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Henry VIII


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About the Author

Alison Weir is the author of Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Princes in the Tower, The Wars of the Roses, The Children of Henry VIII, The Life of Elizabeth I, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She lives outside London with her husband and two children.


The events surrounding Henry VIII's tumultuous life have long held public fascination. Weir (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) here examines the minutiae of his daily life and gives prominence to the background players of his court. We learn of the king's daily ablutions, hunting pursuits, "mania for property," and amorous liaisons. Numerous other aspects of the period are examined, such as kitchen hygiene, religious feasts and observances, the adornments of the royal palaces, the financial administration of the household, and, of course, the political maneuvering. As the lens shifts to the court, we are introduced, through such notables as Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, to the dangerous jockeying for position to achieve royal favor. The paintings of the royal family by Hans Holbein are meticulously described, illuminating the culture and sensibilities of the period. At times, the weighty detail and numerous characters will make the work inaccessible; however, as a scholarly study it is a significant achievement. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries. Isabel Coates, Brampton, Ont. Communications Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

In a succession of books on medieval and early modern monarchs, Weir has established her credentials as one of the most evocative of popular historians. In Eleanor of Aquitaine (which will be reissued in paperback to tie in with this publication), she brushed aside a forest of scholarly debate in favor of fully rounded human portraits. She now turns to the colossal figure of Henry VIII, aspiring chivalric hero and accidental spearhead of the Reformation. In the age's luxurious ceremony, Weir is thoroughly in her element. She revels in the Field of Cloth of Gold, an elaborate showpiece where Henry met his French counterpart; in the zesty supporting cast; and even in the less appetizing duties of the Groom of the Stool. Henry's passions were many and charming: his beloved dogs Cut and Ball were evidently so prone to getting lost that he would pay some 225 to their finder. Weir's fondness for her character has its difficulties. While admitting that the king proved to be "an imperious and dangerous autocrat who became mesmerised by his own legend," she too is seduced by the myth. Given to romantic hyperbole, she concludes with the largely unsupported sentiment that Henry "excelled all who ever wore a crown"; chalk up another victory for his propagandists. Other problematic characters, like Thomas More ("calm, kind, witty and wise"), are also let off lightly. Still, Weir's nose for detail, her sharpness of eye and her sympathetic touch make this a feast for the senses. (May 1) Forecast: Weir always gets excellent reviews, and Ballantine says there are 500,000 copies of her books in print, and yet she hasn't broken out big-time. Her choice of subject here may make this the one. It is a dual main selection of BOMC, as well as a selection of the Literary Guild, the History Book Club and QPB. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Alison Weir has perfected the art of bringing history to life."
-Chicago Tribune

"A DETAILED JOURNEY THROUGH THE COURT AND LIFE OF HENRY VIII . . . Thoroughly researched and entertaining, filled with delicious details for general readers and provocative argument for students of the period."
Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

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