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Book Review: The Making of Henry VIII

Henry VIII is one of England’s most memorable kings. Not just for his marriages, although those certainly helped, but also for his ruthlessness and tyrannical nature. He is the king who popularized the address of “Your Majesty” instead of the older “My Lord” or “Your Grace.” He’s the king who sacked the monasteries. The king who executed those most loyal to him when they failed to meet his unreasonable demands – Moore, Wolsey, Cromwell, and more.

This book seeks to ferret out the causes of Henry’s personality and temperament. And it does so quite well for a book originally published in the 1970s.

The Making of Henry VIII takes a primarily chronological view at explaining why Henry was the way he was. Why he was so insistent on a male heir and would go to any lengths to get one. Why he was so ruthless and fickle. And why he was so quick to turn on those most loyal to him at the slightest hint of scandal.

The book covers the events leading up to his birth as well as how his father, Henry VII, came to the throne. It covers how Henry for most of his life was seen as the spare – not good enough to have been the heir and how resentful he was of that fact. The book delves into what it was like to be raised as a royal child in the late 15th century – from diet to clothing to education to care. This book goes into it and then applies the knowledge to child psychology to help explain how Henry became the way he was.

One of my favorite parts is the ongoing saga of the pretender, Perkin Warbeck, and his probable influence on Henry. Perkin Warbeck claimed to be Richard the Duke of York and Henry’s Uncle and also rightful king of England. Other monarchs from around Europe supported him, much to Henry VII’s annoyance. And the rebellions that sprung up around him led Henry and his siblings to have a very uneasy life. The way the author presents it is well done. She lays out the facts and then applies logic to how it could be interpreted.

But it is an interpretation, and the author admits as much. While the facts are accurate as of the date the book was originally written, the conclusions she draws are opinion. I could see this book being valuable to the casual historian as well as the author looking to add color and context to a historical novel. The book included some events that aren’t well known in her exploration which was nice.

In all this is an easy to read, well-researched deep dive into the early life of Henry VIII.

Five Stars

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

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