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4.2 out of 5 stars19
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on 22 May 2005
I bought this book because most other books on Henry VIII concentrate on his earlier years and in particular the Anne Boleyn era. If however you want to know more about his relationship with Katherine Parr and how his thoughts and actions had changed in his last years and the possible reasons for those changes, then read this book!
Although the early parts of his life and former five wives are mentioned, the main detail of this book is the era of about 1543-47. It provides some wonderful insights on how Katherine Parr dealt with such an infamous husband, and managed to bring all the family(various half-siblings) together in Henry's last years....in particular forming a close bond with the future Edward VI, and Elizabeth I.
There is a lot of information on the politics of the court over those last few years, and perhaps some of the most interesting details are theories on the health of the king. Some new and very convincing arguments are written about the illnesses of Henry.
This is the first book on Henry VIII where as a reader I have felt most close to knowing the man's character. It is very hard not to feel a certain amount of sympathy for him after reading this book, in spite of all his cruel and tyrannical acts of so called justice. There are fascinating details about the king's various Wills and ultimately what happened upon his death, and his funeral, which are often left out of other books.
In conclusion, if you like this period of history and want to know more about the later years of Henry, then buy this book, you won't be disappointed. 5 stars!!
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on 2 January 2008
I read this book hard on the heels of Antonia Fraser's The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and I think it compared well. Fraser writes very finely, but with the odd element of patrician phraseology here and there. This is the first of Hutchinson's books I've read, and I was very impressed. His style is wholly appropriate to the complexities of Tudor politics, but he also manages to maintain an accessible tone and suggest an engaging and humorous personality. His scholarship, bibliography and notes are impeccable, but this is also a powerful and well paced read.

The dying days of Henry are examined by theme, and Hutchinson brings to life subjects such as the control of the wooden stamp of Henry's signature vividly. He even admits pity for the disease-ridden tyrant, and reveals the true nature of the ilnesses that turned the ageing king into a dying beast. There is a real pathos in the sad history of Henry's tomb that closes the book.

I have his biography of Walsingham on the pile to read next, and I'm looking forward to it. Hutchinson brings humour, insight and freshness to a well-documented period.
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on 27 February 2006
Can't say that Henry VIII has ever aroused any interest in me and it was very much the title "The Last Days..." that caught my attention in the bookshop and I was by no means disappointed by the end of the book.
The account of the years leading up to Henry's death (from the search for a third wife), the account of his death, the riddle of the will, the internecine bickering in his court and the attack on Catherine Parr are all delivered in a well written yet easy going style and are a pleasure to read. Right to the end Henry was truly imperious in his management of his court, playing one off against the others by turn until none knew from one day to the next where they stood.
Henry aside, the book also provides an interesting insight into court life in Middle Ages England. The shenanigans of the privy council in their attempts to get 'one up' on their peers are truly spectacular.
The book's not a long read, just under 300 pages and it leaves you wanting just a little more. Despite never having any interest in Henry I've come to respect the way he valued and promoted a meritocracy within his court and never let the senior peers of the realm tread all over the little guy. Thoroughly worth a look.
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The obese, disease ridden old man, rarely seen by the public, a man with an evil heart and a foul mouth and temper bore no resemblance to the athletic good looking young buck who had taken the throne of England 35 years previously.

The young Henry was a sportsman of some renown and his vibrant personality and good looks attracted many beautiful women. The old Henry was fat, dirty, riddled with disease and took most of his pleasure from watching other people suffer, including those closest to him.

Robert Hutchinson's book on the final years of Henry's life, brings forth many startling revelations of the intrigues, plot and counter plot of the time. He has unearthed death warrants, confessions, pleas for clemency and many other, until now, little documented facts.

I enjoyed the book immensely, but it was tinged with sadness for me. Henry VIII might (who can say) have been one of the greatest King's England has ever had. But like so many great men he had the fatal flaw in his make-up, which eventually makes them press the self destruct button.
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on 25 January 2011
Hutchinson is a careful and meticulous researcher, who nonetheless finds the humanity - or in Henry's case - inhumanity within the dry bones of history.

Consider Henry's siege of Bologne in 1544, where the English chroniclers wrote of the beseiged "...many eat horseflesh and some of the gentleman Italians are glad to eat of a cat well larded and call it dainty meat"

Of Henry's supperating ulcers, still worse is said, not fitting for a book review. However, as each chapter in Henry's final few months and weeks draw on, Hutchinson finds so much more "dainty meat" for us to savour, making his narration of the death of this legendary tyrant surprisingly full of zest and life.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The obese, disease ridden old man, rarely seen by the public, a man with an evil heart and a foul mouth and temper bore no resemblance to the athletic good looking young buck who had taken the throne of England 35 years previously.

The young Henry was a sportsman of some renown and his vibrant personality and good looks attracted many beautiful women. The old Henry was fat, dirty, riddled with disease and took most of his pleasure from watching other people suffer, including those closest to him.

Robert Hutchinson's book on the final years of Henry's life, brings forth many startling revelations of the intrigues, plot and counter plot of the time. He has unearthed death warrants, confessions, pleas for clemency and many other, until now, little documented facts.

I enjoyed the book immensely, but it was tinged with sadness for me. Henry VIII might (who can say) have been one of the greatest King's England has ever had. But like so many great men he had the fatal flaw in his make-up, which eventually makes them press the self destruct button.
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on 29 July 2010
This is an account of Henry VIII's last years rather than his last days. It is very well-written and I think I'll buy more of his work after this. It's a section of Henry VIII's reign that hasn't had so much attention. It does skip about a bit chronilogically, and so was slightly confusing at times, but was an excellent and detailed portrait of Henry's personal and political life in the 1540s.
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on 6 February 2011
The book is mistitled - should be the last years, instead of last days.

My eyebrows rose when I read on page 14 that the king had been responsible for 150,000 "judicial murders" - seemed a bit sweeping, and it turns out the execution of ordinary criminals is included in the figure. The book carries on with a standard account of the king's life, gets into more detail on the French and Scottish campaigns, the wives etc. But I soon found myself puzzled about where it was leading me.

I expected the core of the book would be an intense examination of the themes dominating politics as the succession question loomed, with detailed insights on the people involved. The author does frame it that way, but instead he delivers a jazzed up chronicle of events over the course of a few years, with a procession of characters none of whom is really engaging, and alot of quotations from the state papers that tend to clog up the narrative as it approaches the end.

The most vivid aspect is the king's health - so many fistulas and suppurating sores - and I did get a strong impression of the pain and discomfort he suffered. But even there I thought the author could have given a more engaging account of the medical treatment, with wider insight on the philosophy and developments in that field. His centrepiece is a few pages of speculation that the king suffered from a syndrome only recently identified by modern medicine, but it's mere speculation and could just as well have been dealt with in a footnote.

I actually found this book a bit difficult to pick up once I realised it was little more than a standard recitation of events. I enjoyed Hutchinson's book on Walsingham, and my impression is that he's more at home in the later Tudor period. Maybe this one was a bit rushed.
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on 25 April 2014
I could not put this book down. The writing style, and the intermingling of primary sources with a novel esque biographical format made for a supremely interesting page turner, rich in detail contemporaneous detail and intrigue. I was genuinely left feeling I had learnt something of the nature of court life and the anxieties and concerns of courtiers fighting for survival in what comes across as a fearfully tense time for those at the top of English royal society at the time. We Robert Hutchinson to write the same type of book for each British monarch I would be a happy reader for years to come.
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on 10 April 2012
I found this a very useful, informative and entertaining read. The last years of Henry viii's reign are usually skimmed over with most emphasis given to his earlier, more spritely days but this book covers his most interesting period. excellently done, i will look out for this author again.
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