The Children of Henry VIII

ISBN: 0760738610
ISBN 13: 9780760738610
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

Sharon

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 boring...you will not find that here. This is the first book I have read by Weir, and I will certainly be looking for more!

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Theresa Sivelle

Okay, so I just can not finish this book. It seems to go on and on and I just couldn't get attached to any of the characters. Maybe more of an educational type book than an enjoyable reading thing. I'm going to move on to different book for another one of my book clubs.

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.

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.

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.

Brandie

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

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.

Claire

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.

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

Ray Campbell

Weir does a terrific job of storytelling. There are histories that are dry and impersonal, this is not one of them. By focusing on a narrow window, Weir makes it easy to connect to the characters in the book as though it's great fiction rather than history. Never the less, her research is amazing and she has many scholarly points to make.The book begins with a quick run up and review of the reign of Henry VIII in order to set the stage for the assent of his son, Edward VI. It is easy to skip over the reigns of Edward, Lady Jane and Mary on the way from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. However, much of the molding of the culture, government and religion of England was reaction to and grew out of the context of the radical positions of Edward and Mary. The personal details tell the story of the evolution of ideas, theology and policies. I respect the histories that cover the centuries in broad strokes, but Weir's style of writing is entertaining and informative at a much deeper level. Accounts taken from letters, diaries and testimony give us the expressions on faces, laughter, horror as well as what they wore, ate and really looked like. This level of detail makes it possible to experience history in a full color world experienced by the senses. Mary loved her little sister, Edward idealized and played with his older sisters, Mary fell head over heals for Philip and real people died for what they believed in grotesque ways while wars raged on the continent and an international cast of supporting characters came and went with news, influence and intrigue.I've read more exciting history, but only because the stories were more exciting. Alison Weir is as gifted as any historian I've read. She doesn't document every phrase in the narrative. She tells the story with details and mentions sources in context making her prose flow in a natural and unobtrusive way. It is really easy to forget that this is not fiction. I look forward to reading more of her work including her historical fiction. Michael Schaara's "Killer Angels" comes to mind. The events can be real and dialogue can even be taken from primary source, but there is a line where an honest historian can decide to write from his or her own point of view and personal understanding without qualification in a literary style rather than as a scholar. The style of Weir's writing here is just to the history side of the line. I understand that other works of hers are fiction, though I imagine them, as with Schaara, fictionalized history rather than fiction in a historical setting.Excellent book, I highly recommend. A must for Tutor enthusiasts. By the way - this covers Henry VIII through Jane Seymour and then the lives of Edward, Mary, Jane Grey (though she is not Henry's child) and Elizabeth until Elizabeth takes the thrown. The coverage of Elizabeth's life is equal in the time frame, but the time frame ends with the death of Mary. Just a brief epilogue foreshadows the actual reign of Elizabeth.

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