38. Henry VIII, King and Court by Alison Weir.

My second read of this rather wonderful book. Mum was an enthusiastic student of history, and I have a considerable quantity of histories and biographies to read through, sometimes as in this case for a second time – as a rule, she preferred modern history, but hey, these are the Tudors…who has not at some point been caught up in their glamour?

And, was this not one of the most tumultuous and exciting periods in history? The Tudor dynasty bridged the gap between the medieval world and the Renaissance, built the first Navy, created a new Church, and placed the little island of England as one of the primary power players on the world stage as new continents opened up. Whatever the rights and wrongs, no-one can deny the general splendour and magnificence of the story of the second Tudor monarch…nor his colourful marital life! A perfect subject for a TV series…or a book.

‘Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’, was the rhyme I learnt at school to remember his six wives in the correct order, and in this book, you will find real insight into his relationships with the ladies concerned, their families and frailties, and, how bloody difficult it must have been to be married to this man, let alone to be one of his daughters! Don’t forget that not only is Ms Weir and eminent historian, but she is a woman. We see the famous Holbein portrait on the cover, but in its pages we meet the man himself, and the Court he surrounded himself with. Ms Weir has previously published a book about the six wives of Henry – in this volume, she focuses upon Henry himself.

As I write this, I must admit our current Prince Harry popped into my mind. Another second son, with the same name, the same red hair and, shall we say, buoyant temperament. The Tudor Prince Hal expected his older brother Arthur to inherit the throne, and was raised to be a Prince of the Church; all of which suddenly changed when his older brother died. As a young man he was, by all accounts, charming, funny, witty and talented – the nasty, suspicious side of him surfaced later, as he became fat, ill, and tormented by doubts and, possibly, remorse.

I really enjoyed this book, possibly more on the second read. It is not a ‘light’ read, but neither is it dry old history. It takes you into the court of a King who is possibly one of the best ‘known’ monarchs in history, and is particularly informative about the minutiae of Court life – what the servants were paid, what their jobs were, the status that various persons enjoyed, how Henry VIII went about daily life.

Mum has noted April 2003 as when she read this last – I have just finished it, and as always, it’s going to be gifted forward with her love, and mine.