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Henry VIII: King and Court Paperback – 18 Sep 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (18 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099532425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099532422
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,613 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.

Review

"A glittering evocation of the Tudor Court, its splendour as well as its vulgarity...a responsive, rounded portrait" (Daily Telegraph)

"A compelling, readable account of the life and times of the king who put England firmly on the map of power politics... Good history books ought to change the way we look at ourselves and our nation's past. Henry VIII: King and Court is one such book" (Lisa Jardine Literary Review)

"Weir provides immense satisfaction. She writes in a pacy, vivid style, engaging the heart as well as the mind" (Amanda Foreman Independent)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on 27 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback
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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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Allen Brown on 26 Nov 2002
Format: Hardcover
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 By A Customer on 2 Aug 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 By Matthew Turner on 30 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
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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