The Children of Henry VIII

( 2 )


Behind the facade of politics and pageantry at the Tudor court, there was a family drama.

Nothing drove Henry VIII, England's wealthiest and most powerful king, more than producing a legitimate male heir and so perpetuating his dynasty. To that end, he married six wives, became the subject of the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century, and broke with the pope, all in an age of international competition and warfare, social unrest ...

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Behind the facade of politics and pageantry at the Tudor court, there was a family drama.

Nothing drove Henry VIII, England's wealthiest and most powerful king, more than producing a legitimate male heir and so perpetuating his dynasty. To that end, he married six wives, became the subject of the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century, and broke with the pope, all in an age of international competition and warfare, social unrest and growing religious intolerance and discord.

Henry fathered four living children, each by a different mother. Their interrelationships were often scarred by jealously, mutual distrust, sibling rivalry, even hatred. Possessed of quick wits and strong wills, their characters were defined partly by the educations they received, and partly by events over which they had no control.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, although recognized as the king's son, could never forget his illegitimacy. Edward died while still in his teens, desperately plotting to exclude his half-sisters from the throne. Mary's world was shattered by her mother's divorce and her own unhappy marriage. Elizabeth was the most successful, but also the luckiest. Even so, she lived with the knowledge that her father had ordered her mother's execution, was often in fear of her own life, and could never marry the one man she truly loved.

Henry's children idolized their father, even if they differed radically over how to perpetuate his legacy. To tell their stories, John Guy returns to the archives, drawing on a vast array of contemporary records, personal letters, and first-hand accounts.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Henry VIII's succession problems are the canvas for this collective portraiture of his four children who lived long enough to become pawns in the family chess game... Marked by a mixture of real and feigned affections, the dynastic dynamics of Henry's heirs will drive Guy's fluidly styled work straight into the hands of even veteran Tudor readers." --Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
Guy (Thomas Becket, 2012, etc.) exhibits his flair for narrative and historian's credentials in this detailed account of Henry VIII's four children. The lesser-known fourth child was his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, whom he loved "like his own soul." It is surprising there weren't any more, as any courtier would "lay down his wife for the king." The problem of succession was foremost throughout Henry's reign, and he refused to designate either young Henry or his daughter Mary in the hope that he would one day have a legitimate son. After his break with the church and the birth of Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth, Mary lost her household, her royal titles and her status in the succession. Henry made no move to educate his daughters, feeling that women shouldn't rule and needed no training. Luckily, Mary's mother and Elizabeth's governess were able to secure teachers to fill this gap. After Edward was born to Jane Seymour, Henry relented and reinstated his daughters but did not re-legitimize them. Prince Edward and Henry Fitzroy both died as teenagers, curiously enough of the same bronchial pneumonia. The author doesn't dwell on these men, likely due to the fact that there is little correspondence about them. Mary's reign was mercifully short, marked by plots on Elizabeth's behalf. Only the intercession of Mary's husband, Philip of Spain, saved Elizabeth from the axe. Guy ably illustrates how difficult the constant changes were to Elizabeth and how her cleverness enabled her to withstand and absorb the lessons of adversity. Great for fans of Henry and especially Elizabeth.
Library Journal
Tudor historian Guy (fellow, Clare Coll., Univ. of Cambridge; My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots) turns his attention to the heirs of Henry VIII in this succinct examination of their lives. Rather than attempt the massive undertaking of covering in depth the histories of Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, Guy has chosen to give the most salient details regarding the monarchs, thus allowing himself to present an overall picture of their lives and upbringings under Henry's rule and during their later reigns. His particular focus is on how their relationships with each other—and the long shadow of their father—affected them. Of note is the author's inclusion of the brief life of Henry VIII's best-known illegitimate child, Henry Fitzroy, a potential heir to the throne before his untimely death at age 17. VERDICT Guy's research is sound and his facts are presented in a clear and entertaining style, which makes this a good volume for students and general readers new to Tudor history. However, its brevity and lack of fresh information and analysis mean that those already familiar with the essentials of the Tudor dynasty will likely find little to hold their interest.—Kathleen McCallister, Univ. of South Carolina
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192840905
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,389,076
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Guy is a Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge. His books include the bestselling Tudor England, The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction, A Daughter's Love: Thomas and Margaret More, Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold and 'My Heart is My Own': the Life of Mary Queen of Scots, which won the Whitbread Biography Award, Marsh Biography Award, and was a Finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle (USA) Biography/Autobiography of the Year Award. A regular contributor to BBC radio and television, he also writes and reviews for national newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times and The Literary Review.

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Table of Contents

1. In the Beginning
2. Smoke and Mirrors
3. Prince or Princess?
4. Sons and Lovers
5. A Family Feud
6. Ruling from the Grave
7. Faith and Exclusion
8. Sisters, Rivals, Queens
9. Uncharted Waters
Notes on Dates and Quotations
Notes and References

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    John Guy's latest, The Children of Henry VIII, is a well written

    John Guy's latest, The Children of Henry VIII, is a well written book covering the struggle of Henry VIII to procure an heir for the Tudor throne. At just 258 pages it is a relatively quick read on the subject. In addition, it presents the essential information in a way that is uncomplicated and easy to follow. For those reasons, this would be an excellent book for anyone just beginning to read about the Tudors. For those of us that are well versed in the subject, though, there is little new information. I did, however, like the fact that this book contained a complete section on Henry Fitzroy, and did not just focus on the legitimate offspring. I was also fascinated by the author's suggestion that Henry had a rare blood condition that may have been the root of his inability to father more than one living child by any one woman. I had never heard this theory before and wish the author would have gone into a bit more depth on the subject. 

    In fact, my biggest disappointment with this book overall was the lack of depth in general. At times it seemed to me that the author was just skimming the surface of the subject, while I was looking for more detailed information on the children and their lives. In fact, I felt the beginning of the book was more about Henry himself than the children's early lives. The good news is that the lack of depth coupled with John Guy's extremely readable writing style makes this an excellent book on Henry and his children for someone who is just starting to explore the Tudors. 

    On the other hand, if you are like me and love all things Tudor and never tire of reading about them in general, there is a bit of new and different in this book that makes it worth the read. 

    Thanks to Oxford Press and Netgalley for bringing this book to my attention and giving me the chance to read it in exchange for a review. (less)

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2014


    Has no sample. Deserves 0 *

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