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King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets Paperback – Bargain Price, April 7, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Illuminating and flawlessly written, THE KING'S FOOL is historical fiction at its best. (Kay James Romance Reader at Heart 20090331)

Margaret Campbell Barnes provides readers with a different view of King Henry VIII and she does a solid job at backing up her interpretation of this fascinating historical era... KING'S FOOL is brilliant! (Debbie CK2's Kwips & Kritiques 20090401)

Thanks to Ms.Barnes, we see the King's fool, not as an accessory, a mere clown, but as a loving, non-judgemental human being, who has his share of misery and misfortune. (Swistek Liliana Reading Extravaganza 20090401)

I have read dozens of books on Tudor England, both fiction and non-fiction. I rank The King's Fool among the very best of them. (Cathy Cole Kittling 20090401)

[T]he King's fool himself is a fascinating character and well worth the read here. (Michele Jacobson A Reader's Respite 20090401)

I'm giving this book 5 stars because it has everything I like in a historical fiction novel: solid characters (not too good or too bad), a good plot (how can you go wrong with Henry VIII and his wives?), great wording and diction (not overly antiquated or too modern) and historical accuracy. (Arleigh Johnson Historical-Fiction.com 20090401)

There is so much packed in this small book, that you will have a royal ride in and around the lavish court life... The author does an absolutely fantastic job is sketching out each and every person in the book. (Veena Harida Give Reading a Chance Blog 20090401)

Overall, I think this is a nice work of historical fiction that definitely deserves the re-release Sourcebooks is giving it. (Meghan Kawka Medieval Bookworm 20090406)

All in all I really liked this novel - Barnes is an excellent writer and manages to fit a lot of life into 300 pages. (Amy Bruno Passages to the Past 20090409)

The King's Fool is a highly enjoyable book and definitely something to check out for fans of Tudor-era historical fiction. I hope to read more of Barnes' work. (Jen Karbaek Devourer of Books 20090409)

[Margaret Campbell Barnes] is very talented at writing dialogue and at condensing large amounts of history into a short book. I would definitely like to read more of the novels that she wrote about the court of Henry VIII. (Kristen Metson We Be Reading 20090416)

The greatest strength of the novel is Barnes' portrayal of Henry - he is an utterly believable character: young, handsome and spoiled; middle-aged, lusty and suspicious; older, diseased and worn-out. (Alana McClurey A Hoyden's Look at Literature 20090417)

Margaret Campbell Barnes envelopes the reader into the pages of her book. It is a compelling read and captures the period and Will Somers well. This book is hard to put down! Highly recommended! (Alana McClurey Historical Tapestry 20090427)

There is so much packed in this small book, that you will have a royal ride in and around the lavish court life at the times of the most popular King Henry VIII! The author does an absolutely fantastic job is sketching out each and ery person in the book, the queens are mentioned beautifully in the order they seeked the King's attention. (Veens I Just Finished 20090429)

A+... this book did not disappoint! (Kylee J. Pierce Kylee's 2009 Blog 20090528)

this book was FANTASTIC (Stacey Nerdin Book: Thirty )

... I really loved the character of Will. He loves his childhood love faithfully, he has strong character, and he often thinks of others. (Amy Riley My Friend Amy )

King's Fool is a wonderful book. It has everything a historical fiction should have. (The Girls on Books )

About the Author

The late Margaret Campbell Barnes grew up in London. Her historical novels include Brief Gaudy Hour, My Lady of Cleves, With All My Heart, Isabel the Fair, and The King's Bed.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402219024
  • ASIN: B005MWLT06
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,393,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
King's Fool is a story about Will Somers, a shy boy from Shropshire who becomes jester, friend and confidante to one of the most extraordinary of monarchs, King Henry VIII. Narrated by Will himself, we are given a special glimpse into the King Henry that only he knew.

A chance meeting with King Henry was all it took for the King to take a liking to Somers and offer him to join his court. Will was a well-rounded man - honest, compassionate and loyal - he fastly became a member of the royal family and was well-liked by the court. If at first the title of jester didn't appeal to him, he quickly changed his mind when told of all the perks - jesters had free reign (sorry - bad pun) over court and could pretty much blend in anywhere. Will was jester throughout all of Henry's marriages and provides us with an unbiased account of all six debacles, as well as, the relationship between Henry and his children.

What I liked best about this book was the relationship between Will and King Henry. Will was probably the only true friend Henry ever had. I really enjoyed seeing the hidden side of Henry, the not so arrogant side - when he becomes Henry the man, not Henry the king. Henry the man is much more likable! In the very least, it made me have a bit of sympathy for Henry - it's not a life I would've wanted.

All in all I really liked this novel - Barnes is an excellent writer and manages to fit a lot of life into 300 pages, but for me I wished it had been longer. If after reading this book, you're itching to get more in-depth with Henry VIII, then I suggest Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII as told by his fool, Will Somers. This is very similar to King's Fool, albeit in reader's digest form, as George's novel is over 1000 pages.
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Format: Paperback
Will Somers' life started out as a simple one, living and working in the country with his family. However, circumstances led to Will getting the attention of the most important man in England at the time... King Henry VIII. Will soon finds himself in a dubious position of power. As the KING'S FOOL, he has unprecedented access to the notorious king but all Will craves is the love of one woman. Will's tale is one of love lost and gained as he recounts the history of King Henry VIII and his six wives through the eyes of the KING'S FOOL.

KING'S FOOL is a reissue of a 1959 book that clearly stands the test of time. Margaret Campbell Barnes' knowledge and attention to historical detail is both meticulous and entertaining. What a brilliant concept to bring us the story of King Henry VIII through his fool, a man constantly in close contact with the King! Assuredly, Will Somers had access to many of the King's inner thoughts and was the one man in the court who could safely mock the King... and yet he could also bring a smile to a man racked with turmoil and doubts.

Margaret Campbell Barnes intertwines the historical details of the events transpiring at court with the simple desires of his fool. The love story of Will is a beautiful one and keeps KING'S FOOL from being simply another retelling of history. Instead, Margaret Campbell Barnes injects an air of humility and straightforwardness to a time period most famous for its intrigues.

Will Somers is an excellent choice for the narrator. His humble beginnings give an excellent contrast to the excesses of court while still providing some perspective on the inner thoughts of King Henry VIII.
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Format: Paperback
First Line: I was Shropshire born, essentially a country lad, brought up to take my place among the new middle class which Tudor rule begat.

Thus begins the brilliant tale of Will Somers, King Henry VIII's court jester. First published in 1959 by renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, I wondered why on earth I'd never heard of her before. This is a remarkable insider tale of the Tudor court, told by "a common man" who little thought that saying yes to King Henry would give him a front-row seat to history.

Will Somers arrives at court and learns to care deeply for Queen Catherine and Princess Mary before the besotted Henry decides to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. It is a sign of Somers' intelligence that he knows how to go with the flow and keep his opinions to himself. As a result, he lives to see Elizabeth on the throne, artists include him in paintings with the king, and Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth both leave him annuities. Not bad for a Shropshire lad!

It would be easy to say that Somers' greatest gifts lay with his humor and wit, but after reading King's Fool, I would say that his forbearance and forgiveness outweighed them:

"I found myself slipping into his mind, though it was so utterly different from my own. Almost tenderly, I picked up the bedgown which had fallen to the floor and draped it welcomingly across his chair before the fire. Memories and disgusts of the last few turbulent years receded, and for some reason or other I found myself smiling at the recollection of my Uncle Tobias's comic visit to Court, and of Henry's kindness to him.
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