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King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew Their Secrets

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  999 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews

A Remarkably Intimate Tale of the Intrigue, Ruthlessness, and Majesty of Henry VIII's Court

When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he's just been handed a front-row seat to history.

With a seat near the throne and an ear to the floor, Somers witnesses firsthand the dizzying power struggle

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1959)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,959)
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Nov 01, 2008 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of MCB!
Returning to paperback early 2009!

It may be surprising that I only gave 3 stars to one of *Granny's* books, but relative to her other works, this one falls somewhere in the middle. KING'S FOOL, the story of Henry VIII told from the perspective of his royal jester, Will Somers, is a solid read, though by no means her most riveting work. It has, however, been picked up by Sourcebooks to be re-released in paperback early next year (once again featuring companion materials contributed by me). The fi
Yes, I know, ol' Henry the VIII and his surplus of wives has been a bit overdone as of late. But this one was originally published in 1959 and Barnes knew what she was doing here.

The tale is told by Will Somers, a man who had a remarkably well-documented career as the King's fool from early in Henry's reign all the way through to his death. (Sound familiar? Margaret George used a similar idea for her 1986 novel, Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers.)

The result is a co
Dec 16, 2012 Éowyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a couple of other historical novels by this author, which were quite enjoyable, but not great. I had to review this after finishing this morning as it was so much better and a really rewarding read.

The novel covers the reign of Henry VIII from the point of view of Will Somers, the man who becomes the king's jester or fool. This gives the book a totally different twist and insight from something concentrating on the usual courtly suspects. Will is in the thick of things, with a front ro
This is the first novel I've read by Margaret Campbell Barnes and I found it to be an easy and enjoyable read. I thought it was well written and interesting. The history is painted in broad strokes and seen through the sympathetic eyes of Will Somers, King Henry VIII's fool.

I enjoyed Will's first person narrative and the relationship between Henry and his fool. But my favorite part of the book was reading about Will's life and relationships. I particularly enjoyed his relationship with his firs
Sep 11, 2009 Teddy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction fans
Shelves: read-in-2009
Will Somers starts out with a dull life in the country on the family farm. Even his family admits that he doesn't make a good farmer. That doesn't leave him with any real options, until an option lands in his lap.

Will is one of the few lucky country children that had an education. He is given to a merchant, Richard Fermer , to work for. He has a good head for numbers and he must do the books and take inventory. He is good at what he does, but it bores him. The one shining light in his new life i
A different slant on a well-known historical figure. Told through the eyes of the very real Will Somers, this book offers a different perspective of Henry VIII and his six wives. I really liked Will--very likable, humble, without being too self-effacing, he offers a nice contrast to the scheming, conniving courtiers that populate court life. He also offers a sympathetic view of Henry, although he is honest about Henry's increasing tendency to despotic rule as he gets older. My biggest criticism- ...more
April Martinez
Nov 15, 2014 April Martinez rated it liked it
Kong's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets

This story showed a different side of Henry VIII, instead of the gross characterization so many books tend to be. A story of a frustrated man wanting a son to leave his legacy to. How ironic that all along it was the daughter who made that dream come true! This is a easy book to read with touches of history scattered through the story, be sure to take time to look at the portrait of Henry VIII and his jester!
May 20, 2015 Gretchen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tudor-fiction
This book was not quite as advertised. If you want a novel about the Tudor court full of all the intrigue an rumors generally associated with the Tudor court, you won't find that here. If you want a well written story about a man who lived during an interesting time, read this book.

There is just something about an older book (this novel was originally published in 1959) that makes me smile. The writing style is something almost non-existent today. If you are a fan of author like Jean Plaidy, Any
Jun 15, 2012 Kerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: everything
I have always enjoyed historic fiction, particularly historic fiction about the life and times of the Tudors, but lately it has been a bit difficult to find a book about this era in history that both catches my attention and is enjoyable to read. I find that either the authors re-tread old ground without having anything new to say or they slide to the opposite extreme and insert a lot of sensational, implausible things just to get a rise out of their readers. All in all, I was starting to feel a ...more
Jan 25, 2010 Neil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a solid fictional account of the reign of Henry VIII from the perspective of his fool and friend, Will Somers. Somers was a real historical character, a young man associated with the merchant Richard Fermor until Henry brought him to court as a fool, close enough to Henry's family to be portrayed with them in a couple of pictures. He hung on at court until around the inauguration of Elizabeth I. Other than that, history doesn't say a lot about the real man.

Barnes makes an interesting cas
Mar 25, 2009 Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Will Somers grew up the impoverished son of a country schoolmaster. He had no talent for farm work but had a quick, sharp wit. In this inventive novel, originally published fifty years ago, Margaret Campbell Barnes imagines how this young man came to be the confidant, even friend, of one of history's largest men, King Henry the Eighth.

Though he comes to live at court at the King's side, as his jester, Will loves and misses his first master, merchant Richard Fermor. He particularly misses Master
Like most historical fiction aficionados, I have read my fair share of Henry the 8th novels and those about his many wives. I was first attracted to this novel because it was supposed to be from a different point of view. The royal jester, William Somers, was there for all of it. He was privy to all the secrets and ways of King Henry so I expected something different and something interesting. I was disappointed. I found this book rather boring to be honest. The story was the same though you get ...more
Jinny (Lost-At-Sea Book Reviews)
Yes, I know, yet another novel about King Henry VIII and his six wives. I have to admit, even I am getting a little tired of it, though obviously not tired enough to stop reading this genre altogether. I was recommended Margaret Campbell Barnes’ novels, so I tried one out during my six hour flight to Hawaii, and managed to read through almost all of it during the flight. I really liked the fact that it was told through the eyes of a 3rd party — in this case, King Henry’s fool (a sort of court je ...more
Oct 25, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
For all the Tudor historical fiction I have read, I loved this refreshing perspective told from real life court jester Will Sommers. He must have truly been exceptional for his time to have not only fallen into the jester position but to have kept it for over 20 years and being one of the closest confidantes to Henry VIII.

Regardless of the poetic license taken with Will's romantic life and details of what he felt, heard, and saw, the tale is quite believable and possible.

My only regret is that
Oct 07, 2014 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the second of this authors books I have read and I have to say it was a little disappointing. I was really looking forward to reading about the life and wives of Henry VIII through the eyes of his jester, but it turned out being an agonizing love story about himself. Most of Henry's reign was quickly glossed over, the reformation, dissolution and changing times barely mentioned. Although I really enjoy the authors writing style, I felt the story didn't deal enough with the Tudors.
I’ve wanted to learn more about Will Somers since reading Philippa Gregory’s books about the women in Henry VIII’s life. How interesting it would have been to be within Henry VIII’s inner circle, but not to be considered a threat by such a powerful man.

Will Somers was in just such a position. Born in Shropshire, England Will Somers was the only son, only child actually, of a churchman father and a Welsh mother, she died of the plague when Will was only four. Will had pretty happy life until his
Heather Mims
Oct 25, 2014 Heather Mims rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-have
Although my opinion on "The Tudor Rose" was less than stellar, I decided to give this author another try. Glad I did – "King's Fool" was much more enjoyable. Being written in first person likely helped, as I really connected with the character of Will Somers and found him genuine and likable. The love story between him and Joanna was beautifully executed, and although there weren't any new insights into the Tudors as suggested by this subtitle, I wasn't bothered by that. There are plenty of book ...more
Apr 12, 2013 Krista rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As geeky as it sounds, there was too much back story to this book than I cared for. I was more interested in a first hand account of what went on at court having to do with Henry personally, but this book focused on Will Somers' (fictional) private life. I appreciate that the author specified that his back story was fictionalized and imagined, but that court events were true. Also, like too many Tudor-era books out there, the book spent a large chunk of time on the events during Henry's marriage ...more
Leigh Ann
I struggled with this book in the beginning due to Barnes' writing style. After I adjusted to her writing style, I found the book rather enjoyable. It was different perspective about Henry VIII's life and reign as King of England. Will Somers, the court jester, has been portrayed in many novels about this time period, but you never truly knew that much about him (at least from some of the novels I have read). What you did know was only his jokes and antics from being the court jester. This novel ...more
Not a page-turning novel but historically accurate and an interesting viewpoint (life at Henry VIII's court through the eyes of his jester Will Somers).
Rocio Sanchez
Jan 28, 2016 Rocio Sanchez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring. Unless you know some history in this time period, you will be lost. Author writes as if you already know the characters.
Edna Rankine
Sep 09, 2015 Edna Rankine rated it really liked it
Very well written

Good story about the court of Henry VIII, told by his jester. Woven seamlessly of life lived in and out of court. Hard to put down.
Jul 24, 2011 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book that covers a span of 20 years of King Henry VIII's court jester, Will Somers. It gives Will's point of view of what happens in Henry's life. It also tells Will's own story about love and life. It shows the close personal relationship that King Henry VIII had with his jester, which can be seen in real life, as there were several paintings done during the Tudor reign with Will included in the picture. If you like any stories concering the Tudor dynasty, then this would be a go ...more
Kathryn Harriet
Mar 03, 2014 Kathryn Harriet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It drew me right in.
Apr 16, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a bit overloaded with Henry the 8th era books. This one had a charming twist as it was seen through the eyes of Will Somers, the king's jester. It was a nice story. This one was less on the politics of the era and more about Henry, the man as Will saw him. It included a nice side story of Will's life although I am not sure if any of that was from history or if it was pure fiction.
Mandi Waller
Aug 06, 2009 Mandi Waller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good version of Henry VIII's life as seen through the eyes of his jester, Will Sommers, who was with Henry from his first wife to the sixth at this death. Personally, I like more depth to the story of each wife, but that would make for a VERY long book so this was a good "review" of the wives and from an interesting perspective.
Jun 04, 2012 Keri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story comes from the point of view of King Henry VIII's jestor. He is a friend and confidant of the king's and is behind the scenes when all the gossip happens. Interesting story.
I enjoyed reading this book. It gave Henry VIII a kinder, more human face and came to a happy end for the king's friend and jestor.
Jan 25, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting point of view, disappointing execution. Disliked the lack of dialogue. The narrative very simply and straightforwardly instructed the reader what was happening. Major historical events were glossed over in a page or two, sometimes in just a paragraph.
Jan 14, 2013 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great way to look at King Henry VIII. Henry was a very difficult King to feel compassion for. Yet, after reading this book, one is reminded that things aren't always as the world views it. This was my first book by Margaret Campbell Barnes. I can't wait to buy her other books!
Jessie (saxgrl1)
An interesting point of view of the life of Henry VIII. I struggled throught the beginning of this book, but really got into it once Will became part of Court life. His compasionate nature and ability to listen makes Will an endearing and important part of the Tudor history.
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Margaret Campbell Barnes was born in 1891 and died in 1962. She was the youngest of ten children born in the Sussex country side. By all accounts she lived a happy childhood and was eventually educated at small private schools in Paris and London.

The majority of her books were written between the 1940's and 1960's.

She married Peter Barnes in 1917, a furniture salesman, and the couple had two sons,
More about Margaret Campbell Barnes...

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