Monday, January 21, 2013

The Children of Henry VIII review

As I noted in my very first post to this blog, my reading selections can be rather eclectic. While I primarily read romance and mystery novels, I also enjoy well written history and biography books. Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors of British monarchy biographical works. I've read several of her books and The Children of Henry VIII is the latest to make it to the top of my reading pile.

The title and the preface of this book is a bit disingenuous. Weir states in the preface, "This book is not a a history of England during the troubled reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, but a chronicle of the personal lives of four English sovereigns, and the relationships between them, during the period 1547 to 1558." While it is true that the book does not include a comprehensive history of England during this time, it is less about the personal lives of these four historical figures than some readers may be hoping.

It is impossible to write about Tudor monarchs without focusing on the religious, political, and policy decisions of said monarchs, there is less material about the specific personalities and personal areas of their lives than about the policies and the people around them who shaped their reigns. While I enjoyed reading this, readers who are seeking more personal information rather than political agendas may be disappointed. Unfortunately, the documentation that remains from this period is mostly political and economic in nature and the personal information contained in letters and such can be highly suspect so it is difficult to get a truly personal picture of the monarchs in this time period.

All that said, if you are looking for an interesting, well written book on the reign on Edward VI and Mary I, with some sprinkling of information about Jane Grey and the interaction between Henry VIII's three surviving children, The Children of Henry VIII is a good one to pick up.


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, Catherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. These are the players in a royal drama that ultimate led to Elizabeth's ascension to the throne--one of the most spectacularly successful reigns in English history.

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