The Children of Henry VIII

( 56 )

Overview

"Fascinating . . . Alison Weir does full justice to the subject."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

At his death in 1547, King Henry VIII left four heirs to the English throne: his only son, the nine-year-old Prince Edward; the Lady Mary, the adult daughter of his first wife Katherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the teenage daughter of his second wife Anne Boleyn; and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. In this riveting account Alison Weir paints a unique portrait of these extraordinary rulers, examining ...

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The Children of Henry VIII

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Overview

"Fascinating . . . Alison Weir does full justice to the subject."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

At his death in 1547, King Henry VIII left four heirs to the English throne: his only son, the nine-year-old Prince Edward; the Lady Mary, the adult daughter of his first wife Katherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the teenage daughter of his second wife Anne Boleyn; and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. In this riveting account Alison Weir paints a unique portrait of these extraordinary rulers, examining their intricate relationships to each other and to history. She traces the tumult that followed Henry's death, from the brief intrigue-filled reigns of the boy king Edward VI and the fragile Lady Jane Grey, to the savagery of "Bloody Mary," and finally the accession of the politically adroit Elizabeth I.

As always, Weir offers a fresh perspective on a period that has spawned many of the most enduring myths in English history, combining the best of the historian's and the biographer's art.

"Like anthropology, history and biography can demonstrate unfamiliar ways of feeling and being. Alison Weir's sympathetic collective biography, The Children of Henry VIII does just that, reminding us that human nature has changed--and for the better. . . . Weir imparts movement and coherence while re-creating the suspense her characters endured and the suffering they inflicted."
--The New York Times Book Review  

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The tragedy of four accidental rivals to a throne, three of them childrenby different mothersof a much-married despot, seems to lose none of its drama by frequent retelling. Along with the royal siblings, Weir (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) includes their cousin, the doomed Lady Jane Grey. Guiltless of the intrigues committed in the name of religion, power and property, Queen Jane was forced at 15 to reign for nine days in a futile attempt to block the accession of the fanatically Catholic Princess Mary. The 300 burnings for heresy during the five years Mary ruled were eclipsed statistically by the hangings and beheadings for conspiracy and treachery. In the 11 years between the death of Henry VIII and the survival of his adroit daughter Elizabeth into the succession in 1558, rapacity had at least as much to do with the turbulence and the terror as religion. So many ennobled miscreants grasped for land, loot and legitimacy that readers will need a scorecard to match their names with their new titles. Weir adds nothing fresh to the story, but her sweeping narrative, based on contemporary chronicles, plays out vividly against the colorful backdrop of Tudor England. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Weir's latest biographical history begins where her Six Wives of Henry VIII (Grove Atlantic, 1992) ends, with Henry's death. Weir's new book covers the lives of Henry's children Mary Tudor and Edward VI, but it only takes Elizabeth up to her accession, and it also includes the entire short life of Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry's sister Mary. When Henry died in 1547, he left a country embroiled in several social problems brought about the enclosure of common lands, the high cost of his European wars, and the closure of monasteries. How his heirs dealt with these problems, along with their relationships, makes interesting reading, even though there's not a lot of new information here. What Weir provides is more detail, especially regarding Elizabeth's and Mary's interactions. We meet neither "good Queen Bess" nor "Bloody Mary" but rulers with strengths and weaknesses. Good reading for history fans.Katharine Galloway Garstka, Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Ala.
Kirkus Reviews
This fascinating tale of murder, jealousy, religious fanaticism, and political scandal among 16th-century British royals makes the modern dysfunctional royal family appear quaint by comparison.

Whereas the history of Henry VIII and his six wives is at least vaguely familiar to most, the fate of some of their offspring is less well known, though hardly less riveting. Weir (The Wars of the Roses, 1995, etc.), who has established herself as a skillful guide to English royal history, now examines the lives of the four heirs to Henry VIII's throne: Edward, Elizabeth, and Mary, all children of different wives, as well as the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII's great-niece, who was executed by Mary. Weir's narrative brings to life both the tangled relationships of these figures and the violent religious tensions that dominated England during the 16th century. The contest between papists and reformists was directly played out by Henry VIII's heirs: Edward was a fanatical Protestant; Mary, a Roman Catholic, considered her life's work to be a reconciliation with Rome. Mary's religious beliefs dictated her every action, from her marriage (to Philip II, king of Spain) to domestic politics (the burning of reformist heretics), and earned her the epithet "Bloody Mary." Religious loyalties also galvanized the divided royal subjects, who staged rebellions with regularity during these turbulent years. Thus, even for the more moderate Elizabeth, who survived a variety of conspiracies to become queen, religious issues were always a significant factor. Weir is a practiced and polished writer whose prose moves at a brisk pace. Occasionally, though, her narrative gets bogged down with details about wardrobes and residences and other not entirely relevant matters.

Nevertheless, Weir succeeds not only in bringing to life Henry VIII's heirs but also in illuminating the background to the aftermath of their turbulent years—the Elizabethan era.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345407863
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1997
  • Pages: 394
  • Sales rank: 169,134
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Weir
Alison Weir is the author of four other books on English history.  She lives outside London with her husband and two children.  She is currently working on a biography of Elizabeth I that will focus on the queen's private life and intrigues.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

This book is not a history of England during the troubled reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, but a chronicle of the personal lives of four English sovereigns, and the relationships between them, during the period 1547 to 1558. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left three highly intelligent children to succeed him in turn--Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, to be followed, if their lines failed, by the descendants of his sister Mary Tudor, one of whom was the ill-fated nine-days queen, Lady Jane Grey.

The relationships between the royal siblings were never easy ones for several reasons: all had very dissimilar characters, and while they took after their father in many ways, they had each inherited diverse characteristics from their mothers, who had been the first three of Henry VIII's six wives. Each child had spent its formative years in vastly different circumstances, and had enjoyed--or suffered--varying relations with its formidable father. Mary's mother had been supplanted in King Henry's affections by Elizabeth's mother, who had, in her turn, been supplanted by Edward's mother. And while the King's daughters suffered several vicissitudes of fortune in Henry's lifetime, his son grew up secure in his august father's love and protection.

In the pages of this book, which begins at the point where my earlier book The Six Wives of Henry VIII came to an end, I have tried to portray the characters of these royal siblings and their cousin Jane Grey as realistically as possible, and to describe how their personal relationships with each other were affected by political and religious considerations. In order to achieve this, I have consulted a wealth of documentary evidence contemporary to the period, including numerous private and official letters, the great calendars of state and the masses of diplomatic papers, as well as memorials and chronicles by contemporary writers, including Edward VI's own journal, and more mundane records, such as lists of privy purse expenses, which can in fact yield fascinating information.

There have been many biographies of the later Tudor monarchs, but never a book in which their personal lives and relations with each other, and the effect of these factors upon the history of England, have been the central theme. One cannot of course write about kings and queens without touching on the political and social issues of their times, but what I have tried to bring into focus here is personal information that has until now been treated as generally subsidiary to the political ethos of other works. This book is not intended to replace such works, but to complement them.

In these pages, we go back in time to an age in which the personalities of monarchs and their familial connections had the power to influence governments, and it is vital to our knowledge of the period to understand what shaped the characters of these four monarchs, who were among the most charismatic and vivid personalities ever to have graced the throne of England. Naturally, our human condition makes us eager to learn about the private things, the everyday trivia, the scandals, and the sheer "feel" of ages long gone. We want to bridge the gap, to discover that even these long-dead kings and queens felt as we do, and come to know them through the writings and mementos they have left behind. We are fortunate, therefore, that the Tudor period is one rich in source material, in which fascinating--and sometimes astonishing--discoveries may be made. These, and one or two tantalizing mysteries, are the things I have included in this book, the things that bring us closer to the past.

Set against a background of turbulent change and intrigue, the story that unfolds will, I hope, bring to life four Tudor sovereigns and those whose lives they touched, and will portray them not only as Renaissance princes, but as individuals, who, in the final analysis, were people not so very unlike ourselves.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 56 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2001

    Excellent and Outstanding

    This book is great. Alison Weir makes it so easy to understand. Read The six wives of Henry the VIII and The Life of Elizabeth I, along with this one for a full picture of the Tudor family.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2003

    Wonderfully Addictive

    I am not quite done with this book but so far it has just been wonderful. Once i pick it up I can't put it down. I really enjoy that it was very easy to read. It is wonderfully written and just a great book to read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyable reading!

    I love history, but I don't like boring history. This book is not only well-researched historically, but Alison Weird does a fabulous job of making this book interesting, if not gripping. I also enjoyed how the author went back and forth between the characters to maintain the time line. I know she has a book on Elizabeth...I wish she would come out with one on Mary, she is a fascinating character.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good history well told

    Yet another insightful telling of history by Alison Weir. Her books are dense but after the first few pages, Ms. Weir draws the reader right in. She portrays the characters within their times so well. In this book, the author contrasts the relationships of these four against one another and with the times. I now have a very different understanding of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2000

    A great read

    I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this book. The entertainment doesn't lie in the detailed, factual information (of which there is plenty) but rather in the author's use of psychological explanation in portraying these historical figures. I enjoy Weir's writing for the same reason that I enjoy Shakespeare's writing. Both authors not only present a good and entertaining story, they also present characters with such understanding that the stories become studies of humanity.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    Great book!

    Great book! Easy and interesting read. Didn't go into a lot of "extra" detail that sometimes makes you fall asleep. The book talked about a lot of people and places putting everything in prospective and easy to remember. She lets you know if a castle or building is still around today. This book made history interesting. Kind of like a cliffsnotes for history!
    Love love the book!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    hmmm?

    it seems SUPER GOOD, but is it alright for kids?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    a must for Tudor history lovers

    I'v read and re-read this so many times and continue loving it. So much drama and Alison Weir is a great story teller so it isn't dry at all.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great historical look into the lives of English royalty.

    Wonderful book for entertainment, information, discussion, gift giving. Alison Weir does it again. Information and history written just exciting and gripping as a novel!

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book -- Weir brings history to life!

    I adored this book and read it during Labor Day weekend while at the lake. Alison Weir always delivers historical accuracy and brings the accounts to life in such vivid, rich detail. Little is often written of King Edward due to his short duration during adolescence as the king, which was great to see revealed. I thought it was interesting that Lady Jane Grey was portrayed despite the fact that she was not one of the King's offspring, despite what the title suggests, and I must admit that I was a little disappointed that Henry Fitzroy was not discussed. Elizabeth was not highly featured, although that seemed fitting since Weir has a book entirely dedicated to her. Nonetheless, a great pleasure to read.

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  • Posted June 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "The Children of Henry VIII" by Alison Weir is a thorough and engrossing history of the Tudor reign after the death of King Henry VIII.

    The author does a wonderful job of bringing together the pieces of the picture concerning the rise of four kings and queens (three of them blood children of Henry VIII). I have been reading about King Henry VIII, and have read two other Alison Weir novels concerning this. They were both excellent, and this one does not disappoint. Although tedious and slow at parts, the impeccable research that went into this book is astounding. It lacks for nothing in authenticity. The succession of Edward to the crown, and the plotting that went on during this time is hard to believe. Edward's death and the question of succession allowed for more plotting and back-stabbing. Lady Jane Grey, although a brief interlude in the proper succession, was a poor puppet to those looking to further themselves. You learn to understand what happened to her and why, and to feel compassion for her short life. By the time Mary took the throne, it becomes quite understandable what forces were guiding her and why she ruled as she did. The author also does a good job of connecting the siblings, and giving insight into their interpersonal relationships. Overall, a good read and a great history lesson about the little known period between King Henry VIII's death and Queen Elizabeth's reign.

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  • Posted April 4, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Read

    I first read Alison Weirs' book about Henry VIII and his six wives and enjoyed her writing immensely. So well researched and it actually made history interesting! So I had to follow it up with "The Children of Henry VIII" and find it just as enjoyable and superbly written. I have made a promise to myself now to read every one of her books. If you're interested in this time period or Henry VIII and his life and related topics, Alison Weir is the writer for you.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Another great read

    I read this book in 2 days! I thought this book would have more about Elizabeths reign. Though it didn't I still liked it and learned alot. I didn't know anything about Lady Jane and was glad to have her included in this book. I would recommend it to anyone. Now it makes me want to read more about Elizabeth and King Henrys sisters.

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  • Posted February 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Children Of Henry

    Alison Weir writes wonderful books.She really does her research.
    This book like all her others I have read are very captivating and hard to put down.She has a way of keeping you interested and there is never a dull moment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Most informative on Edward, not much new news on the others

    Alison Weir has made a cottage industry writing about Henry VIII, his relatives, wives, court and time. As such, she is very familiar with the whole milieu of Henry's period and surroundings which gives depth to her books - it's obvious she knows more than she's putting into any one book. That being said, anyone who had read her other books concentrating on Henry's Queens or Elizabeth herself will not find much new or surprising in the chapters on Mary or Elizabeth. The real value of this book is the reevaluation of the reign of Edward VI; far from being the sickly pale boy of the common movie images, we are told of a far more dynamic (and healthy) young man on his way to emulating his father when a chance infection evidently undermines his health and leads to his permature demise. It is also quite illuminating on the topic of Jane Grey - her relationship to the royal family is much more clearly set out as well as the rapacious ambition of her family and her position as a pawn. I enjoyed this book as much as I did others of the Weirs' that I have read for the depth of scholarship and the attempt (mostly successful) at making these historical figures into real breathing people. I should also say that although Elizabeth has equal billing in the title with the other "children" she is given short shrift in this book, it ending with her ascension to the throne. This is rightly done, given her starring role in whole books about her alone, but perhaps somewhat misleading in titling this book.

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  • Posted February 10, 2009

    An excellent book with great characterizations.

    This book is well researched and filled with facts. However, it reads more like a novel with very good character development. It is interesting to note that English royalty of the period really were not healthier or lived longer than most of the common people. No matter how much money, they suffered from the same diseases and problems. I believe that the author has provided us with a rich history of the period through the life and times of these four English nobility.<BR/><BR/>I highly recommend it.

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    Posted July 23, 2009

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    Posted October 7, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2009

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