Saturday, April 9, 2016

Henry VIII


Rating: 1 Star


I really should know better when it comes to very short volumes purporting to tell the story of a complex monarch. I have made this mistake in the past and am not sure what I was thinking when I grabbed this one after seeing it advertised on Book Bub. Luckily, I do not think it was more than ninety-nine cents, so that is some comfort.

The writing itself it not poor, and perhaps if the author had had a larger vision for the work, or more research, this could have been a much better book. Unfortunately there were simply so many inaccuracies, it can not be taken too seriously as a comprehensive and well-researched book.

Early on, it was easy to see how superficial the book was going to be. The reader is also confronted very early on with questionable research based on the information presented. When discussing the issue of Catherine potentially marrying Henry after Arthur's death, the author implies that Henry VII wanted the marriage to go forward. This is not actually true, as has been documented several times by several different historians. Catherine was effectively isolated for quite a long time after Arthur's death and was merely a pawn as her father Ferdinand and Henry VII argued over her dowry and payments, among other things. Most other accounts even state that Henry VII steered young Henry away from the marriage, and that is why it took place only after Henry VII died. That is not to say that Henry VIII was always in favor of the marriage himself either, but it is a bit of a stretch to say that he was the one who prevented it from taking place while his father was alive. Prince and princesses had little say in who they did or did not married while their parents lived.

The inaccuracies continue after Henry and Catherine wed. I am not sure if it is intentional, but either the author is sometimes-biased against Anne Boleyn, or she simply did not do the research to now the difference between Anne and her sister Mary. As a slight to Anne's character (please do not mistake this statement by me and being an Anne supporter in any way. I am certainly not and was not unhappy to see her replaced by Jane Seymour). the author indicates Anne being something of a girl with loose morals so to speak when she remained in France after Henry's sister Mary returned to England. yet most other accounts written about the time period indicates that these things were spoken about Anne's sister, also named Mary. I am not looking to make Anne look good by any means, but I read non-fiction for a reason: I like facts and the truth. This book plays fast and loose with both. If such things were even spoken about Anne, would Henry have pursued her for so long? He and Francis were frenemies, so I find it highly unlikely that a person of such ego as Henry VIII would pursue such drastic measures for a woman who could not say no to a king who most of the time Henry could not stand. Later she also makes claims that there are scholars who think it is likely that Anne had affairs while married to Henry. How would this have even been possible? Queens were always attended by their ladies-in-waiting, they were never alone. While Katherine Howard later did have affairs, it was with the help of some of her ladies. I find it hard to believe that once the idea was planted for Jane to take Anne's place as queen, Jane would not have come forward with some information of said affairs. Despite my disdain for Anne Boleyn, I think it is safe to say that the crimes she was accused off later, including an affair with her own brother, were pure rubbish concocted in order to make it easy to get rid of her. Any scholars who do believe she had any affairs is not one who is in the majority.

Perhaps my biggest source of contention with this book, however, come in regards to Henry and Anne's reaction to the death of Catherine of Aragon. The author claims that the two were in mourning and wore yellow, as yellow was the color of mourning for royalty in Spain. This has been disproven. Even Alison Weir, who claimed this was once true in her book on the wives of Henry VIII, later recanted that fact in her book about Anne, 'The Lady in the Tower', saying that it was falsely concluded that yellow was the color of mourning. Not only is this just poor research and silly belief, but there is simply no way Henry and Anne would have mourned Catherine's death, considering all the "trouble" she gave them in fighting for her own marriage. The pair would have been joyous, relieved, even celebratory, that their foe was finally vanquished.

As I went on it seemed less and less likely that much research went into this book. At one point it was stated that in 1526, Cardinal Wolsey gave his beloved Hampton Court to Henry. really? REALLY? That is point blank not true. When Wolsey fell from favor, Henry TOOK Hampton Court and all of Wolsey's other property as well. It even says so on the palace's website. I mean, come on. Something so easily verifiable, yet totally wrong.

While there are many more inaccuracies that I could address, I think these major ones have served their purpose well. The Tudor Dynasty during Henry's reign was very complicated. This book, however, is very superficial at best. I would hate for someone with an interest in Tudor history to start with this book and think that the conclusions and facts are correct or legitimate, or that they are building a foundation of Tudor history. They will be sorely disappointed when moving on to better, more accurate, and more detailed books and realize this one was a waste of time. There are too many inaccuracies and I can whole-heartedly say I do not recommend it at all.

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