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

Janastasia Whydra

I think the United States public school history lesson can be summed up as: Britain was our enemy during the American Revolutionary War, the British Empire during Queen Victoria's reign, and Britain was our ally during World War II. When it comes to European history, American education is lacking... then again, it is lacking in regards to the history of the United States as well. So, reading Alison Weir's The Children of Henry VIII was not only educational and enlightening, but also entertaining with humor and drama among the three children of the late King Henry VIII. Although the focus on this book, in my opinion was dominated by Mary- the eldest who would later be nicknamed as 'Bloody Mary'-, Edward VI- the youngest and first heir to the throne-, and Elizabeth- the popular Queen from Shakespeare time according to our English high school teachers. Weir also discusses the short rein of Queen Jane, which was in between Edward and Mary, but I was more interested in the political sibling rivalry.What I think was most impressive about this book if Weir's ability to make her historical figures come to life. Instead of just reading about their lives, I could actually imagine what they may have been like. Edward the young and impressionable with the "I-already-know-everything-about-anything-that-is-worth-knowing-about" attitude of teenagers. Mary the conservative and pious matron who longed to be a mother. And Elizabeth, a young liberal-minded (for her time) woman who is conscious of how she is perceived by others and is careful about how she is making waves, but none-the-less is still making changes that will affect generations for years to come. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about history, politics, royalty/nobility or is looking for a unique perspective on sibling rivalry.


I've read very little in the way of history books - I honestly cannot say when I last read a book of history before this one, so bear that in mind.I found this book extremely readable in many, many ways. Weir does a very good job of moving things along at a pace that keeps the reader from feeling bogged down, and in such a way as I also did not end up feeling like things were rushed through in the book. It was quite interesting to see how much of a particular individual's personality Weir was able to eke out from the letters, diaries, and accounts she investigated in the writing of this book. In that vein, however, I am tempted to also read another account of the events described in this book to see how another historian might interpret the same texts.As I am certain is the case in all history books, there were a lot of dates and locations bandied about that I retained almost nothing of. Lots of people had lots of castles. I can tell you that.I'm quite enamored with this particular period in history - it's really quite the guilty pleasure of mine, and it was very satisfying to read something that was as close to truth as Weir could get it rather than overly-romanticized fiction. I ended up feeling for Mary (though I have a friend who claims that Weir is more unkind of Mary than is necessary) and really, reading about the latter part of her reign was painful.Definitely very readable and engaging if you have an interest, but I'd say don't read this book if you're not already somewhat interested in Tudor history - it's a lot to get through, and minor players can easily get confused/confusing. I have to admit I really enjoyed it a lot, and it made for great escapist-but-not-embarrassing reading over a tough couple of weeks in my life.

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.

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.

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.


One of Alison Weir's most popular books does not disappoint. Its material flies off the pages and makes you really think about what happened between Henry VIII's death and Elizabeth I's succession. I thought that I would already know a lot of what was in this book, having read a multitude of other books on this period, but I was very, very wrong. Firstly is Edward VI's succession. A man hailed as 'the next King Solomon' - as such a young boy when he came to the throne (9 years old) he was manipulated and pushed by his advisors to agree to everything they ever wanted. Consequently, he rarely made any of his own decisions. But he pushed England to such a fervour of Protestantism, he was prepared to write his own sister out of the succession. Putting Lady Jane Grey in her place. Jane Grey, also manipulated and incredibly ill-treated by her parents, was forced to take the crown, but she was not forced to die. After Mary took the throne, she did not want to kill her cousin, and gave her many chances to take up the Catholic faith, but Jane was a fierce protestant, and, you could say she had a hand in signing her own death warrant. She wanted martyrdom, or at least she would not be persuaded to follow Catholocism. Queen Mary's reign started with happiness and support from her people, but such misery and horrific atrocities were performed during her reign, (300 people burned at the stake within 4 years) that when she died, the English people were glad to see the back of her. Marrying King Philip of Spain was a desperate decision for a 38 year old woman who had never allowed herself any pleasures of the flesh. She was a sad and melancholy woman, trying to convert England back to Catholocism for her own selfish pleasure. Thinking God would punish her if she did not. After Mary's death, there is a small part on Queen Elizabeth I, as the next book in the series is 'Elizabeth the Queen' - which I have already read, and is also fantastic. Weir is brilliant. I really cannot fault this book.


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.


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


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


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


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!

Steven Peterson

The title of this book is a bit misleading. While Weir does her usual fine job of elucidating characters and their times, calling this "The Children of Henry VIII" is a bit misleading, since Lady Jane Grey's nine day reign is included. Her story as a child until her brief reign is also told. This makes a great deal of sense historically, since she was labeled sovereign by some lords upon the death of Edward VI and before Mary's supporters drove Grey's "handlers" from power.The book does a nice job of outlining the personalities, experiences, and beliefs of Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, the children of Henry VIII as well as Lady Jane Grey, also of royal blood. Edward's reign after his father's death was brief, with his death from tuberculosis in his middle teens. Weir outlines his personality and his positions on issues of the day. He never ruled as full sovereign because of his age, but many thought him promising material. He was strongly supportive of a more radical religious stance, moving further from the Catholic Church. The story of efforts by his Council members to manipulate him and compete with one another for influence through him is well told. When his health began deteriorating, with Mary the heir to the throne, some of the nobles realized that they could be in serious trouble, given her know adherence to Catholicism and to her anger at her poor treatment by some of those nobles.Hence, the coup that placed Grey on the throne, even if only for a short while. It was an effort surely doomed to fail. When troops flocked to Mary to support her claim on the throne, the conspirators were defeated. The sad ending of Jane's life is spelled out. Mary did not want her death, but she served as a symbol for those who did not want the return of the Catholic religion. Thus, she was disposed of as an effort to defuse unrest.Far more troublesome, as discussed here, was the prickly relationship between the sisters--Mary and Elizabeth. The latter ended up in the Tower of London for awhile, sometimes sure that she was to experience her mother's fate (Anne Boleyn was her mother). Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain and her inability to produce an heir; her efforts to return England to Catholicism and the ensuing burnings at the stake for heresy (she was later referred to as “Bloody Mary”).And, with her death, the book ends with Elizabeth learning that she was now Queen.This is a standard Alison Weir work, which for me means a well written story, with plenty of details of the main focal characters and the contexts in which they found themselves. There is a nice genealogical table at the end, to see how Jane was related to Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. Another good product from Weir's pen.


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.

Ana Mardoll

The Children of Henry VIII / 9780307806864I picked up this book after finishing Weir's excellent "The Six Wives of Henry VIII". This book follows straight on from the end of that one, and is an excellent and engrossing look at the interactions between Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, and Jane Grey as they each in turn took the English throne whilst maintaining complex relationships with the others. There's really not much to be said here that I haven't said already with regards to Weir's books: her scholarship is (as far as I can tell) excellent, her writing is fascinating, and she takes a great deal of care to cite her sources as she goes, along with the bias and relative trustworthiness of that source. I greatly appreciate her style, as it really conveys what was gossip, what was possibly true, and what was most likely true in her estimation. If I have any criticism to give on Weir's writing, it would perhaps be that I wish she would use a few more commas -- sentences like "In late May Mary moved..." give me a moment of pause while my brain sorts out what I am reading. But this is a very minor point. The only other issue I have with this book is that it feels like it short-changes us a touch on the Elizabeth front. The book covers Edward's ascension to the throne and ends with Mary's death and Elizabeth's rise to power. In a way this makes sense, given that the theme of the book is the interactions between Henry's heirs, and once Elizabeth is queen, there are no more heirs to interact with. And it's not like the book is lightweight, since it comes in at over 400 pages in the eBook version. But there's something rather disconcerting about reading so much about Elizabeth's struggles under Mary's reign and then signing off just as she comes into her own. I note that Weir has an entire volume solely on "The Life of Elizabeth I", so you might want to follow this book with that one. ~ Ana Mardoll


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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