This magnificent new book is Alison Weir's greatest achievement: a detailed biography of Henry VIII, set against the cultural, social and political background of his court - the most magnificent court ever seen in England - and the splendour of his many sumptuous palaces. Seen from this new perspective, Henry VIII emerges as a fully-rounded and realistic personality, not the two-dimensional caricature of popular misconception. This book is not just an entertaining narrative packed with colourful description and a wealth of anecdotal evidence, but 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 reader and the serious historian.
Contemporary observers described the young king in glowing terms. At over six feet tall, with rich auburn hair, clear skin, and a slender waist, he was, to many, "the handsomest prince ever seen." From this starting point in Henry VIII, the King and His Court, biographer extraordinare Alison Weir reveals a Henry VIII far different from the obese, turkey-leg gnawing, womanizing tyrant who has gone down in history. Henry embodied the Renaissance ideal of a man of many talents--musician, composer, linguist, scholar, sportsman, warrior--indeed, the Dutch humanist Erasmus (not a man inclined to flattery) declared him a "universal genius." In scholarly yet readable style, Weir brings Henry and his court to life in meticulous, but never tedious, detail. Weir describes everything from courtly fashions to political factions and elaborate meals to tournament etiquette. Along the way she offers up charming--if all too brief--glimpses of Henry's court: tiny Princess Mary, still a very young girl, at her betrothal ceremony saying to the proxy, "Are you the Dauphin of France? If you are, I want to kiss you"; Henry weeping with joy as he held his long-awaited son and heir for the first time; Henry showing off his legs to the Venetian ambassador ("Look here! I have also a good calf to my leg"); Henry's courtiers dressing in heavily padded clothes to emulate--and flatter--their increasingly stout monarch. She also reveals some surprises, for example, that Henry and Katherine were still hunting together as late as 1530, even though Henry was desperately trying to have their marriage annulled. Weir also describes surprisingly happier times in their relationship; Henry loved to dress up in costume, and "was especially fond of bursting in upon Queen Katherine and her ladies in the Queen's Chambers.... Henry took a boyish delight in these disguisings and Katherine seemingly never tired of feigning astonishment that it was her husband who had surprised her." Henry's queens receive relatively little attention here (for them, see Weir's excellent Six Wives of Henry VIII), but this book is fascinating and a joy to read. Alison Weir has done it again. --Sunny Delaney
"WEIR'S BOOK OUTSHINES ALL PREVIOUS STUDIES OF HENRY. Beautifully written, exhaustive in its research, it is a gem. . . . She succeeds masterfully in making Henry and his six wives . . . come alive for the reader."
Henry VIII, renowned for his command of power and celebrated for his intellect, presided over one of the most magnificent–and dangerous–courts in Renaissance Europe. Never before has a detailed, personal biography of this charismatic monarch been set against the cultural, social, and political background of his glittering court. Now Alison Weir, author of the finest royal chronicles of our time, brings to vibrant life the turbulent, complex figure of the King. Packed with colorful description, meticulous in historical detail, rich in pageantry, intrigue, passion, and luxury, Weir brilliantly renders King Henry VIII, his court, and the fascinating men and women who vied for its pleasures and rewards. The result is an absolutely spellbinding read.
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