Orsolya's Reviews > The Children of Henry VIII

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
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Jun 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: elizabeth-i, henry-viii, history, library, mistresses-royalty, queens, tudor-england, mary-tudor, wishlist
Read from January 16 to 23, 2012

Although I wouldn’t say I’m a “Tudor Expert” (okay maybe I would); I do like to think I am well-versed on the topic. I first read Alison Weir’s “The Children of Henry VIII” almost a decade ago before I was as acquainted with the Tudor dynasty. Although both are far different experiences, re-reading this history piece still brought enjoyment (once-again).

Immediately in the first sentence of the Preface, Weir states that The Children of Henry VIII “…is not a history of England during the troubles reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey [let’s stress for the beginner Tudor reader that Jane was NOT Henry’s daughter], Mary I, and Elizabeth I, but a chronicle of the personal lives of four English sovereigns and the relationships between them…” While this is true that Weir does not dive too deeply into the political landscape of the aforementioned individuals and focuses more on the social and personal aspects of these leaders; the text still doesn’t give the desired look into the psyche of these sovereigns as perhaps expected. Rather then REALLY getting to “know” theses individuals and experiencing their histories, Weir basically just tells their stories.

Despite this, Weir keeps a smooth chronological sequence of events and instead of sectioning off chapters for each king/queen; she intertwines events in order to show equal-time incidents in various lives (I.E. While Mary was “fill in the blank”, Elizabeth was doing…). This creates a full picture of the Tudors which is especially insightful to those readers newer to the topic at hand. For those more familiar, The Children of Henry VIII is a terrific refresher course (plus, it has some details which you may have not read elsewhere).

As usual with Weir, her research is extensive and annotated while also including quotes and chunks of letters/documents while presenting a text which is well-paced and smooth versus overly scholarly. One of the positives is that Weir did not demonstrate an overly-biased view towards any of the sovereigns, telling their domestic affairs with equal validity. Another optimistic feature were the biographical snippets on other influential figures which provided insight into in the lives of well-known but lesser written about personages.

As The Children of Henry VIII progressed, it became increasingly more detailed, and for lack of a better description, more entertaining; while being accompanied by strong sources such as Edward’s diary entries and Elizabeth’s household account books. Even having read this book in the past, I still eagerly turned the pages and was engaged by Weir’s storytelling (although, she was at times repetitive and would reiterate phrases).

The majority of the book followed Mary’s reign, helping bring her to life and almost read like a single Mary biography which may deter some readers (but was welcomed by me, as a fan of Mary). Even though I know a great deal about Mary Tudor; there were some details and statistics I was unaware of. It is always riveting to learn something new.

The Children of Henry VIII is a rather solid look into the heirs to Henry VIII’s throne and the events which connected them. Although the book could have presented more details on the other sovereigns aside from Mary (Weir ends the book at Elizabeth’s accession to the throne); this glimpse into the Tudor world is engaging and certainly worth reading about.

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Reading Progress

01/16/2012 page 37
10.0% "Re-reading this about a decade after my first time... a must different experience."
01/18/2012 page 143
37.0% "Edward is on the downward spiral...
Prepare yourself, Jane Grey!"
01/20/2012 page 234
61.0% "My dear Mary, you should have never married Philip int he midst of religious tension. Now look at what is afoot! The famous (or infamous) Wyatt's Rebellion!"
01/20/2012 page 234
61.0% "My dear Mary, you should have never married Philip in the midst of religious tension. Now look at what is afoot! The famous (or infamous) Wyatt's Rebellion!"
03/27/2016 marked as: read
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Orsolya Clearly, I meant "much". Grr to no edit option on status updates!

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