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Henry VIII: The King and His Court (Ballantine Reader's Circle) [Paperback]

Alison Weir
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov 2002 Ballantine Reader's Circle
“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 Inquirer


Henry 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034543708X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345437082
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,627,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alison Weir lives and works in Surrey. Her books include Britain's Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Children of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry VIII: King and Court, Mary, Queen of Scots and Isabella: She-Wolf of France.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Henry VIII (1491-1547) casts a long shadow over English royalty and biography alike. In Henry VIII: King and Court, Alison Weir takes on this forbidding reputation to produce an admirably detailed, if somewhat cumbersome, biography of a king who married six times and presided over England's cataclysmic split with Roman Catholicism. Weir's main task is to overturn the "caricature" of Henry "as a man who thought of nothing but chasing the ladies, and who threw chicken bones over his shoulder". This seems a rather obvious characterisation to challenge, but Weir proceeds to amass an extraordinary wealth of detail about Henry's cultivated court, from its learning, architecture and political machinations, to how many people handled Henry's bedsheets and the food that his horses ate. The early sections get bogged down in too much detail, and detract from the political drama of Henry's growing estrangement from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and his fateful marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1532. The second section is much more convincing in tracing how "the young, idealist humanist with liberal ideas about kingship was giving way to a selfish, dogmatic tyrant", as Henry dispenses with Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, Anne and then Cromwell, and the court increasingly sinks into factionalism and intrigue.

Weir's biography is a lively recreation of the everyday life of Henry, his court and what he called his "ill-conditioned wives", but it neglects the wider European dimensions of Henry's reign, and sweeps over many crucial aspects of the split with Rome. Detailed and scholarly, Henry VIII: King and Court provides a strangely colourless portrait of the most colourful of English monarchs. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


No English monarch has quite the hold on the popular imagination as Henry VIII. Although attempts to broaden our perception of him are legion, Alison Weir brings to her fascinatingly detailed study the kind of historical acumen and accessible prose style that distinguished her Elizabeth The Queen. Weir's publishers make the claim that she's the most readable popular historian of Tudor England, and it's hard to dispute that fact, with the background to Henry's reign assiduously created. She seems less interested in redefining our picture of Henry (who remains pretty much the larger-than-life figure we're used to), but there is a leavening of psychological insight that renders him as something more than the monster of egotism we might imagine him to be. The delight here is in the detail, with a rich supporting cast of courtiers and ministers, nobles and commoners. Weir shows Henry as the principal instrument of change in a deeply divided society, and we certainly understand him more by the end of this mammoth study. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
On 21 April 1509, the corpse of King Henry VII, ravaged by tuberculosis, was laid in state in the chapel at Richmond Palace, whence it would shortly be taken to Westminster Abbey for burial. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fleshing Out Henry VIII 27 Feb 2003
Alison Weir has written a compulsively readable account of Henry VIII's court. She begins by describing his massive inheritance of greater and lesser homes, then proceeds to minutely describe the court. The physical details include such things as floors, tapestries, paintings, gardens, kitchens, foodstuffs. No detail, whether of texture or cost (she helpfully multiplies the contemporary values by 300 to give us today's equivalent), is omitted. She also describes the architectural set-up and how the rooms progressed from the Great Watching Chamber, through the Presence Chamber and into the Privy Chamber.
But into this rich heady brew Weir also throws the complete administrative breakdown of Henry's court, giving us a mind- numbing account of Tudor Human Resources, including the hapless, appropriately named Groom of the Stool who dressed the King and saw to his lavatorial needs.
Throughout the book Weir keeps us up to scratch with Henry's mania for accumulating property - the layout and development of his palaces. In addition, she also details the various staff changes, promotions, demotions and, of course, executions.
Weir provides astute, well-researched snapshots of Henry's entire coterie, from his playmates and companions, through to his mistresses and their families, his advisors, chancellors and churchmen. Everyone is placed in context so that their motivations and actions can be fully understood. So you are getting many biographies for the price of one, especially of people like Thomas More, or Henry's two sisters Margaret (who mothered the Stuart dynasty) and Mary (whose second marriage to Charles Brandon produced the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey, her granddaughter).
One interesting character is Henry Fitzroy, Henry VII's illegitimate son by Bessie Blount.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account of Henry VIII life style. 26 Nov 2002
I must say from the outset that I found this book an extremely entertaining and good read. Alison Weir has achieved every writers aim and that's to write clearly with a high level of continuity and flow. Written chronologically, it provides a fascinating account of Henry VIII life. The intrigue at court is treated with sufficient depth where the reader can almost get bound up in it. Although Alison does not hold back on Henry's extravagant life style throughout all his life, he nonetheless sent many people to the block and was a man with a very dark side. You can quite imagine a future television soap opera based on the life and times of Henry VIII - considering the amount of court politics which went on you could easily fill forty hours of television. At times the book is a little too bound up with Henry without sufficient historical context, this is however is a reflection on Henry himself whose ego was of planetary proportions. Alison's achievement in writing this book is quite remarkable and it's also very pleasing to see a detailed listing of her many references.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars totally compelling 2 Aug 2001
By A Customer
I feel the Amazon reviewer has done injustice to Ms Weir in saying that this is a colourless portrait of the king. At the outset, she states that she does not want to cover old ground, and readers should refer to "The Six Wives of Henry Vlll" for a detailed picture of a passionate, flamboyant monach. This book concentrates on life at court, and gives a detailed picture of everyday life there, including a warts and all description of food, sanitary arrangements, dress, buildings etc. This has the potential to be as dry as dust, but Ms Weir makes it completely compelling reading, interweaving it with the story of the reign, without covering the in-depth character analysis of the king and his wives of the previous book. The court comes to life, and makes you mourn for the lost paintings, garments and buildings that made up the whole picture. I have read all of the author's books now - I wish she would write another! She is the most rivetting historian I have ever read. If the school history syllabus could be read in this way, everyone would get an 'A'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a kaleidscope of the period 22 Jan 2013
I bought this as a present for a friend who after readingHilary Mantel said she wished she knew a bit more about the period. I already have a copy and think it is a wonderful far-ranging account of political, religious, international politics, social history of the time, with riveting details of the characters concerned. it is as exciting as a novel and it greatly enhances ones enjoyment of theNational Portrait and National Gallery as well as Tate Britain. And then of course there is Hampton Court. Everybody should read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Just Love this King's Marital History 23 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this book long ago. Alison Weir is one of my favourite author, and she did not disappoint me! Great research. Beautiful language. As a Dane I'll never stop enjoying the story of Christina (of Denmark) offering him one head if she had two!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Tudor History 31 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love Tudor History and have read many books on this subject!
I am currently reading this book on my Kindle Fire HD. It is a fascinating read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This was an interesting, and pleasingly accessible read. Weir writes in a friendly, easy to understand manner. Weir writes in the introduction that she hopes readers "will be able to make that great leap of imagination across the centuries ... and that, for them, Henry VIII and his court will come to life". I have to day that to some extent Weir succeeds in this - for me Henry VIII is firmly placed in his times and court, with his many palaces, hunts, pageants, masques etc.

The first third of the book is not really a biography of Henry, but an in-depth study of the court, the palaces, and the world in which Henry lived. This section was the weakest part, and for me, the least interesting. The section is far too detailed - an endless list of buildings, names, court positions etc. I agree this aspect of the period is important to study, but it was overdone.

Once we get into the biographical aspect of Henry VIII, the book improves drastically. Weir has produced a good, but not comprehensive, study of Henry as monarch and man, and the personalities of the reign (More, Cromwell, Wolsey, Fisher etc) come to life. Disappointingly, the biography is not as detailed as it could be - especially concerning the important events of the reign. I would have liked more analysis, even narrative, of the Pilgrimage of Grace; and a study of the technicalities of the canon law of Henry's divorce (or annulment) from Catherine of Aragon. Nevertheless, the book is readable and gives a good overview of the politics and factionalism at court and abroad. I did learn, however, that Anne Boleyn was likely to be pregnant at the time of her execution. This surprised me, given Henry's desperation for a son.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
brilliant. Alison Weir is a s thorough, informative and entertaining as ever.
Published 11 hours ago by carole gent
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book very pleased with delivery
Published 3 days ago by alan penn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Glad I added this to my collection because I enjoyed reading it.
Published 1 month ago by A. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic if you are a Tudor fanatic !!!
I thought I knew pretty much everything to do with "king Hal" but this book was fascinating. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Catherine Fallon
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. A present for my son
Excellent. A present for my son. Very pleased.
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. B. Rimmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Abit long-windedly
Overall very interesting, but it does go into enormous detail, sometimes so much that I skipped a few pages. However it has been well researched
Published 3 months ago by diana james
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid 4-star book, but not better than that
In Henry VIII, Alison Weir has produced an good example of popular history, and a valuable read for anyone with a casual interest in the middle Tudor period (i.e. Read more
Published 5 months ago by JSRT
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book well written
I find Alison Weir's books all very well researched and written. I picked one up at a charity book sale and have read pretty much all of them over the last few years. Read more
Published 5 months ago by JohnnyG
4.0 out of 5 stars The eighth wonder of the world
Alison Weir does a good job in describing the life of Henry VIII from his ascension to the throne until his death. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Thomas Koetzsch
5.0 out of 5 stars No read it
Not read it so cannot really comment on the book as it is a Christmas present for my Mum. We visited Hampton Court earlier on the year & now she's all things Henry. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gary Ashcroft
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