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Publisher's Summary

This magnificent biography of Henry VIII is set against the cultural, social and political background of his court - the most spectacular court ever seen in England - and the splendour of his many sumptuous palaces. An entertaining narrative packed with colourful description and a wealth of anecdotal evidence but also a comprehensive analytical study of the development of both monarch and court during a crucial period in English history. As well as challenging some recent theories, it offers controversial new conclusions based on contemporary evidence that has until now been overlooked. This is a triumph of historical writing which will appeal equally to the general listener and the serious historian.
©2001 Alison Weir (P)2017 Audible, Ltd
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By kwdayboise (Kim Day) on 05-24-17

A concise focus with tremendous detail

Prolific historian/novelist Alison Weir has placed most of her focus on the Tudors in her writing. Henry VIII and his wives have received her particular attention. This book is slightly off from the more salacious spotlight on the marriages. They receive mention but are not the book's core. This book revolves around the court of Henry VIII: the costs, the entourages and hangers-on, the internecine fights for the king's attention, and, yes, the wives.

Henry VIII is frequently given a negative perspective by historians and in popular culture. Some of that is earned. He was known for furious outbursts with nearly every courtier was often influenced by those who did not have his best interests at heart. Weir does nothing to dispel that reputation, but she does want the reader to see a more three-dimensional figure. Henry VIII was also a genius who, despite delegating the operation of the kingdom so that he could hunt and dance, was still thoroughly aware of what was happening in his kingdom. He was firm in countermanding decisions by ministers like Thomas Cromwell, corresponded with people both inside and outside England, and read widely. Despite his temper he was also sensitive enough to be known to cry over some events and deaths.

Perhaps what marked his reign as much as anything, however, was his willingness to spend money. He inherited a fortune from his thrifty father as well as regular income from tax collections. Weir does in-depth tallies, with conversions to current figures (such as 40 shillings equaling 600 pounds in today's currency), on the costs of the meals, the pageants, the jousts, the clothing, the castles, and feeding an entourage of hundreds of ranked individuals along with as many of their servants as they could sneak in. Even costs for flowers to Anne Boleyn are included along with her expenditures on shoes.

Weir is enough of a dramatic writer that the figures never overtake the narrative and there is plenty of time spent on the intrigues and oddities of court, such as the power held by Henry's "Groom of the Stool" who was to keep Henry company while he sat on the toilet and hand him a flannel cloth so his majesty (Henry was the first to use the term) could cleanse his backside. It was one of the most powerful positions in the kingdom.

The somewhat narrow topic allows Weir to be concise while still covering a reign of over 35 years. From his coronation as a handsome 6' 2" youth of 18 to his painful and bloated death in his mid-50s there are dozens of stories small and large that she manages to cover through the narrative.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful


By Victoria Evrard on 06-26-17

Great Book - Horrid Narration

I have this book in paperback form and it's an excellent book. However, I think Phyllida Nash is a terrible narrator. She highs and lows her words. Usually, each sentence starts out high and strong but as the sentence goes on, her voice is so low, her words clipped, that I can't hear what she's saying even though my computer's volume is at 100% and iTunes volume is at 100%.

This takes away all enjoyment from this wonderful book. I've noticed that the other books written by Alison Weir have a different narrator. I'm going to return this audiobook and will buy the others.

Very disappointed!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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By Kirstine on 07-04-17

Informative and absorbing biography

The author is not only a historical scholar but also an engaging writer as displayed by this impressive biography of a complex and erratic monarch. The Tudors have had many books written about them, and Henry VIII and his many wives have held particular fascination. The author has written a book about the wives and so has mainly only dealt with how the King’s relationships with them had far reaching consequences for the political and religious balance and the status and power of the various aristocratic factions.

The corrupting influence of absolute power is illustrated as Henry’s early days of promise deteriorated into excess, vanity and unpredictability. Power that encouraged the political and social rivalries among the aristocractic families and exposed the dangers of being close to the King.

Henry’s transformation from Defender of the Catholic Faith to excommunicated enemy of the Vatican and the ever-changing alliances and conflicts among the countries and monarchs of Europe are explored in detail.

The first few hours of the recording describe much domestic detail about Henry’s properties, his recreational past times and the social protocols of a monarchy and contain many lists and prices, which are illuminating if you are interested in how the aristocracy and royals lived at the time: which was very comfortably if you managed to keep you head!

I enjoyed this book and learnt more about this period in history aided by a lively style of writing and an excellent narrator.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful


By Marjo on 08-20-17

Interesting biography superbly narrated

Thank you Audible for having Phyllida Nash to read this. Alison Weir's text is well studied, clear and easy to follow and Phyllida Nash brings it to life.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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By Jade on 09-08-17

Fantastic

I highly recommend this book. The most detailed account of Henry the Eighth's reign I have read. The performance was also exceptional. If you're a Tudor addict like me, this is a must.

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