Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Henry VIII: The King and His Court Paperback – October 29, 2002
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Contemporary observers described the young king in glowing terms. At over six feet tall, with rich auburn hair, clear skin, and a slender waist, he was, to many, "the handsomest prince ever seen." From this starting point in Henry VIII, the King and His Court, biographer extraordinare Alison Weir reveals a Henry VIII far different from the obese, turkey-leg gnawing, womanizing tyrant who has gone down in history. Henry embodied the Renaissance ideal of a man of many talents--musician, composer, linguist, scholar, sportsman, warrior--indeed, the Dutch humanist Erasmus (not a man inclined to flattery) declared him a "universal genius." In scholarly yet readable style, Weir brings Henry and his court to life in meticulous, but never tedious, detail. Weir describes everything from courtly fashions to political factions and elaborate meals to tournament etiquette. Along the way she offers up charming--if all too brief--glimpses of Henry's court: tiny Princess Mary, still a very young girl, at her betrothal ceremony saying to the proxy, "Are you the Dauphin of France? If you are, I want to kiss you"; Henry weeping with joy as he held his long-awaited son and heir for the first time; Henry showing off his legs to the Venetian ambassador ("Look here! I have also a good calf to my leg"); Henry's courtiers dressing in heavily padded clothes to emulate--and flatter--their increasingly stout monarch. She also reveals some surprises, for example, that Henry and Katherine were still hunting together as late as 1530, even though Henry was desperately trying to have their marriage annulled. Weir also describes surprisingly happier times in their relationship; Henry loved to dress up in costume, and "was especially fond of bursting in upon Queen Katherine and her ladies in the Queen's Chambers.... Henry took a boyish delight in these disguisings and Katherine seemingly never tired of feigning astonishment that it was her husband who had surprised her." Henry's queens receive relatively little attention here (for them, see Weir's excellent Six Wives of Henry VIII), but this book is fascinating and a joy to read. Alison Weir has done it again. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In a succession of books on medieval and early modern monarchs, Weir has established her credentials as one of the most evocative of popular historians. In Eleanor of Aquitaine (which will be reissued in paperback to tie in with this publication), she brushed aside a forest of scholarly debate in favor of fully rounded human portraits. She now turns to the colossal figure of Henry VIII, aspiring chivalric hero and accidental spearhead of the Reformation. In the age's luxurious ceremony, Weir is thoroughly in her element. She revels in the Field of Cloth of Gold, an elaborate showpiece where Henry met his French counterpart; in the zesty supporting cast; and even in the less appetizing duties of the Groom of the Stool. Henry's passions were many and charming: his beloved dogs Cut and Ball were evidently so prone to getting lost that he would pay some 225 to their finder. Weir's fondness for her character has its difficulties. While admitting that the king proved to be "an imperious and dangerous autocrat who became mesmerised by his own legend," she too is seduced by the myth. Given to romantic hyperbole, she concludes with the largely unsupported sentiment that Henry "excelled all who ever wore a crown"; chalk up another victory for his propagandists. Other problematic characters, like Thomas More ("calm, kind, witty and wise"), are also let off lightly. Still, Weir's nose for detail, her sharpness of eye and her sympathetic touch make this a feast for the senses. (May 1)Forecast: Weir always gets excellent reviews, and Ballantine says there are 500,000 copies of her books in print, and yet she hasn't broken out big-time. Her choice of subject here may make this the one. It is a dual main selection of BOMC, as well as a selection of the Literary Guild, the History Book Club and QPB.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I wouldn't mean anyone to infer that I think anything I said above to be a drawback--quite the opposite. Weir immerses you in the court of the Henry VIII and really makes it come alive for the reader. All of the information she gives serves that noble end, and it's worth every moment spent studying the densely arrayed pages.
I enjoy Weir's descriptions because she doesn't present herself as a pompous historian. She makes sense of the intricacies of the court that are otherwise extremely confusing. So many books about Henry VIII are regarding politics and the Great Matter but this book gives insight to a personal side of Henry and what it was like to actually live at his court. Weir describes the roles of each order and their significance, something that other writers either overlook or choose not to take the time to explain.
When watching a film about the Tudors, everything is always opulent and correct; one never considers any senses but sight. Weir describes the mourning of Queen Jane: "Queen Jane's body was dressed in gold tissue and laid out in the presence chamber, with a crown on her head and rings on her fingers". This is a typical representation of what a viewer would see in a film. What that audience would not be privy to is how the mourners kept "perpetual vigil on their knees beside the bier" and how the body "remained in the presence chamber for a week before it was embalmed." Regardless of how many pomanders graced the noses of the nobles, it would be impossible to mask the stench of death after a week in a room with a corpse. Weir doesn't say tell the audience that the corpse stinks; she isn't Philippa Gregory. She gives the audience the facts and allows them to draw their own inferences.
In my opinion, this ability to create a historical scene without interjecting overly descriptive language is Weir's gift.
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.