This is billed as a "major new biography of Henry VIII". New it is but major it is not. It contained nothing I had not read before, and is nowhere near in the league of Jasper Ridley's Henry VIII (Penguin Classic Biography) and J. J. Scarisbrick's Yale English Monarchs - Henry VIII (The English Monarchs Series).
Although the text is 349 pages, thirty (127-157) are taken up with black and white pictures, so that although the book is physically huge, it isn't really all that long. I got through it in two days, and was left feeling ... well, not quite that I'd wasted my money, but that I should probably have waited for the paperback, or for the library to get it. I didn't feel I had gained any new insights into a man who, as G. J. Meyer recently put it in The Tudors, is the most famous king in history.
The book is also inadequately edited. There was hardly a page in which I wasn't driven to pick up a pencil and add in a missing comma. The main problem was non-essential information not fully enclosed within commas, eg, "Henry had by this time about fifty warships of varying sizes, including several Great Ships, like the Henry Grace a Dieu and the Mary Rose which had recently been rebuilt and re-equipped with the latest guns" (p. 309). There should be a comma after "Mary Rose", since "like the Henry Grace a Dieu and the Mary Rose" is non-essential information.
There are also commas in just plain silly places, such as "According to this tale, for which there is no contemporary evidence, Stephen Gardiner and his conservative allies, were plotting against the evangelical Catherine" (p. 315). Why the comma before "were"?
There were also two cases of missing full stops at the end of sentences, and other typos, such as "it took some time to mobilises [sic] a response" (p. 251), "Even if she had been married immediately, their [sic] was no prospect of her bearing children for at least another six or seven years" (p. 183), "if civil strife was no [sic] be avoided, there was no alternative" (p. 344) and "that contemporary image should always be born [surely that's "borne"?] in mind" (p. 28).
There were also two factual errors so serious that I don't know how they could stem from someone who has written so many books about the Tudors. On p. 322 we have this one, about the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: "He was immensely proud of his royal ancestry, his grandmother Anne having been a daughter of Edward IV, and like the Duke of Buckingham, contemptuous of the `foul churls' whom the King chose to favour." Anne of York, a sister of Elizabeth of York, was the first wife of Surrey's father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. But Surrey's mother was Elizabeth Stafford, a daughter of the Duke of Buckingham who was beheaded in 1521, and to whom Loades refers here. Anne of York was thus not Surrey's grandmother, but his father's previous wife.
In the end notes (note 59) there's this: "Margaret Clifford was married to the Earl of Lennox and was the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley." Margaret Clifford was the daughter of Eleanor Brandon, the younger daughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary. And as anyone reasonably familiar with the Tudor age knows, Lord Darnley was the son of Margaret Douglas - daughter of Henry VIII's elder sister Margaret, by her second husband Archibald Douglas.
Shortly before reading this book I read A.F. Pollard's 1902 biography of Henry VIII. It contained some minor factual errors, such as writing that Anne Boleyn's mother, not paternal grandmother, was a daughter of the Earl of Ormonde, and that Margaret of York was the mother of her stepdaughter Mary of Burgundy. Yet I was somehow able to overlook them, since I enjoyed the rest of the book so much. The Conclusion, in particular, showed an extraordinary understanding of Henry VIII's style of governing, his comprehension of his people's needs and wants, and how even his brutality may have done some good by preventing an outbreak of the religious wars that plagued the rest of Europe. I felt that I had finally grasped how Henry VIII managed to be such a tyrant yet die safely in his bed, respected, if no longer exactly beloved, by his people.
This biography of Henry VIII provided no such enlightenment. I didn't feel I had wasted two days, but I read nothing I had not read before, and gained no new insights into the age or into Henry's character. And the persistent typos really irritated me, particularly since if publishers are going to charge twenty-five pounds for a book about the Tudors - which will automatically sell well - they can easily afford to spend a few hundred pounds on a proofreader.
If you don't feel cheated when you pay for books with poor editing and typos, maybe go for it. If not, wait for the paperback - and hope the publisher pays a proofreader to clean it up.