Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Children of Henry VIII


Rating: 4 Stars


When I first saw this slim volume at Half-Price Books (albeit a brand new copy - pay attention to those letters on the stickers, people! There are far more new books for sale in the shop than you might realize!), I knew chances were good that it would not be any new information. But who am I to resist a book about one of the most dysfunctional families in history?

I always feel a bit bad for Henry Fitzroy - while we see Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI there on the cover together, poor Fitzroy is relegated to smaller portrait on the back cover, At least he is mentioned however, and significant space is dedicated to him within the text, especially before the arrival of Elizabeth. Once again, Anne was up to her old tricks and did all she could supposedly to ensure that Fitzroy was on the back-burner.

This brings me to a point I would like to address in regards to Henry's illegitimate children, however. There's always been speculation that Mary Boleyn's son and daughter were Henry's and not her husband's, as the timeline is murky about when she was actually Henry's mistress. However, given his lack of heirs - or male heirs - I'd have thought the time would come that, were they his children, or the son at least (also named Henry) then the old grouch would have acknowledge them, Maybe I am wrong, but I do doubt they were his children and given what we know now medically, I am pretty sure these four are his only surviving children. It makes little sense that he would acknowledge one illegitimate child but not any others,

Anyway, on to the book. John Guy is an author that I really like, for the most part. Here he has presented a lot of information in a small space, but does not skimp on the details. he also offers a plethora of notes and references to aid the reader in seeking more information. The inclusion of the Tudor, Howard, and Boleyn family trees was useful as well and would be an asset to those very new to Tudor history. I myself still mix these people up and I have read quite a fair bit of text about the dynasty in the last few years. Still, it is a handy reference to have.

My only complaint is what it often is - lack of photos. However, this time that can attributed to the fact that this is such a short text. Not to mention the fact that even portraits available that we think might be of certain people from the period can often turn out to be misidentified.

Overall I would say that if you already know quite a bit about the Tudors, you can pass on this one. If you are still new to the dynasty then I would certainly say have at it, you will learn quite a bit about these poor children who, unsurprisingly, grew up to be very dysfunctional adults (or at least dysfunctional teenagers, in the case.of Edward, who died at 16 or 17, depending on who you ask).

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