The Children of Henry VIII

ISBN: 0760738610
ISBN 13: 9780760738610
By: Alison Weir

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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


I picked this book up to "soothe" my sadness that the Showtime cable series, "The Tudors" was officially over. WOW! Gotta love it when a history book reads like a novel, which this one does!Allison Weir does a masterful job of presenting 4 very different people to us: Edward VI, Henry VIII's only legitimate son who takes the crown at the tender age of 9, and who by no means is a "sickly youth" as is often described, but a mirror copy of young Henry, with extremely rigid Protestant leanings. His oldest sister Mary, a girl who spends a bulk of her childhood and adolescence longing for her father's love, and desperately trying to hold onto the principles passed on by her mother, especially that of her rigid Roman Catholic faith. Elizabeth, the middle child, who is anything but typical; it is she who will bring prosperity to England, who will truly define the Church of England, and who will go down in history as one of, if not the, greatest monarchs in British history...but until all this comes to pass, she must wrestle with her own destructive demons. And finally, poor Lady Jane Grey, not an actual child of Henry's, but a child of his realm, who becomes a chess piece in her father-in-law's scheme to take the throne and keep Mary off of it...and who unjustly suffers because of it. It sounds so outrageous, one who doesn't know any better would think it's a soap opera, not genuine history! But that's what makes it all the more juicy, that it truly is historical fact...I knew bits and pieces about all these post Henry VIII monarchs, but there were details that even I couldn't have imagined. What was most astonishing were the stories of Mary and Elizabeth's childhoods, and how too many times they either came close, or were actual victims of sexual abuse and scandal. There is more to Lady Jane Grey than her 9 day reign, and certainly a great deal more to Edward than the simple fact that he ruled...and died far too young. This is a *must* if you are a fan of Tudor Britain, or simply a fan of history. And if you're worried about reading a history book because you're afraid it will be stuffy and dry and will not find that here. This is the first book I have read by Weir, and I will certainly be looking for more!


** spoiler alert ** I'm copying this from other posts I made on the Tudor group but thought I'd share here, as well. July 15/09"I'm really enjoying learning more about Jane in The Children of England, also by AW. Thought I'd share a little for anyone who, like me, doesn't know much about her. The first part of the book takes place directly after the death of Henry VIII and goes into a lot of detail regarding Jane's feelings toward her parents and her preference to learning above all else, as learning was the only thing she could do safely, without fear of punishment. It also speaks of her betrothal to Lord Hertford being broken in favor of her parents' desire for higher position, as well as to fit the Duke of Northumberland's schemes to raise his family's stature by marry his own son, Guilford Dudley (younger brother of Robert) to Jane. AW states that Jane would have preferred to never marry at all but accepted that marriage was a part of her role as an one in line to inherit the throne. She did, however, 'hate the Dudleys' and refused to marry Guilford on the grounds of her previous betrothal. Her parents finally won that argument when they flogged Jane into submission. When reading about Jane, you can't help but feel for the sweet girl who would have preferred to sit with a book than sit on a throne. She was incredibly Protestant and very intelligent. It would have been interesting to see what sort of Queen she would have made or what sort of life she would have lived had she been able to follow through on either of these paths. The second part of the book focuses on Jane and Mary after the death of Edward VI. I'll be reading that in about 10 pages or so. I'll write more when I learn it. I highly recommend reading the book :) July 17, 2009 From what I've just finished reading, Edward's Lord Protector at the time of this death was the Duke of Northumberland, who was Robert Dudley's father. He overthrew Edward's uncle, Lord Somerset (Edward Seymour - Jane Seymour's brother) and took total control of the ruling. Northumberland convinced Edward to change the line of succession set forth in Henry VIII's will to skip over Mary, Elizabeth and Frances Brandon (Henry's niece by his sister Mary), which was illegal and traitorous to defy. However, Northumberland had so much power that the other advisors felt that they could not go against him for fear of their lives. The doctors all deemed that nothing could be done for Edward, who was incredibly sick at the end. He was coughing up blood, he had boils, ulcers and bedsores (to name a few) and could barely get out of bed, write letters or even speak. Northumberland was not yet prepared to let him die. He needed more time to set affairs into order in a way that would benefit him (by getting Jane on the throne, who was married to his youngest son, Guilford Dudley). Northumberland hired what AW calls a female 'quack' - a woman who fed aresenic to Edward, which apparently prolonged his life though to great suffering on Edward's part. When the new line of succession was agreed upon (unwillingly) and sworn to by all advisors in front of Edward himself, Northumberland no longer had a need to keep him alive and got rid of the 'quack', ending the poisoning. Interestingly, this woman was never seen or heard from again and some think that she was murdered. I have no doubt that Northumberland would not be above getting rid of a woman who helped him to poison a King! Anyway, Edward, pre-illness, was really trying to participate and "do" more by way of ruling. He attempted to emmulate his father in all ways. If you look at pictures of him, he even stands like Henry did, feet apart and hands on hips. He wasn't as athletic as Henry but enjoyed watching sport and loves the masques, etc. When his uncle was Lord Protector he did not let Edward take part in many decisions. This led Edward to hate his uncle. Northumberland was smart even to realize that he needed to at least make Edward believe that decisions were his to make but was also smart enough to know how to make Edward's decisions mirror his own. July 22/09 Mary, for all of her good qualities, of which she apparently possessed many, was a brutal queen, relentless in her persecution of the Protestant heretics. She was very much a maternal figure. She acted as mother to Elizabeth at a young age and wanted nothing more than to be a mother and provide a son for Phillip and for England. Obviously, this was not destined to happen. Mary was older when she married Phillip and probably in the beginning stages of menopause. She probably suffered from what is known as a phantom pregnancy; wanting so badly to be pregnant that she convinced herself and her body that she was. The worst part of this section of the book was reading about the burnings. So many men and women died as a result of heresy. During Mary's 'pregnancy', she convinced herself that in order to safely deliver a child, she must first rid England of all the heretics and she increased the persecution at this time. One woman was burned when she was 8 months pregnant. While burning, she delivered the baby. The executioner picked up the baby and threw it back in the fire! I can't imagine what it must have been like to have lived during a time like this, always in fear of your life and the lives of your friends and family.


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


I thought this book was wonderfully written. It provided so much information while keeping me intrigued throughout its entirety.


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.

Erin Germain

Virtually everyone knows about Elizabeth I and her long reign. Many have heard of Mary I ("Bloody Mary"), who ruled before her. But how many know about Edward VI or the Nine-Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey? These were the children (and great-niece, in the case of Jane Grey) of Henry VIII. The book begins with Henry's death and the Council who ruled in the young Edward's name, his assertion for power, and the political and religious wrangling that happened after his early death. It provided a nice map of the political scene of the time, in terms that were easy for the average reader to understand. It also gives some insight into what life was like for Mary and Elizabeth, both declared illegitimate, yet put back into the line of succession (Henry was nothing if not a master at adapting the law to his purpose) after their younger brother. It then goes through the extremely short reign of Queen Jane, Mary's tenure on the throne, and ends with Elizabeth about to take the throne. There are also some very nice photos, albeit in black and white, of the four heirs, political figures who surrounded them, and homes which were important to them. Despite the subjects being gone for 450 years, it is not at all dry and was very entertaining.


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.


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.


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.


this reads too much like a text book from school and not really my type of enjoyable reading.


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.


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.

C.S. Burrough

As a big Alison Weir reader I had reservations about her cramming in so many characters here compared to her other biographies which I love for their fleshing out and generosity of detail. Having read more than one full length biography on each of Henry VIII's children I anticipated this to be necessarily condensed.I was wrong.This more than adequately covers each subject without sacrificing that fine Weir standard. These are sumptuously drawn profiles of some of history's most intriguing royals, all sharing a father, each bearing the grand hallmark of a different mother, each mother's fate distinctly unfortunate.Without these heirs to the throne being the characters they were, with such individualised beliefs, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and limitations, history could and perhaps would have unfolded differently for the English speaking world.Alison Weir is among a handful of the world's best at what she does. She escorts the non-academic reader into the backgrounds, mindsets, motives, strengths, shortcomings, obstacles and dilemmas of these iconic personas. All without forgoing the quality and standards such books require to work as they do. We are left entertained, informed but hungry for more of the genre.Another fine accomplishment from an erudite and readable historical biographer.


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.

Jill Myles

So I've been on a total nonfiction kick lately. NO IDEA WHY. But I'm filling my brain with court politics and this was a fascinating read. I've always loved the story behind Lady Jane Grey's doomed ascent to the throne, and this provided a lot of backstory and filled in the holes. Toward the end, I started to get tired of poor Mary's reign though, and some of the religious machinations started to run together. Fascinating reading, though.

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