and I would have liked more of that, but really, I ain’t complaining none, this was hair-raising.

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