Read Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir Online


“WEIR’S BOOK OUTSHINES ALL PREVIOUS STUDIES OF HENRY. Beautifully written, exhaustive in its research, it is a gem. . . . She succeeds masterfully in making Henry and his six wives . . . come alive for the reader.”–Philadelphia InquirerHenry VIII, renowned for his command of power and celebrated for his intellect, presided over one of the most magnificent–and dangerous–cou“WEIR’S BOOK OUTSHINES ALL PREVIOUS STUDIES OF HENRY. Beautifully written, exhaustive in its research, it is a gem. . . . She succeeds masterfully in making Henry and his six wives . . . come alive for the reader.”–Philadelphia InquirerHenry VIII, renowned for his command of power and celebrated for his intellect, presided over one of the most magnificent–and dangerous–courts in Renaissance Europe. Never before has a detailed, personal biography of this charismatic monarch been set against the cultural, social, and political background of his glittering court. Now Alison Weir, author of the finest royal chronicles of our time, brings to vibrant life the turbulent, complex figure of the King. Packed with colorful description, meticulous in historical detail, rich in pageantry, intrigue, passion, and luxury, Weir brilliantly renders King Henry VIII, his court, and the fascinating men and women who vied for its pleasures and rewards. The result is an absolutely spellbinding read....

Title : Henry VIII: The King and His Court
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345437082
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 642 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Henry VIII: The King and His Court Reviews

  • Pete daPixie
    2019-04-07 22:54

    I have to rate Alison Weir's 'Henry VIII-King and Court' a five star read. You get exactly what it says on the tin. A vast and fully comprehensive work, covering over five hundred pages, along with the obligatory sixty pages of notes.As the author states in her introduction, this is not a political history of the reign, her brief here is to record the events that help to build up a picture of the life and ethos of the King and the court. The reader of Tudor history may well have to go elsewhere for greater depth and detail of Henry's six wives, or of the many monumental events that effected the cultural, social or political climate of the age. Instead the olde worn caricature of Henry VIII is dusted off and given a more realistic treatment illuminated with the light of modern research. Therefore this book is filled with a myriad of detail of court life from the Privy Chamber to the culinary creations of the royal kitchens down to the names of the pet dogs.Other Tudor writers like Hutchinson or Starkey do disagree with Weir on various points, but in the main that does not detract from my enjoyment of this fascinating book. We have certainly come a long way from the portrait created by Charles Laughton.

  • Ricardo
    2019-04-09 19:53

    Un exhaustivo y soberbio trabajo sobre la corte de Enrique VIII, uno de los personajes más controvertidos de la historia de Inglaterra y de la historia Universal sin lugar a dudas. Sus castillos, sus costumbres, la moda, los alimentos y hasta detalles de la higiene (o la falta de ella) que se practicaba en esos entonces.Los primeros capítulos abordan minuciosamente todo lo escrito arriba. El resto de la obra es una radiografía de cada personaje cercano al Rey y su corte. Por fortuna, no se enfoca específicamente al tema de él y sus esposas. Ya hay mucho de ello en otros libros y la misma Alison Weir ya se ocupó de ello en un libro especial.La lectura es a veces cansada por tanto y tanto detalle (Tomen nota de los tapices, los muebles y otras banalidades del interior de sus palacios) pero no por ello desmerece un trabajo que no es otra cosa que una fotografía en alta definición en escrito, tanto así que uno puede palpar la época, las pasiones y la vida social y política de una Inglaterra que decidió caminar sola partiendo de la soberbia y a la vez, magnificencia de un hombre como Enrique Tudor.Lean todo lo que tengan que leer, resuelvan sus pendientes, pidan vacaciones, pues un libro con medio centenar de páginas dedicadas a la bibliografía, merece respeto y tiempo. Al menos, respeto al trabajo de la autora, indudable experta en el tema.

  • Arukiyomi
    2019-04-04 23:06

    There, in a charity shop, completely unblemished as in a proper bookshop, lay Weir’s encylopaedic description of one of the most magnificent courts of English royalty. And it was mine for only 95p.I’ve not read any of Weir’s books before. She’s written about pretty much every Tudor monarch or individual connected with Tudor monarchy you can think of. I used to read books like this all the time but the 1001 list has my heart set on novels. Because this was immaculate and a tenth of the price it was supposed to be, I snapped it up though. It sat well with my reading of Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.There are plenty of reviews out there which complain that this book isn’t actually about Henry VIII at all. They complain that it’s hard to find the king, buried as he is under the detailed descriptions of the world he inhabited. Having read the book, I agree. This book should really be entitled The Court of Henry VIII.But that didn’t bother me too much. I wasn’t after a blow by blow description of his life. I was after a description of the times, and although the book was mis-named, I tried not to let this distract me from what is after all a good history.There’s not much narrative thread though, and readers should be forgiven for thinking that because the opening line starts with the death of Henry VII they’re going to get a chronicle of the next 40 years. They’re not. What they do get are just over 500 pages split into 63 chapters. This works out at just under 8 pages a chapter. While this seems quite short, the book is printed in something like 5pt font. And each of these chapters deals with a different facet of the court. I’ll admit, I found it slow going.But it wasn’t slow going in the way a plate of broad beans is slow going. This was slow going in the way treacle pudding with custard is slow going. You want to take your time. You want to gaze on the awesome jewel-encrusted splendour before you, to soak yourself in the sumptuous riches of cloth of gold, velvet and syphilis.Wait, no! He didn’t have syphilis! This is a common myth and one of many that Weir debunks in her attempt to get at the truth behind a man who was very much larger than life. In the end, he appears as one who ruled according to the beliefs of his day. Let’s not forget that these shifted like the sands of the Thames estuary and doomed many who attempted the passage.Henry was a magnificent statesman, of that there is no doubt. He may well have even been the preeminent one of his day. But he was a product of his time and Weir shows this very well. It is a flattering portrayal.However, like the wardrobes of the day, Weir’s writing is weighed down by almost ludicrous attention to detail. There are more characters in here than a Russian epic and it’s hard to keep track sometimes of who is central to the events described. There are long lists of things, clothes, purchases, buildings, gifts, animals, etc., etc. It’s all a bit too much sometimes.If you are a fan of the Tudors and not too much of a fan of Henry, you’re going to love this. If you are after a more traditional biography of Henry himself, be warned that this might be a frustrating read.

  • Caroline
    2019-04-01 17:48

    I always enjoy Alison Weir's books - she has a lively, engaging style and a knack for bringing both her subjects and the world they lived in truly to life, and this book is no exception. Henry VIII is a larger than life figure anyway: after all, every schoolchild grows up knowing 'divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived'. But there was a lot more to the man than the simple stereotype of a fat, bloated tyrant who chopped his wives' heads off. Charting his evolution from a handsome young prince with idealistic views of learning and governing to his latter incarnation as, yes, a fat bloated tyrant is truly fascinating.The sheer amount of detail in this book is incredible - from the food Henry and his court ate, the houses they lived in, to the clothes they wore, down to the very sheets of the beds, nothing is too small or insignificant to escape mention. It really serves to bring the Tudor court to full colour and vigour.My only quibble is that is perhaps focuses too much of Henry's life at court and not enough on his European relations; and the Reformation itself is somewhat skated over. But then, the title of the book is 'King and Court' and Henry's life within his English Court is the focus of the book, not his international relations with France, Spain and Rome.

  • Luv_trinity
    2019-04-02 17:50

    I love this book,and I find it a very easy read. Weir has a way of making the story of Henry VIII and his court come alive for her readers . Weir also have a knack for finding little known facts that most historian only skip over. Like the fact that prior to Anne Boleyn trial for treason, In April it was announce that Anne was pregnant. In May she was arrested,and she was beheaded on May 19. Weir ask the question, uh, what become of the pregnancy?

  • Andre
    2019-04-26 21:46

    This is a maticulously researched history, not a novel. In fact, this books from its first pages points out how poorly researched are most novels about this great English king. If you want to know Henry the 8th, I would recommend reading and studying this book by Alison Weir.

  • April
    2019-03-31 17:56

    This biography is very impressive. In general I think Alison Weir is a fabulous biographer. Her research is very thorough and her writing isn't so full of details that you get lost. However, she has completely outdone herself with this book. I have read several books about the six wives of Henry VIII, but never a biography of his own life so this was a treat. I always thought of Henry VIII as some egotistical monster that liked divorcing or beheading his wives so that he could move on to his next catch. Yes, he had an ego, a big one, but he wasn't a monster. He was influenced by so many things, his upbringing, his religious beliefs, and especially that of his personal counselors. I always thought of him as a one man show being king and head of the Church of England after he left the Catholic faith, but it wasn't that way at all. I didn't realize the impact that his counselors had on his decisions until I read this book. Anne Boylen wasn't taken down by Henry, she was taken down by his closest counselor, who didn't like her and wanted her gone. So he made her into an adulterer and a traitor, two things that she was not. I love how the author puts you into Henry's world by describing how the court worked, what he ate, where he slept, what his rooms were like, what the houses/castles he lived in were like and what he wore. His daily life is very well described and is easy to imagine. It was also interesting to find out more about what kind of person he was. He was extremely intelligent and talented. He was a marvel at sports of all kinds, played musical instruments, wrote music and poems and was very well educated. He was also a charmer and knew how to put on a good show. He had a big temper as well so everyone around him had to be careful about what they said or did in order to not incur his wrath.He was very fit and active until he started to have a recurring infection in his legs that would send him to bed for weeks on end and eventually took his life. After the infection began he started putting on weight and it made his condition even worse. They don't really know what happened to him the last few weeks of his life as he was in almost total seclusion and no one let any information out about what was going on. So the cause of death can only be speculated at. His death was kept a secret for two days after he died.Fabulous book. If you want to understand Henry VIII, read this. Definitely a different perspective than I had anticipated.

  • Steven Peterson
    2019-04-26 18:57

    In one sense, I am at a disadvantage in assessing this volume. I am not an historian of this era, so I cannot confidently judge well the accuracy of Alison Weir's rendering of events and people. That said, I am most impressed with this work. The author covers many aspects of English history--including day-to-day life--of the time. We read of medical practice (ugh), music, art, architecture, customs, drama, clothing, sports (e.g., hunting, archery, tennis, jousting, and so on), the internecine politics (when losers could lose their lives; politics was serious business), and the relationships among families in England of the era. This book is as much about the country at that time as about Henry VIII. Henry VIII is portrayed in great detail. This is not a Charles Laughton view of the king. It is much more nuanced. It is true that, if Weir be correct, Henry became more rigid and unforgiving and vain and distrusting and autocratic as he aged. He drove England close to financial ruin with his wars (which often had little effect, even though costing much) and with his incessant building projects (his own palaces as one key example).But this should not detract from other of his accomplishments. He supported the arts; he was one of the more educated and intellectually oriented monarchs of the time. It may be that Weir romanticizes him to some extent, and that ought to be noted. But his was not simply a dissipated period in English history. Of course, many would wonder about his rendering of the multitudinous wives of the monarch. Weir does spend time on this part of his life, including the Machiavellian politics associated with Henry's marriages (factions would use potential wives as pawns in power struggles). Weir's assessments of the various wives are pretty fair. We might be surprised to know of his affection for Katherine of Aragon; it is fascinating to watch the pas de deux between Anne Boleyn and Henry before their wedding; and so on. Then, the descriptions of the hard ball politics of the era--featuring actors such as Wolsey, Cromwell, More, Cranmer, and the nobles of the time. All in all, an accessible and very readable work on Henry VIII and his time. I'd strongly recommend. . . .

  • Kathleen
    2019-04-01 17:44

    Alison Weir is one of my very favorite historians. I do not at all recommend reading her historical fiction for many and varied reasons, but her straight history is great. Well-researched, well backed up, and she frequently has some pretty interesting new theories to throw in the mix to make her books even more fun to read. She specializes in Tudor history, which, you know, my crack, so naturally I was quite pleased to find a book of hers that I hadn't read.Sadly, it's not her best. Henry VIII: The King and His Court tries to be, as the title says, a biography of the king and a snapshot of the Tudor court at the same time, and it doesn't succeed terribly well. The first half of the book is heavily weighted towards the court, describing how it was organized, how it worked, and the people who attended it, while the second half covered Henry's reign in greater detail than the first half. There wasn't a lot of overlap; so we didn't get much about how the court was affected by the events of Henry's reign and vice versa. We also didn't get to hear a lot about what Wolsey and Cromwell were doing to actually run the kingdom, which is perhaps understandable but still frustrating. Plus, the first half was very difficult to get through because it was a lot of names and details without a lot of context. Weir did also leave out a lot of the turmoil surrounding Henry's various marriages, but as she wrote an entire (much better) book specifically about them, I'll cut her some slack on that. It seems to have been a deliberate choice anyway. I don't think I would recommend this book unless you have a deep and abiding interest in the nitty-gritty everyday world of the Tudor court. In that respect it's an invaluable resource, but there are other and better biographies of Henry VIII if that's all you're after.

  • Irka
    2019-03-26 20:00

    Niestety to najsłabsza, a momentami najbardziej odtwórcza książka jaką czytałam w tym temacie.----Not a book that I would have recommended to anyone who is interested in Henry VIII regin.

  • Joyce
    2019-04-13 17:48

    5 starsThis comprehensive covers just about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Henry VIII. From his undergarments, weapons, food, servants and so on, it is a complete picture of a day in the life of this King. The book is far more detailed than any prospective reader can imagine. Ms. Weir briefly discusses the six wives, but this is primarily a book about Henry, not his wives. It speaks of the separate chambers and the servants both Henry and his wives had, and the rooms and rooms in which they had to live. The book discusses the changes in the Privy Council and the various political machinations that occurred during Henry’s reign. The political infighting was very bad and the backstabbing and maneuvering for position went on constantly.It also covers the seven year journey to the break with the Catholic Church and the reasons behind it. Those who disagreed with the creation of the Church of England such as Sir Thomas More and Cardinal Fisher, among many others, were put to death. (Sir Thomas More was later declared a saint by the Catholic Church.)Ms. Weir’s writing is easily accessible to all readers. The book is brilliantly written and plotted. It moves linearly from one part of Henry’s life to another. It includes where one can see the surviving homes and castles, as well as papers, texts and other artifacts of Henry’s household and tells of those that did not survive. The book also includes quotes from people who lived with Henry, as much as could be found. I really enjoy reading Alison Weir’s books. I have read several now, and will continue to do so for as long as she writes.

  • Emily
    2019-04-18 15:06

    This book did not take me as long as some other dense history books I've read, so I am overall proud of myself. In school I was told that I should steer clear of Alison Weir when doing research for a paper. For the life of me I can't understand why! This book was thoroughly researched and crafted, why should it be discredited because it's considered 'popular history.' Then I noticed while reading Lucy Worsley's "If Walls Could Talk," that in her acknowledgements she thoroughly thanked Weir for "Henry VIII: The King and His Court" as it provided great insight into Tudor England. If the amazing Worsley, who holds my dream job as Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, can use Weir as a source, why can't I?! I loved the in depth discussion of small, everyday facts of life for Henry VIII, it really made the past come alive for me. It painted a full picture of Henry VIII that is not often seen, a man of contradictions who loved greatly one moment then despised whole heartedly the next; a man who was brave and prideful, but also fearful and somewhat private and self conscious. His legacy both the good and the bad are not shied away from by Weir. There was so much about Henry Book's building projects, palaces, and houses. A slew of these old Tudor sites have now been added onto my list of places to visit in England. My wallet will surely suffer.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-31 17:03

    This book actually rates 3.5 stars, but as before, I tend to round up. The main issue I had with this book is that it wasn't one where I could just sit down and start reading. The first several chapters dealt with the court and fashion and everything else, and so it seemed to me that the author expected her readers to have a more-than-passing acquaintance with things like architectural terms. She talks about donjons, Perpendicular architecture and so many other things that there were sections that I just skimmed until it finally dawned on me to look up images on the internet. This does present a good portrait of Henry VIII, his court and the times in which he lived. I learned quit a bit about him, but I find the more I learn about him, the less I like him. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it was difficult in his case. The author doesn't focus much on his wives (she has another whole book devoted to them), but what she does tell of them is, well, telling. I found myself sympathizing with Katherine of Aragon, and to a certain extent, Katherine Parr, but the others really didn't earn my sympathy at all. I mean, there's something to be said for mercy and all, but most of his wives had lived for quite some time at court, and basically they should have been smarter about things. But that's just me. A good read, with a lot of new insights.

  • LibraryCin
    2019-03-26 15:00

    This book is not only a biography of King Henry VIII, but it also takes a close look at the culture of the royal court in 16th century England. I really liked this. Often, Weir's nonfiction books read like fiction and I would say this is one that did. I really enjoyed all the extra behind-the-scenes look at court life. This included detailed information on all the people at court, their positions, their pay, as well as the design of the palaces, food, fashion and probably more that is just not coming to mind as I write this review. I will say that it can be tricky to remember who's who sometimes; I've read enough of this time period that I'm mostly ok with it, but at the end of Henry's reign it got a bit trickier. What made it tricky for me is when someone's title is used rather than their name. I do mostly remember names, but sometimes remembering titles is a bit more difficult (especially, when those titles “move” from person to person sometimes!). Overall, though, this is a really good biography of Henry that includes many behind-the-scenes details of court life and culture.

  • Pierre
    2019-03-28 18:55

    Not a good book. This is an incredibly long and dull look at a most fascinating monarch that rarely flirts with being interesting, and when it does is not at all due to the author. The first 200 pages or so are spent detailing the minutiae of 16th century court life, from the types of entertain to the food served to everything in between, in excruciatingly dull detail. Once the actual biography gets going, the author still sees fit to interject with yet more superfluous information about anything and everything remotely connected to Henry VIII and his court. It is entirely unclear as to who the audience is; this is awful history as nothing is argued and nothing debated, boring biography as the life of the subject is merely a narrative framework and not the narrative itself, and a terrible story because it's so dull to read. The only people who should read this in detail are those who wish to write historical fiction about Henry VIII; everyone else, steer clear. I only award the second star because at least nothing was incorrect.

  • Stephanie
    2019-04-21 21:48

    This was quite interesting once I was 1/2 way in. The beginning was v e r y slow, giving lists of all the properties Henry inherited, how many men had the right to empty his chamberpot at different times, etc. Once the (long) first chapters were over, the reading got better and focused more on Henry's reign, as opposed to Tudor court life. A major critique for the casual reader is that Weir was not consistent enough in using people's names. Sometimes she would use a first name, sometimes a last name, other times a title... This lead to lots of confusion and difficulty in following the story, especially as there were multiple people associated with most names or titles. Very well researched.

  • Becky
    2019-04-13 20:44

    It took me a while to get into this book - maybe 80 pages (and when I say "a while" I mean several months.) There is just SO much detail, which is great, but it can make it drag in the beginning. It gets better when Weir stops detailing how many men watched Henry VIII sleep at night and starts talking about the actual history, but still weaves those details into it. I guess you could consider it a biography of Henry VIII, but the focus is really on the surrounding elements of his reign - his properties, the warring factions at court, customs, fashion, art, etc. It's an interesting perspective on the Tudor court, and I think once you get over that initial hump, it makes for a very interesting and relatively quick read. Definitely recommend.

  • Alice
    2019-03-27 21:07

    I liked this book because it concentrates on how Henry VIII fashioned England from a Medieval Kingdom into a modern Nation State; with all the good and bad that this entails. Many do not realize that Henry VIII was the founder of the British Royal Navy.The divorce from Catherine of Aragon is chronicled for the impact it had on the Reformation and England's relations with Europe. Would this modernization have taken place without the Great Matter? When you read this book you will have an opinion. The various functions of oddly named courtiers could be a book in itself. We learn how important the Master of Horse was to a monarch. If you were ever wondering what the Silver Stick in Waiting for King/Queen is; this is the book to get your answers.

  • Katie
    2019-04-14 16:06

    This comprehensive biography of Henry VIII was so much fun to read. Weir has a real knack for making historical figures come to life, and making true events read like the events of a novel. And Henry VIII is a person whose very life seems fictitious: especially in regards to his six wives, the beheading of two of them, and his unstable temperament in later life. Through extensive research, however, Weir gives us a fuller picture of Henry VIII, and the period in which he ruled. Very, very interesting, and highly recommended.

  • Amanda pepos
    2019-03-31 21:57

    i always want to know more about this time in history and this book is full of information about what happened during this time. it begins before henry is king and ends with his death and covers everything in betweens and gives the reader a better understanding of who henry VIII was and you begin to see how his madness began and who was behind it. its a good read full of details, and descriptive in every sentence.

  • Erin
    2019-04-23 16:54

    Did you know that Anne Boleyn had an extra pinky nail growing out of the side of her finger (thus the rumors about being six fingered and a witch)? Or that it was hard to get the courtiers to stop pissing anywhere they pleased and to focus on certain specific wall areas inside the palace? An exhaustive and fascinating history.

  • Férial
    2019-04-02 21:52

    No rating as I didn't finish this book. I expected something else. Not just a description of Henry VIII's court or an account of its habits and customs and such (I should have had a closer look at the title). Ah well...

  • Rebecca Huston
    2019-04-06 22:05

    A rather different look at Henry VIII, focusing instead on his courtiers and servants. Very much recommended, and worth the effort to find. For the complete review, please go here:

  • Lauren Sengele
    2019-04-14 16:53

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Forget everything you knew about Henry VIII and his six wives - this tale of his life shows how he was truly a king to be admired - and occasionally feared. Brilliantly detailed. Full of political intrigue and drama of the Court.

  • Heather
    2019-04-26 18:10

    Wasn't able to finish this before having to return it back to the library. I really like what I read of it and will definitely go back and finish it at some point.

  • Karen
    2019-04-04 14:44

    Very interesting..but..very..long..Not a fast reading book..Update..could not finish it..

  • Sarah Bryson
    2019-03-27 17:06

    Before you read any book about Henry VIII or his wives I would strongly recommend that you stop and read this book first. Throughout this book Weir not only looks at who Henry VIII was, the man and the life he lead, but she also paints a detailed, intricate picture of the world in which he lived. Weir starts her book at the death of Henry VII in 1509 and then begins to paint a portrait of the world in which Henry VIII ascended to the throne. She spends the first part of the book intricately detailing every aspect of life in the Tudor period under Henry VIII. She looks at those who were privileged enough to be part of the Privy chamber, the Grooms and pages whom were honoured to spend much of their time with the King. Not only were they able to serve his Majesty, but they were able to spend long hours playing cards with him, hunting, gambling, hawking, listening to music etc. etc. Weir describes what life was like for these men, the clothing they wore, their responsibilities and the ups and downs of being so close to the King. On one hand it might be a great honour and privilege to spend so much time with the King - being so close to his ear and being able to influence his decisions. But on the other hand those members of the Privy chamber were also susceptible to the King’s outbursts of violent rage; beatings and factions about court which sought to bring them down and oust them from their roles. Weir goes onto to describe all the roles of those at court - pages, servers of food, members of the kitchen staff, cooks, gardeners, those that looked after horses and other animals, people who controlled the Kingdom’s money and ran offices, builders, project designers, painters, artists, musicians… the list goes on and on. Each role and position within the court, from the lowliest to the highest is described in intricate detail. Weir writes with such beautiful portrayal that when one reads amazing images of splendour and horror flood the mind. There is so much detail that I would advise anyone whom reads this book to take their time, re read sections if needed so that you can gain a full and clear understanding of each job role. Also within the pages of this book are details about the expectations at court, again from the King whom sits above all, down to the lowest boy who turns the spits to roast meat. Everything from the way the King ordered his food, what he ate and when, how food was prepared, who served him food and how, is described in intricate detail. There were so many rules during Henry’s reign that I am utterly stunned how anyone could remember them all. So many expectations, social rules, different standards for different people that it literally must have been a mind field to try and organise the whole court! It is amazing to me that not only did every member of court know their roles and responsibilities, but was also able to adhere to them to keep a court of literally hundreds upon hundreds of people running effectively!As she goes through Henry’s reign, Weir talks about those men and woman whom came in and out of Henry’s life. She talks about Henry’s wives – although not in as great detail as other authors have. The reason I presume for this is that Weir has written a book devoted to Henry VIII’s wives entitled “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (which is an absolutely excellent and incredibly detailed book in its own right!). Weir also talks about the men (and few women) at court who all played roles in Henry’s life, both positively and negatively. I love the relationships between Henry and his companions. Through these intricate and sometimes volatile relationships we can see what sort of man Henry was. In his youth he was the happy go lucky King; full of life and zest, loving sports, gambling and women. His friendships and those whom he included at court reflected this with an influx of ‘new men’ – men who did not necessarily have noble blood running through their veins. Through his friendships we are able to see how as Henry aged he relied less and less on others to make decisions for him, how his anger, jealousy and sense of self importance grew. Throughout Henry VIII’s life men came and men went, some with great honours and dignity, some without their heads. It seems as though that to be at court was to put one’s life at risk! On a personal note I was greatly pleased to read more about Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. This is a man whom has captured my interest. Here is a man whom had been friends with Henry since their youths. He grew in favour and importance at court, committed treason by marrying Henry’s sister without his permission, was forced to pay an exuberant amount of money in compensation (which was greatly reduced after Mary died), yet received more and more titles, land and responsibilities throughout his life. When he died Henry stated that ‘for as long as Suffolk had served him, he had never betrayed a friend or knowingly taken unfair advantage of an enemy’ (Weir 2001, p. 485). Henry Tudor, especially in his later years, could be a volatile, unpredictable, temperamental and yet despite this Charles Brandon managed to not only keep his King’s friendship but to grow in favour – to me this is amazing!Weir covers the last ten years of Henry VIII’s life in about one hundred pages. I found myself wishing that these years were expanded upon in a little more detail. During this period Henry went through four wives, built the lavish palace of Nonsuch, continued the reformation, laid siege to France, executed people for heresy, had failing health, faced his mortality, wrote his will and departed the world. There is so much that happened to Henry, his family, friends, the English court and England in general during this period that on a personal note I would have liked these events to have been covered in some more detail. As I stated at the beginning of this review, I would strongly recommend that one read ‘Henry VIII King & Court’ before they read any other book about Henry VIII or his wives. Throughout the pages of this book Weir constructs vivid and beautiful images of the world and life that was Henry VIII. The reader is left with a strong understanding and knowledge not only about the larger than life Henry Tudor, but also about the people in his life, social expectations, his court and his country. This is another stunningly written book by Alison Weir and it was a joy to read.

  • Jeremy Perron
    2019-04-10 16:52

    Before I began this review I want to comment on the interview with the author located in the back section of the book. As a student and teacher of history I think it is obvious that there seems to be people in the history profession whose sole mission in life is to make history a boring topic. They take the fascinating and make it dull. Weir describes her passion as coming not from her classes but from a novel on Katherine of Aragon. She found her classes on the Industrial revolution dominated by nothing more acts and factories. In response Weir spent most of her time studying history on her own in the library. Tragically, she was not allowed to attend the classes that she wanted because her earlier scores on the GCE exam. Weir's success makes her personal story a strong argument against both jargon-filled history writing and standardized testing.When people tell the story of Henry VIII they quickly switch the subject of the story from the King to the six wives. It is an easy trap to fall into for the storyteller gets to tell six stories for the price of one. Weir avoids this trap easily because she already wrote a book about the six wives of the famous king, and therefore had already scratched that itch. This book, as the title suggests, is about King Henry VIII and men who worked for him. The wives are at best supportive characters, with exception maybe to Anne Boleyn, they are trotted out only when they are relevant to what is going on. This book keeps the light on the rich characters of Margaret Beaufort, Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, and Thomas Cromwell. The main focus, of course, is King Henry VIII and Weir's successful in her goal to portray Henry, as he really was not how he is generally perceived.King Henry VIII has been perceived as many things. He has been seen as bloodthirsty tyrant, a misogynistic manic, and a silly puppet that was controlled by the people around him. Weir portrays Henry as a man very much of control of things in his court, often playing factions against one another. Men who served the King and gained his confidence could gain great power, but they could fall just as far. Henry could be reasonable but in times of pressure or sickness his judgment could be swift and costly. A few times he would execute a person and later come to regret it."Few could resist Henry's charisma. `The King has a way of making every man feel that he is enjoying his special favor,' wrote Thomas More. Erasmus called Henry `the man most full of heart.' He would often put his arm around a man's shoulder to put him at ease, although he `could not abide to have any man stare in his face when he talked with them.' There are many examples of the kindness to others, as will be seen. Yet the King also had a spectacular and unpredictable temper and in a rage could be terrifying indeed. He was also very jealous of his houour, both as king and as a knight, and had the tenderest yet most flexible of consciences. His contemporaries thought him extraordinarily virtuous, a lover of goodness, truth, and justice--just as he was always to see himself." (p.6)In his life, Henry's primary rival, like all Kings of England, was the King of France. The first of these Henry had to deal with was King Louis XII. The elderly Louis XII had married Henry's sister Mary, but he died shortly after. Then a much younger king, like Henry, came to the throne. King Francis I, who would be King Henry's main competitor for both standing in Europe and in history*, came to the throne. Their relationship could be described as very odd."He ignored the advice of his lords, who thought he was putting himself at risk of some kind of treachery, and very early on Sunday 17 June, accompanied by only two gentlemen, went to Guisnes, where his brother monarch was sleeping. Henry woke to see the King of France standing over him, offering to serve as his valet and help him dress." (p. 224)Henry responded rather well to that incident, had it been myself I think I would have freaked out. Nevertheless, the two kings were competitors in almost every sense whether it be as kings or sportsmen.Henry VIII's reign was of both achievement and revolutionary change. Henry's regime would not only break away from the religious influence of Rome but it was full propaganda campaign to increase the monarchy's power and tap into one of earliest forms of nationalism. During his reign his distrust of the nobility made him promote men to, and in, his inner circle on achievement as opposed to birth. His Privy Council was made up of the most talented individuals of the age. However, it was the establishment of the Church of England that would be his most lasting legacy."The symbolism of empire was again brought into play. A new coinage was issued bearing the image of the King as Roman Emperor, and a third Great Seal in the Renaissance style was made, featuring the King on an antique throne and bearing the title of Supreme Head; this image was designed by Lucas Horenbout, whose portraits of the King it greatly resembles. An imperial crown was added to the royal arms to signify that Henry recognized no higher power than his own save God. There was a deliberate revival of the cult of King Arthur, from whom the Tudors claimed to be descended, and who is said to have owned a seal proclaiming him `Arthur, Emperor of Britain and Gaul.' Henry VIII, it was claimed, was merely reviving his ancestor's title and dignity. It was also asserted that England's sovereignty had for a thousand years been mistakenly subinfeudated to Rome by the King's predecessors: now he had redeemed it.No English king before Henry VIII had ever been so concerned to magnify and disseminate his public image. Under Cromwell's auspices, there was a flood of tracts and pamphlets proclaiming Henry's heroic virtues and moral superiority. Preachers, artists, craftsmen, writers, poets, playwrights, and historians such as Polydore Vergil were called upon to use their talents to advertise and glorify the New Monarchy. Propagandists such as Gardiner portrayed Henry VIII as semidivine, calling him `the image of God upon the Earth' who `excelled in God's sight among all other human creatures.' A correspondent of Sir Anthony Browne declared that the King's subjects `had not to do with a man but with a more excellent and divine estate,' in whose presence one could not stand without trembling.The effect of all this was to turn Henry into an imperious and dangerous autocrat who became mesmerized by his own legend." (p.349)Of course the wives have to be mentioned. Because the most pressing issue to Henry was the Great Matter, Henry's relentless pursuit for an heir. When I was young, my mother once told me that Henry VIII was a crazy man who would kill his wife if she dare gave birth to a girl, and that is very silly because it was his fault if they were girls. Henry did not hate women he had a pretty good relationship with most women he knew. Henry obsession is understandable. His father had ended a civil war almost fifty years prior. Henry had no brothers and no woman had ever ruled in their own right, although their sons and grandsons could claim through them . Henry needed a son and it would be best for him to have two. He even thought of having his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond, proclaimed the heir by Parliament, but he died before it could be done.In the pursuit of a son, he would break from Rome to divorce his first wife, and execute his second. His third wife Jane Seymour would provide him the son that he always wanted. In pursuit of a second son he would marry three more times and another wife would face execution. The wife that lived the longest, not Catherine Parr who was just his last, Anne of Cleves marriage to Henry did her a lot of good."Anne made the most of her independence, looking more `joyous' than ever and putting on a new gown every day, `each more wonderful than the last'. In the years to come, she would establish a considerable reputation of a good hostess, and entertained many courtiers at Richmond. Rarely had a royal divorce had such a happy outcome." (p.428)Although Henry was not a tyrant, as was Richard II, nor a puppet ruler. However he did have massive flaws. Henry would do revolutionary things but his method with dealing with opposition was the chopping block. He would allow himself to be persuaded to turn on dear friends, colleagues, and spouses. He would execute people and then later regret it. Henry allowed his greatest servant Thomas Cromwell to be killed, earlier he had allowed Thomas More to die for the sole crime of not acknowledging he, the King, as Head of the Church of England. (Ironically, Cromwell was one of the people who engineered More's fall. What goes around comes around!)On a technical note I would like to say that I really like Weir's capitalization. I know that seems silly to obsess about, but I really prefer King of England to king of England; Duke of Richmond to duke of Richmond, and Prince of Wales to prince of Wales.This is a great book about King Henry VIII, after you read it you feel like you know whom King Henry VIII was as a person. Weir writes history in way that allows the interesting to remain interesting.*Although it could be argued that they are both out shown by Emperor Charles V.

  • Kim
    2019-04-15 15:53

    Prolific historian/novelist Alison Weir has placed most of her focus on the Tudors in her writing. Henry VIII and his wives have received her particular attention. This book is slightly off from the more salacious spotlight on the marriages. They receive mention but are not the book's core. This book revolves around the court of Henry VIII: the costs, the entourages and hangers-on, the internecine fights for the king's attention, and, yes, the wives.Henry VIII is frequently given a negative perspective by historians and in popular culture. Some of that is earned. He was known for furious outbursts with nearly every courtier was often influenced by those who did not have his best interests at heart. Weir does nothing to dispel that reputation, but she does want the reader to see a more three-dimensional figure. Henry VIII was also a genius who, despite delegating the operation of the kingdom so that he could hunt and dance, was still thoroughly aware of what was happening in his kingdom. He was firm in countermanding decisions by ministers like Thomas Cromwell, corresponded with people both inside and outside England, and read widely. Despite his temper he was also sensitive enough to be known to cry over some events and deaths.Perhaps what marked his reign as much as anything, however, was his willingness to spend money. He inherited a fortune from his thrifty father as well as regular income from tax collections. Weir does in-depth tallies, with conversions to current figures (such as 40 shillings equaling 600 pounds in today's currency), on the costs of the meals, the pageants, the jousts, the clothing, the castles, and feeding an entourage of hundreds of ranked individuals along with as many of their servants as they could sneak in. Even costs for flowers to Anne Boleyn are included along with her expenditures on shoes. Weir is enough of a dramatic writer that the figures never overtake the narrative and there is plenty of time spent on the intrigues and oddities of court, such as the power held by Henry's "Groom of the Stool" who was to keep Henry company while he sat on the toilet and hand him a flannel cloth so his majesty (Henry was the first to use the term) could cleanse his backside. It was one of the most powerful positions in the kingdom.The somewhat narrow topic allows Weir to be concise while still covering a reign of over 35 years. From his coronation as a handsome 6' 2" youth of 18 to his painful and bloated death in his mid-50s there are dozens of stories small and large that she manages to cover through the narrative.

  • Nola Redd
    2019-04-03 20:06

    As usual, I would file this Alison Weir book closer to a 3.5 than a 4, but she benefits from rounding.This books is not for you if:You want broad swaths of the history of Henry's reignYou want to know any details about his wives or children (which, in fairness, Weir covers in two separate books)You hate tapestriesThis book is for you if:You want to hear about the room-by-room rebuilding Henry VIII underwent on his acres and acres of properties, which he bought like he was a real estate investor before the housing market burstYou want to know each and every servant in Henry's reign, who they served, what part of England they were from, and how much they earnedYou enjoyed your friends vacation slides, since that's essentially how each of Henry's travels and hunts across the country goYou like to turn pages slowlyYou love tapestriesIn fairness to Weir, her books is aptly title. But perhaps it should have been more appropriate to title it "Henry VIII: The King and HIS COURT". While some attention is paid to the monarch, it is sandwiched between descriptions of the court, the courtiers, and the manners, fashions, and arts of the age. Information about Henry and his family is nested within the most mundane details. Often, I was left wondering about things, and people such as Henry's brother Arthur and his bastard son died but there wasn't a lot said about them. There was a wealth of names of people introduced and then dropped as they died and were replaced in the court, and I felt like I was being introduced to a stadium full of people when really I only cared about a handful.On top of that, Weir has a bias towards Henry that she weaves subtly into her story, but that I don't accept solely from the facts she presents. In the case of Anne Boleyn, for instance - and I warn you that I knew pretty much nothing about her prior to reading this - she insists that the Queen died primarily due to the politics at court. Although Weir does touch to some degree on Henry's womanizing while his wives were pregnant and his constant affairs at court, her premise seems to be that Henry was not just jumping from wife to wife. However, by her very own recitation, Henry was engaged within 24 hours of Anne's execution and married inside a week. To me, this does not sound like an impetuous and suspicious man lead aside by his councilors; it sounds like a man who was ready to hit up the next young thing (with no disrespect to Jane Seymour, who seemed to make a very good queen from the little I heard about her).This, as usual, makes the rest of the facts about Henry seem colored to me, and I can't help but wonder what I am missing or not noticing as Weir leaps from conclusion to conclusion.You may ask, why do you keep reading Weir? Because this is not my first book by her: I've read everything she's written in historically chronological order, from Elanor of Aquatine on. In almost every book, I've discussed how I feel her biases are both strong and irrational. One reason I continue, I suppose, is because I am aware of them, and thus am a more alert reader.But the other reason is why Weir is so popular. Her writing is clear and easy to follow. She utilizes references and tends to state her sources, and she starts off in most books describing the biases and ignorances of those sources, as well as their strengths. In fact, this is part of what makes her leaps of logic easier to pick out. She can get tedious, as though she seeks to justify and explain every piece of paper that she found on the historical trail, and seriously, if I had to read about one more tapestry or mural, I think I would barf. (The only tapestry I like was when Indiana Jones disguised himself as a Scottish lord. And that's a taps-tree.)Weir's writing is far from perfect. She tends to jump around, even within the relatively small chapters, and I often find myself confused how we went from tapestries to France. In fact, when Henry invaded France at the end of his lifetime and returned victorious...I'm still not certain what he accomplished. I did enjoy the short chapters, compared to the usual 45 minute-long reads. (yay for the ereader that estimates how much longer until the chapter/book is complete)Another issue I took is Weir's judgement of the arts. As a historian, I don't feel she has the credentials to state that such-and-such writer is "superb" or "the best poet of the age". If you want to quote an art historian or a literature expert, fine. If you want to tell me that he influenced other writers such as Shakespeare, fine. But to wax eloquent on poets and writers when you are a historian, well, I just don't think you have the authority to express that.Now, all of this aside, I did feel that I came to a pretty good understanding of Henry VIII. Weir describes him quite well in appearance and temperament. Especially appearance. Every year of his reign, it seems, she finds a new foreign dignitary or local lord to describe how he is splendid and magnificent. She gives us his girth as measured by his armor. Now, it's one thing to note when he became old or sickly looking, but annual updates seem a bit overdone. I think she has a crush on him.Anyway, Weir is right. Prior to reading his book, the only knowledge I had about Henry VIII is that he had a lot of wives and some of them he killed. If pressed, I would say he broke the English church away from the Catholic church. That's about it. But I don't admire him the way Weir seems to. In his youth, he struck me as a flighty playboy who left the details of running the kingdom first to Wolsey, then to Cromwell. At 17, I understand, but at 30 it seems a bit over-the-top. I also was surprised to learn how long he was married to his first wife, or that he didn't divorce her until after she reached menopause and could produce no heir. But in his pursuit of a new wife, he was quick to put aside his daughter Mary, and later his daughter Elizabeth, declaring both to be bastards. Now I know kings especially didn't have a lot to do with their children, especially daughters, but that seemed over the top.At the same time, Henry let his suspicious nature turn him on the people that were working for him. I can't say that I agree with everything Wolsey and Cromwell did - and there is a certain poetic justice in Cromwell, who used Henry's suspicions to get rid of Anne, having those same suspicions turned on him - but they were putting in hours - at one point Weir said 12 hours a day - running the kingdom. And while there were religious issues happening, overall it seemed to go fairly well.Another lesson I've learned from reading Weir's history is that the early British people really didn't like for their kings to marry commoners, and they REALLY didn't like queens who got involved in politics. Those who interfered with the kingdom didn't stay queen for long; look at Edward III's mother, Henry VI's wife, and of course Ann herself. But I digress. I will continue on my way - next on the list is The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which should provide more biographical insight. And, I hope, less tapestry information.