on 21 March 2014
Lauren Mackay’s book is a fantastic look at the life of Eustace Chapuys, ambassador for Charles V at the court of Henry VIII. Her book starts off by recounting the early years of Chapuys, giving some history of his ancestry and his parents, the type of world that Chapuys was born into as well as providing information about his education and where he went to university. There are also some interesting details about the social circle that Chapuys was part of and the wider connections he made throughout his early years of work. After this Mackay details how Chapuys worked his way up the ladder with a series of appointments and eventually became ambassador to Charles V. It is interesting to note that in his early years Chapuys was friends with well-known religious reformers. I found this very interesting as Chapuys is often depicted as a staunch Catholic who was completely against the Reformation but to have friends who supported this new faith certainly shows that perhaps he was a little more tolerant than most people throughout history have given him credit for.
Chapuys started his time in the Tudor court as Henry VIII was perusing his “Great Matter” that is his annulment of his marriage to his wife Katherine of Aragon. One can only imagine how Chapuys felt walking into such a court of turmoil and upheaval. His goals were those normally associated with an ambassador, that is to continue relations between Henry VIII and Charles V, deal with trade and other monetary issues, seek alliances and support against the French and to report back to Charles V on matters happening in the English court. Yet in addition to this he was also charged with attempting to see reconciliation between Henry VIII and his wife Katherine of Aragon. This was a huge and complicated matter which would unfold over a period of approximately seven years, of which Chapuys is one of the major sources of information thanks to his regular letters to Charles V.
In addition to this Chapuys was at the English Court when the Reformation began to gain momentum throughout England. This was a movement away from the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Faith to instead to the belief that the English King was the head of the Church and that man gained salvation through faith. Chapuys essentially walked into a minefield of change and turmoil in the English court and the fact that he not only survived but was able to stay and communicate so much information to Charles V shows what an intelligent, capable man he truly was.
Chapuys spent almost fifteen years in the English court as the ambassador to Spain. Throughout that time he continued to write to Charles V informing him of all the matters and happenings of the times. He gathered a wide and intricate network of people both inside and outside of the English Court in which to gain information about the events of the time and he used all of this to his advantage. In addition to this Chapuys learnt to speak English and was extremely efficient with financial matters.
Chapuys has often gained a bad reputation, seen as nothing more than a hater of Anne Boleyn he has often been criticized and his letters have been seen as little more than slander. But it is thanks to Eustace Chapuys that today we have so much information about the happenings and events of Henry VIII’s court. His frequent and constant letters to Charles V have provided historians with a wealth of information in which has been used to gain a strong understanding of not only Henry VIII’s ‘Great Matter’ but also what life was like during the reign of Henry VIII.
Mackay shows the reader the true Chapuys and does not attempt to hide his faults or flaws. She admits that he was suspicious and orthodox in his religious believes. That he was bias against Anne Boleyn and did distrust many of those around him. Although Mackay does point out quite correctly that a number of derogatory remarks that were made about Anne Boleyn and accredited to Chapuys were in fact not written or commented by the man at all! Instead these are other sources which have wrongly been associated with Chapuys and thus he is assumed to be completely negative of Anne Boleyn. Mackay also shows that Chapuys was an extremely intelligent man who often overlooked other’s religious beliefs to form long lasting friendships. He was a man that was a brilliant ambassador and excellent at his job, fulfilling the roles and duties set out to him by Charles V.
Mackay’s book on Eustace Chapuys is not short of brilliance. Throughout her book Mackay opens up the life of Chapuys exploring not just the man as an ambassador, but the man as a friend, confidante and a human being. Through extremely careful research she disproves many of the lies and mistruths that have been built up around Chapuys throughout history and sheds light onto the real man behind the remarkable letters that give us an insight into the Tudor Court. Without Chapuys we would not have the vast knowledge of the happenings of Henry VIII, his “Great Matter” and foreign policies. He was an incredible man, intelligent, quick witted and devoted to his friends, family and duty and I believe that Lauren Mackay’s book on Eustace Chapuys is an absolute must have for any Tudor bookshelf.
on 18 April 2014
I found this book to be engagingly written and highly informative, showing Henry VIII's court from a different perspective and allowing the 'voice' of Chapuys to be heard fully and without the negative 'spin' placed on him by other historians. The telling of Chapuys' story has been long overdue and now we finally have something that shows us the pivotal role he played in the dangerous and constantly shifting currents of Henry's court. Chapuys emerges as an intelligent, shrewd and highly able diplomat with a soul, one who truly cared for and served Katherine of Aragon and the Princess Mary when many others deserted them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it highly to those wishing to gain a more balanced and insightful view into Chapuys himself, and his perhaps unenviable diplomatic mission to the Tudor court.
on 20 May 2014
In much the same way as Chapuys' negative appraisal of Anne Boleyn helped shape her historiography for so many years, the academic swing in her favour following Eric Ives's 1986 biography saw Chapuys cast in the light of a malign intriguer who got more wrong than right when it came to Boleyn - and, by an extension of logic, everyone around her. Mackay sets out to rescue her subject from this two-dimensional view and she does so with great success. If Anne Boleyn was much more than suggested by Chapuys, he too is worth a lot more than the Anne Boleyn matter. The biography brims with the author's passion for her subject, beginning with a charming and vivid account of his home town in Annecy, where he is still commemorated in street names and local architecture. Mackay does well too where the sources are silent by sketching the broad outlines of his life before he was sent to England in 1529, freely admitting that there is much we do not know about Chapuys's life but credibly suggesting various possibilities based on what we do know. It's what all Tudor historians have to do from time to time, it's full of pitfalls and Mackay does better than most in weaving her way through it. Once Chapuys gets to England, where his legal training was intended to help the beleagured Katherine of Aragon, Mackay is able to make use of the mountains of letters that her wrote to the Emperor and the picture becomes clearer still.
Mackay's strengths are not just her zeal for the thin and rather elegant man she's writing about, but also her ability to analyse his thoughts and to make full use of his lengthy and colourful correspondence. She is right when she points out that without Chapuys's letters Tudor history, as we know it, would not exist. There were a few times when I did not agree with her conclusions and I thought there were one or two moments when she was slightly too prepared to take Chapuys at face value. However on moments when I, or any reader, might disagree with Mackay's conclusions on certain minor points they are still well-argued and well-written enough to be taken seriously and respected. There are no unreasonable assessments in Inside the Tudor Court and she presents the information clearly enough that she allows her readers to make their own conclusions. She invites them, as it were, to share her enthusiasm for Charles V's servant.
This is a wonderfully useful book that brings to life the colourful and often confusing world of the Henrician court, as seen through the eyes of one of its most gifted if controversial observers. Lauren Mackay deserves considerable praise for setting Chapuys back in his context and reminding us, regardless of whom he quarrelled with or why, what a debt we all owe him. She makes him both an esteemed intellectual but entirely human, she allows him her foibles - I particularly enjoyed the point she makes about his correspondence's relative lack of descriptions of the English court's numerous entertainments: he didn't enjoy them and thought them slightly frivolous, so he told the Emperor he wouldn't bore him with the details. There has long been a need for a biography of this brilliant and complex figure and Lauren Mackay has certainly delivered it.
on 20 February 2014
A very thorough well-written and much needed biography of Eustace Chapuys, Mackay has managed to separate the man and the ambassador to give us a balanced and comprehensive window into the world he worked in. From this book he comes across as a man much different to the one that has been given to us in the past by historians and novelists, which came as an extremely pleasant surprise to me, as I do admit that I have not always been the ambassadors’ biggest fan.
The Chapuys that Mackay writes about and the one that history should remember is Chapuys the man that cared, loved and fought tirelessly for Katherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary. Who provided an intellectual match for Henry, and who bested him on several occasions, and given that he was tirelessly working towards a fair treatment of Katherine and Mary. Lauren Mackay presents to us a human man, who wrote his dispatches with emotion and passion and did his job incredibly well. On more than one occasion he exceeded the brief given to him going above the call of duty and providing excellent results. One of the best elements of this book is that Mackay approaches the dispelling of the accusations that have been attached to Chapuys with common sense and sensitivity. Mackay never gives us a false impression. She never makes Chapuys out to be something he was not. She is very realistic in the way that she sees him, and this fresh perspective is something which is much needed when discussing the world of the Tudors.
It is also evident from the sources that Mackay uses that she has also worked tirelessly, with great care and attention to detail to extract the man from the myths that have grown around him. It seems to me unfair that he is being ‘punished’ for things that it has been proven he did not say. Mackay has illuminated his Court life with reason and verisimilitude, to give us a well-rounded portrait of a man and not just an ambassador. In fact one of my favorite chapters ‘Royal Rivals’, includes a section where we see Chapuys outside the context if the court. Which is very interesting, as we go on to learn more about the life of an ambassador as whole not just the portions that included Henry and his wives. This section for me has piqued a curiosity into the lives of Henry’s councilors, which is a tribute to the excellent quality of the authors’ style.
Mackay’s style is commanding, she confidently establishes our man in clear and engaging terms. She has an incredible attention to detail, where there is no stone left unturned. It has obviously been a great labour of love for Lauren Mackay, and that comes across in the passion of her writing. She also goes on to add interesting facts and information to give us an interesting and in depth bibliography, which only goes to further compliment this wonderful book. And will also leave you with a list of books for further reading and wanting to know more as it did in my case!
After reading this book I feel that it is what Tudor History has been missing. A fresh and evenhanded voice, and a new and important perspective, Chapuys is a man that while maligned one that we still rely greatly on. Therefore, in my humble opinion I think that it has been a study that has been a long time coming and one that has been much needed for a long time. It is a book that will make a great, important and valuable companion to novelists, historians, researchers and those who merely exploring history, and regardless of your views on Chapuys, I am sure that you will find it greatly illuminating and fascinating reading. I further enjoyed seeing the colour portraits of Chapuys, which really wonderfuly exciting to see. They really do give you a sense if what he may have looked like and it was wonderful to finally see him in colour. It helped the purpose of bringing him completely and vividly to life. It was incredibly wonderful to see.
In my opinion I think Lauren Mackay has gone a long way to reclaim and rehabilitate Chapuys from legend, and bring us a portrait the real man, a man that we should thank for giving us a clear and sometimes vivid portrait of the Tudor Court, which we should be so grateful for.
So in closing, Inside the Tudor Court is book incredibly fascinating so much so that I found it hard to put down. It is one to savour and to be read carefully as you do not want to miss a moment of it. The pages are packed full of information too invaluable to loose to a casual reading.
I hope to read more from Ms. Mackay in the future and do so with much excitement.
on 22 August 2014
Very well written book , Lauren McKay clearly has an excellent insight into this very interesting ambassador to the court of Henry VIII. Ms McKay showed a very in-depth study of her subject and brought this man vividly to life, who I knew about due to him being Spanish ambassador to the Court of Henry VIII, but not to the extent this book portrayed. Whilst I was aware Eustace Chapuy's was a very strong supporter of Queen Katherine of Aragon an her daughter Princess Mary, later Queen Mary Tudor , it was so heart warming to discover the depth of genuine affection and admiration he had for both ladies and the length he went to on their behalf. I was very impressed by the loyalty, affection and admiration he had for both ladies, during very hard and difficult times, clearly without his direct intervention both professionally and personally on both Queen Katherine and Princess Mary's behalf, difficult and unpleasant was their life and horrendous treatment by that despot Henry VIII and the Scandal of Christendom , Anne Boleyn, their lives would have been even more harsh. His support of Princess Mary after Queen Katherine's death, filled me with admiration and respect, again without his support of and for Princess Mary was invaluable both professionally and personally without doubt saved Princess Mary's life, his heart must have swelled with pride when Mary became Queen, which was in itself a vindication of Queen Katherine of Aragon and of Mary herself, taking her lawfully rightful place as the legitimate rightful first Queen of England. An excellent book on a very remarkable man who was also a very able and determined man of great integrity and courage, his defence of Queen Katherine and Princess Mary ( later Queen Mary I) do him immense credit and he is most certainly worthy of respect and admiration , for which I applaud him, he most certainly has my respect and admiration. For those interested in this period of history this book is a must, a most enjoyable read full of information personal and professional, beautifully written and brings this period to life, Lauren McKay has done an excellent job here I strongly recommend .
on 10 February 2015
A completely absorbing read which I found hard to put down. As others have already said, Chapuys appears as a major source during this period. This book sheds deserved light on this energetic and sometimes relentless ambassador. The English court may well have been exhausted and irritated by him, but they could never ignore him.
Lauren Mackay's easily accessible writing allows us to see Chapuys as fully as he allows us to in his writing, but she goes further, as you would expect and provided us with the 'back-story' and the post-script. We see a whole man, from his scintillating prime through to his longed-for retirement.
He lived through exciting times at the court of Henry VIII but perhaps we can see more than an historical figure making a passionate case for his Emperor for here is a diplomat dealing with a king and his nobles without with great courage and aplomb. For anyone who does or who has had to deal with people of high status and surrounding politics will find this all so familiar... but also breathtaking. Chapuys in his prime never shied away from confrontation and to her credit Lauren Mackay enables us to see all of this.
What a great read, I enjoyed every word.
on 10 March 2015
An eloquent compelling expose of convoluted political machinations played for high stakes. It's an historical tapestry of murder most foul with its transient quicksand of shifting alliances and deadly deeds. Henry V111's capricious psychopathy is described in hideous unconscionable detail; friends, family and allies are dispatched with casual insouciance.
A game of chess with real players and deadly consequences - Thomas Cromwell - the consummate, clever, pragmatic master player .... was hoist by his own petard in 1540 when his mercurial royal patron check mated him on the executioners block at Tower Hill.
An excellent historical account with the quality of a 'page turner', it makes modern political statecraft look like a game for gentlemen played by the Queensberry rules. The Reformation was crafted from murder, treachery and an ocean of blood. Henry could have spoken the words from Macbeth ' will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?'
Eustace Chapuys is the principal protagonist in this courtly power game. And it is through his perspicacious pen that we have detailed insight into the dangerous quick sands of Henry's court. Chapuys is the hugely gifted lawyer and diplomat with a quick silver mind and discernment who engages and cajoles the leading players on behalf of his Imperial master, Charles V.
Chapuys and Cromwell are the two luminaries who shine in this deadly arena, they are the star virtuoso players, despite their religious divisions on Henry's 'great matter'. A man of prodigious learning, Chapuys intercedes throughout on behalf of his clients, Katherine and Mary; interpreting the factional plotting of the leading players in Henry's court with his masterful command, and supreme diplomatic skills, One of the few who had the good fortune to walk away with his head in tact.
on 24 March 2015
Excellent account derived from primary sources, the letters to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V from his ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, to the court of Henry V111, during the time of the Reformation and Henry's pursuit of Anne Boleyn. It had never occurred to me that many of his letters would have to be documented in cryptic code because of the problem of spies. Chapuys engaged his own spies at Henry's court, so it is an intriguing account of the network of attitudes, arguments & fears of not just the aristocracy but the common people also.
Chapuys was particularly protective to Katherine, Charles' aunt, and Mary, Henry & Katherine's daughter, who was treated particularly badly by Henry and Anne.
A very good read.
on 15 July 2014
If you loved The Tudors and have become interested in the real history of merry old England, its magnificent monarch Henry VIII and his court, then for you this book will be a revelation. Author Lauren Mackay brings alive this long dead Tudor world of intrigue and diplomacy through the writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys to his master the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V. Much of what we have come to rely on in reconstructing what happened and why comes from the pen of this fascinating man. This book is a must have. Enjoy your reading!
on 24 August 2014
As a fan of this era I very much enjoyed this book. Chapuys was a very important figure during that time and to learn the history from someones correspondence who was actually there is fascinating and at times very eye opening. What i especially like is that even though it is from the perspective of just one person, the writer doesn't let that rule what is being written completely. It was easy enough to read and I have recommended to many of my friends and family who also enjoy this time in history.