The Reign of Henry VIII: The Personalities and Politics

The Reign of Henry VIII: The Personalities and Politics

Paperback

By (author) David Starkey

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 14mm | 141g
  • Publication date: 3 October 2002
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099445107
  • ISBN 13: 9780099445104
  • Illustrations note: facsimiles, , portraits
  • Sales rank: 88,259

Product description

Henry VIII was almost never alone. He was surrounded, twenty-four hours a day, by the small group of intimates and personal attendants who made up the staff of his Privy Chamber. They organised his daily life, kept him amused and acted as the landline between the King and the formal machinery of government. These men, intermarried, interbred and close-knit even in their mutual feuding, were supremely well placed to rig politics and patronage for their own benefit. Their influence was important and sometimes decisive: factions in the Privy Chamber destroyed Anne Boleyn, they frustrated the 'Catholic' reaction of the 1540s, and, by doctoring Henry's will, prepared the way for the full-blooded Protestantism of his son's reign. The Reign of Henry the VIII is not so much a book about Henry VIII. It is about the great game of politics over which he presided.

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Author information

David Starkey is an Honorary Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and the author of Elizabeth, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII and Henry: Virtuous Prince. He is a winner of the Norton Medlicott Medal for Services to History, and of the WH Smith Prize. He is well-known for his historical television series focusing on the Tudors, monarchy and Britain, and for his radio appearances. Starkey was made a CBE in 2007 and lives in London.

Review quote

Henry VIII was almost never alone. He was surrounded, twenty-four hours a day, by the small group of intimates and personal attendants who made up the staff of his Privy Chamber. They organised his daily life, kept him amused and acted as the landline between the King and the formal machinery of government. These men, intermarried, interbred and close-knit even in their mutual feuding, were supremely well placed to rig politics and patronage for their own benefit. Their influence was important and sometimes decisive: factions in the Privy Chamber destroyed Anne Boleyn, they frustrated the 'Catholic' reaction of the 1540s, and, by doctoring Henry's will, prepared the way for the full-blooded Protestantism of his son's reign. The Reign of Henry the VIII is not so much a book about Henry VIII. It is about the great game of politics over which he presided.

Editorial reviews

This is a welcome republication of the 1995 study by one of Britain's best-known historians of Britain's best-known king. Starkey's authoritative voice, which is accessible without being condescending, does much to redress the popular misconception of Henry as a tyrannical fat man who tired of his wives on a whim and whose petition for divorce changed the country's religious complexion. Instead, Starkey strives to present the court as a group of people riven by power struggles and divided into factions with shifting loyalties, whose influence over the King was greater than even he realized. These factions even included the women who were to become his ill-fated wives: we learn, for example, that Anne Boleyn, with her evangelical religious beliefs and the sophisticated manners she had learnt at the French court, was far more than the 'unthinking vehicle of the Reformation - the pretty face that dissolved a thousand monasteries', but was instead a formidable, almost mannish figure, who planned her marriage to Henry like a military campaign, aided by her supporters. Similarly, her successor Jane Seymour, rather than just being a beautiful aristocrat who happened to catch Henry's eye, was groomed for the purpose of supplanting Anne by the religious conservatives who wished to have Princess Elizabeth declared illegitimate and to have Princess Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, restored to the succession. Hence we see Henry, bluff and rather unsophisticated in his tastes - his favourite pastime was jousting - at the mercy of all manner of wily intellectuals and politicians. Anne Boleyn is the only one of his wives to merit a chapter to herself, but the two other key figures of the period were Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, and Starkey rightly affords them almost as much attention as Henry himself. Both were hugely influential men and, while Henry might have held the ultimate power that was to see Cromwell beheaded and Wolsey hounded out of office, charged with treason (he died of natural causes, thwarting his enemies' desire to see him executed), it is their legacy as much as that of the royals of the time that have done so much to shape the country we live in today. (Kirkus UK)