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The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant Paperback – January 1, 2006
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What was Henry's illness? There's been 400 years of speculation.
Hutchinson believes along with others including the surgeon Clifford Brewer's "The Death of Kings" (available at Amazon)that Henry did not have syphilis, but varicose ulcers on his legs. Both legs. Syphilis was treated in those days with mercury, and since hundreds of potions Henry was given by his doctors are recorded, mercury would most certainly have been administered. Also, none of Henry's wives or children showed any sign of congenital syphilis. Anyway, when the ulcers healed over,infections resulted underneath the skin, and very likely spread into the bones. The king's physical sufferings played a large role in shaping his behavior towards the end of his life.
Here is one Hutchinson's descriptions of Henry's awful disease: "He is the personification of geriatric decay. One can almost smell the the putrid stench of the rank pus oozing from his ulcers, staining the bandages on his swollen legs. Chapuys [the Spanish ambassador] labelled them 'the worst legs in the world.'"
Henry weighed, according to Hutchinson, 28 stone or 392 pounds. His waist was 54 inches around. Many suits of Henry's armor survive, so his physical proportions are easy to calculate.Read more ›
In some ways Henry was no worse than some of his scheming, ruthless and murderous Councilors and Government officials, but he bested them all with his acutely developed sense of low cunning, deviousness and intelligence. The book offers a brilliant cross section of the personalities and the dynamics of the rulers and some of the would-be rulers during the last years of Henry's reign.
Henry was a very sick man for the last few years of his life and in great pain and this made him a very dangerous person to be around with his power of life and death over his subjects. His natural qualities of selfishness, ruthlessness and cruelty became even more pronounced as he sunk deeper into pain and ill health and edged towards death.
Hutchinson gives a very good analysis of the effects in England of Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church and the consequences, some fatal, for his subjects as they tried to deal with the aftermath. The author gives a sad and heart breaking account of some of his executed victims, some are in their teens, some are poor and they all have no hope of a fair trial or hearing under Henry's despotic rule. This book is well worth reading, if only to see how far human rights have advanced; in some countries anyway!
"It is now no novelty among us to see men slain, hung, drawn, quartered, beheaded. Some for trifling expressions, which were explained or interpreted as having been spoken against the king; others for the Pope's supremacy; some for one thing, some for another."
The book contains a number of detailed accounts of the intrigues and conspiracies that went on in Henry's court, and shows how Henry was in fact the master of the game, constantly keeping the factions in his court off-balance and frequently turning their own plots back on them in publicly humiliating ways. Two of the more telling episodes related deal with plots against Archbishop Thomas Cranmer:
"No one was entirely safe from the devious intrigues at court. Almost certainly encouraged by Gardiner and Sir John Baker, some of the seven conservative canons of Canterbury Cathedral accused Cranmer himself of encouraging heretical sermons within the diocese of Canterbury in 1543. Their complaints and accusations were dispatched to the king. As Henry was rowed upriver on his royal barge one evening, he saw Cranmer standing outside the gates of his palace at Lambeth.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very fast read. What a terror Henry VIII was, I wished that his coffin had not been damaged or open allowing for the air to quickly cause decay of the remains. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Christina Wilson
Very good business practice, exactly as ststed , the book is perfect, and a quick delivery . Highly recommendedPublished on July 11, 2014 by Blunderer
I did not find too much territory that had not already been covered, but there was an interesting approach and was a good read.Published on March 13, 2014 by IndiaWilkes
Well written and compelling. Decent account of Henry's last days. Not the typical Anne Boleyn treacle that sometimes plagues Tudor/H8 books.Published on November 14, 2013 by sbv17
By the time Henry VIII died he has pretty much beheaded almost everyone with a trace of royal blood so there would be no legitmate heirs to come out of the woodwork.Published on April 24, 2013 by lovehollywood
British scholar and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries Robert Hutchinson offers up an eminently readable look at the horrifying, grotesque atmosphere of the court of Henry VIII... Read morePublished on October 16, 2012 by James B. Casey
This book--historically accurate, intriguing, and a real knuckle-biter for aficiandos of Henry VIII's fascinating time on this earth--would be perfect if written by a historian who... Read morePublished on October 6, 2011 by Sylvia P.
The Last Days of Henry VIII was recommended to me by a friend with whom I have had many informative discussions about Tudor England, one of the most fascinating periods in Western... Read morePublished on November 16, 2010 by Claude Greenmount