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on 31 May 2017
Didn't disappoint!
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on 10 August 2017
Exwllwnt
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on 25 June 2016
Excellent read
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on 7 March 2017
Very detailed, showing Henry VIII's Court and life from a new point of view.
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on 30 November 2008
This was an interesting, and pleasingly accessible read. Weir writes in a friendly, easy to understand manner. Weir writes in the introduction that she hopes readers "will be able to make that great leap of imagination across the centuries ... and that, for them, Henry VIII and his court will come to life". I have to day that to some extent Weir succeeds in this - for me Henry VIII is firmly placed in his times and court, with his many palaces, hunts, pageants, masques etc.

The first third of the book is not really a biography of Henry, but an in-depth study of the court, the palaces, and the world in which Henry lived. This section was the weakest part, and for me, the least interesting. The section is far too detailed - an endless list of buildings, names, court positions etc. I agree this aspect of the period is important to study, but it was overdone.

Once we get into the biographical aspect of Henry VIII, the book improves drastically. Weir has produced a good, but not comprehensive, study of Henry as monarch and man, and the personalities of the reign (More, Cromwell, Wolsey, Fisher etc) come to life. Disappointingly, the biography is not as detailed as it could be - especially concerning the important events of the reign. I would have liked more analysis, even narrative, of the Pilgrimage of Grace; and a study of the technicalities of the canon law of Henry's divorce (or annulment) from Catherine of Aragon. Nevertheless, the book is readable and gives a good overview of the politics and factionalism at court and abroad. I did learn, however, that Anne Boleyn was likely to be pregnant at the time of her execution. This surprised me, given Henry's desperation for a son. However, given the offical reason for Anne's execution (adultery amongst other things), it would have been foolish to allow the child to be born - there would have been doubts over its paternity and possibly lead to a succession dispute.

Weir provides plenty of footnotes (at the back of the book) and sources, both secondary and primary, which is an added bonus, and there are two sections of illustrations. However, as other have noted, the genealogical table is very simplified. It is entitled "The Tudors and their Rivals" but it only shows some of Henry's Yorkist cousins (the Courtenays and Poles), whilst omitting other possible alternatives for the throne, such as the De la Poles and Staffords. The Tudor descent from Edward III, via the Beauforts, is not shown, indeed, Edward III isn't even on it.

However, in summary, I can recommend the book, as a good introduction, to anybody interested in Henry VIII, the Tudors and the Henrician court.
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on 27 February 2003
Alison Weir has written a compulsively readable account of Henry VIII's court. She begins by describing his massive inheritance of greater and lesser homes, then proceeds to minutely describe the court. The physical details include such things as floors, tapestries, paintings, gardens, kitchens, foodstuffs. No detail, whether of texture or cost (she helpfully multiplies the contemporary values by 300 to give us today's equivalent), is omitted. She also describes the architectural set-up and how the rooms progressed from the Great Watching Chamber, through the Presence Chamber and into the Privy Chamber.
But into this rich heady brew Weir also throws the complete administrative breakdown of Henry's court, giving us a mind- numbing account of Tudor Human Resources, including the hapless, appropriately named Groom of the Stool who dressed the King and saw to his lavatorial needs.
Throughout the book Weir keeps us up to scratch with Henry's mania for accumulating property - the layout and development of his palaces. In addition, she also details the various staff changes, promotions, demotions and, of course, executions.
Weir provides astute, well-researched snapshots of Henry's entire coterie, from his playmates and companions, through to his mistresses and their families, his advisors, chancellors and churchmen. Everyone is placed in context so that their motivations and actions can be fully understood. So you are getting many biographies for the price of one, especially of people like Thomas More, or Henry's two sisters Margaret (who mothered the Stuart dynasty) and Mary (whose second marriage to Charles Brandon produced the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey, her granddaughter).
One interesting character is Henry Fitzroy, Henry VII's illegitimate son by Bessie Blount. This chap was evidence that the King could produce a male child, if not a legitimate heir, and he was created Earl of Richmond. The poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was a childhood friend of Fitzroy.
The book starts as a loose retailing of topical details, but the biographical framework starts to impose itself, with a strictly chronological account of Henry's reign. His celebrated matrimonial career is presented from HIS viewpoint for a change, although that does not lessen his monstrousness. He loved tilting and tournaments - that leg injury was a sporting injury. Most of his best friends seem to have been chosen for their skill in breaking lances...!
So if you want to know more about the Courtenays, the Boleyns, Norfolks and Suffolks, the Seymours, the Parrs, this is your book. In spades! Weir does it well.
Only one reservation - after the comprehensive genealogies of her "Wars of the Roses," the family trees in this book are insufficient for the ground covered. We really need the background for his wives as well as Henry's own genealogy. (Both trees can be found in the opening pages of the hardback edition of Antonia Fraser's "Six Wives of Henry VIII". They may be in Weir's "Six Wives", too, but are harder to read, being in italic script.)
Otherwise - excellent.
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on 26 November 2002
I must say from the outset that I found this book an extremely entertaining and good read. Alison Weir has achieved every writers aim and that's to write clearly with a high level of continuity and flow. Written chronologically, it provides a fascinating account of Henry VIII life. The intrigue at court is treated with sufficient depth where the reader can almost get bound up in it. Although Alison does not hold back on Henry's extravagant life style throughout all his life, he nonetheless sent many people to the block and was a man with a very dark side. You can quite imagine a future television soap opera based on the life and times of Henry VIII - considering the amount of court politics which went on you could easily fill forty hours of television. At times the book is a little too bound up with Henry without sufficient historical context, this is however is a reflection on Henry himself whose ego was of planetary proportions. Alison's achievement in writing this book is quite remarkable and it's also very pleasing to see a detailed listing of her many references.
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on 22 January 2013
I bought this as a present for a friend who after readingHilary Mantel said she wished she knew a bit more about the period. I already have a copy and think it is a wonderful far-ranging account of political, religious, international politics, social history of the time, with riveting details of the characters concerned. it is as exciting as a novel and it greatly enhances ones enjoyment of theNational Portrait and National Gallery as well as Tate Britain. And then of course there is Hampton Court. Everybody should read it.
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on 2 August 2001
I feel the Amazon reviewer has done injustice to Ms Weir in saying that this is a colourless portrait of the king. At the outset, she states that she does not want to cover old ground, and readers should refer to "The Six Wives of Henry Vlll" for a detailed picture of a passionate, flamboyant monach. This book concentrates on life at court, and gives a detailed picture of everyday life there, including a warts and all description of food, sanitary arrangements, dress, buildings etc. This has the potential to be as dry as dust, but Ms Weir makes it completely compelling reading, interweaving it with the story of the reign, without covering the in-depth character analysis of the king and his wives of the previous book. The court comes to life, and makes you mourn for the lost paintings, garments and buildings that made up the whole picture. I have read all of the author's books now - I wish she would write another! She is the most rivetting historian I have ever read. If the school history syllabus could be read in this way, everyone would get an 'A'.
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on 8 July 2010
I loved this book! Just finished it in fact. I am mad about Henry 8th and his wives always have been and read a lot on the subject so you might say can i learn anything new? Well the answer is a huge yes and this book is it! there is so much interesting details about his life and times in this that I have never seen mentioned elsewhere. It gives you a very complete picture of what life might have been like then. I really felt I came away with a far deeper understanding of how thigs worked then and that I had almost been absorbed into the time in reality! Just facinating!
I dont know how she manages all the research her books require this seems to out do itself and I couldnt put it down.
There are special chapters at the start on subjects like how the departments of court run, food, clothes and so on and then the story itsself takes over and carries you through to the end. I found myself relating facinating snippets of food at court, or how much people were paid! An excellent book all round and although if you are not as keen as I am on the subject you might find it harder to get through I do think it is facinating enough to have interest for all.
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