Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII

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9781250012616: Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII

Set during the same years of Henry VIII's life as The Tudors, this book charts his rise as a magnificent and ruthless monarch

Immortalized as a domineering king, notorious philanderer, and the unlikely benefactor of a new church, Henry VIII became a legend during his own reign. Who, though, was the young royal who would grow up to become England's most infamous ruler? Robert Hutchinson's Young Henry examines Henry Tudor's childhood beginnings and subsequent rise to power in the most intimate retelling of his early life to date.

While Henry's elder brother Arthur was scrupulously groomed for the crown by their autocratic father, the ten-year-old "spare heir" enjoyed a more carefree childhood, given prestige and power without the looming pressures of the throne. Everything changed for the young prince, though, when his brother died. Henry was nine weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday when he inherited both his brother's widow and the crown.

As King, Henry preferred magnificence and merriment to his royal responsibilities, sweeping away the musty cobwebs of his father's court with feasting, dancing, and sport. Frustrated, too, by the seeming inability of his wife, Katherine of Aragon, to produce an heir, Henry turned his attention to a prospective second queen whose name would endure as long as his: Anne Boleyn. With the king still lacking a successor by the age of 35, however, the time for youthful frolic had come to an end.

Divorcing his wife and the Catholic Church, executing his lover and his violent will, Henry charged forward on a scandalous path of terrifying self-indulgence from which there was no turning back. Young Henry is an illuminating portrait of this tyrannical yet groundbreaking king―before he transformed his country, and the face of the monarchy, irrevocably.

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About the Author:

ROBERT HUTCHINSON is a historian, archaeologist, and broadcast journalist, most recently chairing the media division of Britain's Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee. Hutchinson has written several books on the history of the Tudors, including Last Days of Henry VIII, Elizabeth's Spymaster, and Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister, as well as contributing to The History Channel's Inside the Body of Henry VIII. He lives in England.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Young Henry
1 IN MY BROTHER'S SHADOW  
 
'At about three of the clock ... was conveyed through the city [of London] with many lords and gentlemen, the Duke of York, second son of the king, a child of about four years or thereabouts ... sitting alone on a courser, [he] was had unto Westminster to the king.' Henry's official entrance into London before being knighted by his father, 29 October 1494.1  
 
 
Henry VIII was born into a very structured and disciplined world. Comprehensive directives had been laid down for his mother's confinement, the fixtures and fittings of his nursery, and the pomp and circumstance of a royal christening. Such minutely drawn strictures were imposed upon almost every aspect of his life until his father died eighteen years later. In her arcane and pedantic style, his manipulative grandmother Lady Margaret Beaufort had set out detailed ordinances2 in 1486 governing precisely how the arrival of a Tudor prince into this uncertain and perilous world should be managed. These directions were repeated and amended in a veritable lexicon of regal etiquette called The Royal Book.3 First, of course, was the ritual of the queen's confinement. Elizabeth of York would have had her own private chapel accessible from adjacent great and small chambers. (With only primitive medical care on hand, childbirth in the Tudor period was always a hazardous experience. She was sensible to seek the divine protection of the Almighty and His saints to see her through the ordeal.) Her bedchamber would be 'hanged with rich cloth of Arras, sides, roof, windows and all, except one windowwhich must be hanged so she may have light when it pleases her'. Lady Margaret even listed all the necessary bedclothes and furnishings including 'two pairs of sheets ... every one of them four yards (3.66 m) broad and five yards (4.57 m) long; and square pillows of fustian4 stuffed with fine [goose] down; a scarlet counterpane, furred with ermine and embroidered with crimson velvet or rich cloth of gold; a mattress stuffed with wool'. A pallet with a bolster of down was positioned alongside the great bed for the queen's midwife to sleep on. When all was ready and her time drew nigh, two of the senior nobles of the realm would escort the queen into her darkened room and then depart respectfully, retreating slowly backwards with many an obeisance. Then all the ladies and gentlewomen to go in with her and none to come into the great chamber but women ... All manner of officers shall bring them all needful things unto the great chamber door and the women officers shall receive it there of them.5 After her flurry of organisation in this very female world, Lady Margaret seems to have been little moved by the birth of her second grandson on St Peter's day during the damp, dank summer of 1491. Her handwritten notes in her personal Book of Hours merely record the date, 28 June - and even then, she forgot to include the year and inserted it some time later.6 Doubtless Arthur, the four-year-old heir to the throne, always remained uppermost in her thoughts and pious prayers, as he did for most of England's population. It is therefore not unexpected that for the first decade of the new prince's life, we only catch the occasional glimpse of him as he fleetingly emerges from the shadow cast by his elder brother's brilliant dynastic star. A few days after his birth, Henry was baptised in the newly built church of the Order of the Franciscan Observants that adjoined Greenwich Palace immediately to the west.7 Richard Fox, Bishop of Exeter and the Lord Privy Seal - one of Henry VII's old comrades from his days of tedious exile in Brittany8 - performed the short ceremony, standing upon a circular tiered platform of wood beneath a glittering canopy of cloth of gold. As he named the child, Fox enthusiastically plunged thenaked red-haired infant three times into the holy water, contained in a silver font specially brought from the great abbey at Canterbury. History does not relate whether the new prince cried out in protest at his triple immersion in the carefully warmed water. The baby was afterwards wrapped up in a mantle of crimson cloth 'with a long train [trimmed] with ermine' fur and carried triumphantly through the echoing church, a lighted candle clutched in his tiny right hand to symbolise his coming journey through this dark world. Payments totalling £6 3s 4d later made to Benjamin Digby, Yeoman of the Queen's Wardrobe of the Beds, suggest that the ceremonies followed Lady Margaret's instructions for the christening of a prince, including provision of the linen used to drape the font.9 Immediately after the christening, Mistress Anne Oxenbridge took charge of the baby as his wet nurse on a salary of £10 a year, or nearly £5,000 a year at current values.10 This first important lady in Henry's life was a Launcelyn, an old gentry family entitled to bear arms,11 who held the manor of Wood End in Cople, Bedfordshire, four miles (6.44 km) east of Bedford. Anne's husband Geoffrey Oxenbridge was Bailiff of the East Sussex Cinque Port of Winchelsea, but he died a few years after her royal appointment, some time between 1494 - 6. She married her second husband Walter Luke, a Sussex gentleman (and probably a lawyer) by 1504. Anne cared for Henry for at least two years and his ever-careful grandmother ordered that her 'meat and drink be assayed [tasted] during the time that she gives suck to the child and that a physician do oversee her at every meal, [who] shall see that she gives the child seasonable meat and drink'12 after he had progressed to solid foods. The wet nurse was assisted in her motherly duties by two official 'rockers' of the royal cradle - Frideswide Puttenham13 and Margaret Draughton, each paid salaries of £3 6s 8d a year. Later, Anne was generously rewarded by a grateful Henry VII for her well-performed services.14 The baby had two cradles in his two-room nursery at Greenwich, together with other practical items for the best available infant care, including two 'great' pewter basins for washing the bed linen and thechild's clothes and 'swaddling bands'. These were strips of linen or other material that were wound tightly around the infant from head to foot - restricting movement and popularly thought to promote sleep. It was also widely believed in Tudor times that these bands helped development of a correct posture in later life.15 A silver basin was also supplied to bathe the child and a 'chafer' used to heat small quantities of water and later food. Anne Oxenbridge was equipped with a large leather cushion on which she sat while suckling her royal charge at her breast, surrounded by eight large carpets on the floor.16 The first cradle was the showy 'cradle of estate', five feet (1.52 m) long and three feet (0.9 m) wide, which gently rocked, suspended from a U-shaped wooden frame. It was covered with crimson cloth of gold, with four silver-gilt pommels or knobs decorated with the king and queen's heraldic arms. The cradle had a mattress, two pillows and a scarlet counterpane edged with ermine fur. Safely laid down in this, the infant Henry would receive his admiring and sycophantic visitors, each one bowing low on entering or leaving the royal baby's presence as he lay almost completely hidden in his swaddling bands of blue velvet or cloth of gold. The second, smaller cradle was for Henry to sleep in and was made of painted and gilded wood, forty-four inches (1.12 m) long and twelve inches (0.31 m) wide. Again, it was decorated with silver-gilt pommels and was supplied with two mattresses (in case of accidents ...).17 Henry probably shared the royal nursery with his two-year-old sister Margaret, although they lived in separate accommodation and had their own female attendants. While the queen frequently stayed in the same building as her children, everyday care and love always devolved upon paid staff, as was normal in royal or noble houses. However, Elizabeth of York was probably well educated, and it may be that she taught Henry to read and write when he was about four years of age. In their very early years, the royal children had a peripatetic existence, shifting from one palace to another as their mother travelled with the seasons, following the set regal diary of events, which was sometimes linked to religious festivals. As befitted the heir to the throne, their elder brother Arthur meanwhile had an entirely separate life, spending hisfirst two years at Farnham Castle, the imposing seat of the Bishop of Winchester in Surrey, before his nursery was moved to Ashford in Kent around 1488. Five years later the seven-year-old prince was at Ludlow, learning the duties of a king, complete with his own household and council, administering his principality of Wales. On 2 July 1492 Henry and Margaret were joined by another sister, Elizabeth, born at the Palace of Sheen, near Richmond, on the banks of the River Thames in Surrey.18 She, of course, had her own wet nurse, Cecily Burbage, but warrants for payment also refer to the 'servants attending upon our right dearly well-beloved children, the Lord Henry and the ladies Margaret and Elizabeth'.19 While Henry VII was away briefly campaigning in northern France in October - November 1492, the infant Henry and his two sisters were with their mother at Eltham Palace, Kent (now swallowed up by the conurbation of south-east London), and their nursery remained a fixture there for some time. Four years later, it was placed under the control of a 'lady mistress' and one of the queen's ladies, Elizabeth Denton, was appointed to this post, although she continued as a royal attendant with an annuity of £20 per annum.20 Henry's early formative years were thus spent in a very cloistered and cosy feminine world at Eltham, with its impressive great hall built by Edward IV in the 1470s and set inside enclosed hunting parks extending to 1,265 acres (5.1 sq. km). Every day he played with his sisters, but was acknowledged as a first amongst equals by his adoring attendants. As the only boy in this royal nursery, he was thoroughly spoilt and tenderly protected from the hard knocks and bruises of childhood misfortune. The toddler prince was cosseted, his grumpiness and tears sweetly cooed away, and his every whim swiftly fulfilled by the doting matronly ladies who cared for him. Moreover Henry's grandmother, the redoubtable and pious Lady Margaret Beaufort, took a close interest in the children's conduct and education. Years later, when he ascended the throne, Henry did not forget those who cared for him in his early years and ensured they received generous incomes in their dotage. Did this period in Henry's early life forge a deep psychological flaw within him that later created some of the personal difficulties that arosein his relationships with his wives? Some psychiatrists have detected in him an unconscious craving for a forbidden incestuous union - even signs of an Oedipus complex.21 Certainly, that soft, compliant female world may have planted and nurtured the seeds of his terrible temper in adulthood; the breathtaking tantrums that assailed courtier or commoner when he was denied what he desired, or confronted by any kind of opposition, however feeble or insignificant the source. But the young Henry was no effeminate sissy. He probably learnt to ride a pony before he could walk; on 1 January 1494 Henry VII paid fourteen shillings for horses purchased 'for my lord Harry'.22 A sketch (Plate 5) of a young boy of two to three years of age wearing an ostrich-plumed cap,23 which is traditionally believed to be Henry, shows a round-faced, chubby infant with fat forearms and a rather headstrong, if not wilful, look as he glances to the observer's left - as if distracted and diverted by a toy being suddenly waved at him just out of the picture.24 But all was not childhood rhymes, playthings and matronly routines in Henry's young life. Fresh fears over the insecurity of his father's crown invaded the peace and ordered existence of the royal nursery when Henry was only six months old. The harsh trumpet-call of insurrection against the Tudors again rang out, piercing even the cloistered, ordered calm of Eltham. Another claimant to the English throne had surfaced - but this one was more dangerous than poor Lambert Simnel, still sweating away naked25 as a turnspit in the stifling heat and noise of the royal kitchens. In November 1491, a French-speaking Flemish silk-trader arrived in Cork, on the south-west coast of Ireland. In looks, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Richard, First Duke of York, the younger of the two lost princes in the Tower - or was he yet another of Edward IV's many bastards?26 He was named Perkin Warbeck, born around 1474 in Tournai (in today's Belgium), the son of a French official, Jehan de Werbecque.27 He was the right age, the right height, and both literate and very personable. After falling under the enthralling influence of Yorkist conspirators, he crossed the English Channel, seeking support from the French kingCharles VIII. However, the Treaty of Étaples, which had followed Henry VII's brief war with France in 1492, included a clause preventing Charles from providing shelter to any English rebels, so Warbeck and his followers fled to Malines (or Mechelen) also in present-day Belgium. This town was within the domain of Margaret of York, the childless widow of the tyrannical Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who had died in battle in 1477. The canny and politically astute Margaret was sister to the two last Yorkist kings and therefore was understandably eager for a Yorkist to again wear the crown of England.28 Whether or not she suspected Warbeck to be a fraud is not known and probably does not matter. He posed a viable and costly threat to Henry VII across the sea in England, and as such was well worth her support. The duchess therefore immediately officially recognised him as her long-lost nephew Richard, miraculously returned from the dead. She set him up accordingly, with all the sad trappings of exiled, penniless royalty: paid-for halberdiers dressed in the Yorkist livery of blue and murrey,29 an official residence in Malines and a comptroller of his meagre accounts. There was also his brand-new seal, bearing beneath the royal arms this proud inscription: 'Secret seal of Richard IV, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland'.30 As presentation is half the battle, Margaret also carefully tutored him in the traditions and comportment of the Yorkist court. Did she really believe him to be an unfortunate victim of amnesia? In August 1493 Warbeck had a chance to display his new-found courtly skills. He attended the funeral of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III31 in the Stefankirche in Vienna, where he was acknowledged as King Richard IV by Maximilian I, the new Archduke of Austria and Imperial King of the Romans, who had married Margaret's stepdaughter.32 Back in England a rattled Henry VII railed against Duchess Margaret: 'That stupid brazen woman ... hates my own family with such bitterness ... she remains bent on destroying myself and my children.'33 In a vain attempt to break her spirit, he imposed a trade embargo on Burgundy in retaliation for her support of Warbeck. Their income damaged, two angry English merchants hurled a bucket of night-soil at the pretender's house in Antwerp in protest at his activities. The king must have beenpositive in his own mind that Warbeck was an imposter, given his firm belief that the 'Princes in the Tower' were dead; certainly he was aware of Warbeck's antecedents by July 1495.34 Henry probably reasoned that, imposter or not, the unwelcome reality was Warbeck's warm reception and recognition by the European cou...

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