THE LAST DAYS OF HENRY VIII is a page-turning story of the murderous conspiracies at the Tudor court. And it announces the arrival of a major new talent in popular historical narrative. If you enjoyed Sebag Montefiore's STALIN, you will relish the grisly tale of England's most despotic ruler.
Robert Hutchinson captures the terrifying world of his court, where even the most powerful men in the land could be brought down overnight. Henry VIII pioneered the modern show trial: cynical propaganda exercises in which the victims were condemned before the proceedings even opened.
Henry VIII 'has no respect or fear of anyone in this world', wrote the Spanish ambassador to his court. He ruled England with Stalinist ruthlessness, executing (at a conservative estimate) 150,000 people from a population of less than 3 million souls. But after 35 years in power, he was a bloated, hideously obese, black-humoured old man, rarely seen in public. He had striven all his life to ensure the survival of his dynasty by siring legitimate sons, yet his only male heir was eight-year-old Prince Edward. It was increasingly obvious that when Henry died, real power in England would be exercised by a regent. The prospect of that prize spurred the rival court factions into deadly conflict.
Aimed at the developing 'court intrigue' genre of popular history narratives, this is an easy read like John Guy's MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS or David Starkey's recent biographies. However, Robert Hutchinson has spent several years in original archival research. He advances a genuinely new theory of Henry's medical history and the cause of his death; he has unearthed some fabulous eyewitness material and papers from death warrants, confessions and even love letters between Katherine Parr and the Lord High Admiral.