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Henry Viii (Penguin Classic Biography) Paperback – 30 May 2002
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This work offers a fresh look at the character and political cunning of his much-discussed, notorious, and fascinating subject. Henry, a man of fundamentally conservative views and narrowly selfish aims, was led, almost against his will and mainly by events, to introduce the Reformation in England and revolutionize the structure of English government and society. Henry's ministers and underlings, while aiding and abetting his establishment of an absolute dictatorship, found themselves again and again the instruments - and frequently the victims - of his iron will. Henry deliberately and cleverly fostered divisions between protestant and catholic factions in his government in order to keep them all in a state of confusion, eager to win his favour. His shrewdly unilateral and seemingly inconsistent responses to changing events led him to change violently the religion, politics and diplomacy of England in ways that were to his advantage, but not always to his liking. The author shows that Henry, far from being the gluttonous libertine of popular reputation, was rather an extremely perceptive, aggressive, and merciless monarch.
About the Author
Jasper Ridley FRSL is a distinguished historical author whose Henry VIII and Elizabeth I are published in the US by PPI. They now join the Penguin Classic Biography list. Other books by the author include Thomas Cranmer, Lord Palmerston, Garibaldi and Napoleon III and Eugenie.
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From start to finish I was never bored. Mr Ridley has managed to strike the
right balance of telling a great story and informing us of the facts.
It's hard to say how much of a tyrant Henry was without living in his time and
was he simply evil or did he purge his kingdom to protect it from potential
These are questions put to us as readers to decide by ourselves.
The author discusses academic views and also adds his own but overall
I was left with the feeling that he was a bit of both, tyrant and protector.
Finally at only 416 pages this is only an introduction to the subject
and of the main characters involved ( Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, his 6
wives etc.), only scant background is offered.
However I can't wait to read more about these compelling characters now after reading this excellent account.
Mr Ridley has done a fine job with this biography. It is to be wished also that other historians, who will remain nameless for this review anyway, could not be more centred and unbiased when writing their books. So often bias is screamingly obvious and dislike for their subject so apparent one wonders why they bothered - unless they were getting a huge advance to do the work, of course. Or is that just cynicism? One gets the impression from this highly readable biography that Mr Ridley actually liked his subject, for a change.
Recommended for those interested in Henry VIII.
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