These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry’s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.
Recounting the great Tudor’s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman’s new biography reveals Henry’s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy.
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About the Author
Tracy Borman is England’s joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust. She is the author of many highly acclaimed books, including The Private Lives of the Tudors, Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant, Elizabeth’s Women, and a first work of fiction, The King’s Witch. Borman is a regular broadcaster and public speaker.
Read an Excerpt
Remarkable though Henry’s marital history is, it is not what defines him. Far more influential than the women in his life were the men with whom he was surrounded. Although he was raised in a predominantly female household, the overbearing, often suffocating, presence of his father Henry VII dominated his early years. The sudden death of his elder brother Arthur at the age of just fifteen propelled Henry into the limelight, and, once king, he gathered around him a coterie of high-spirited young men to keep him entertained. During the course of his thirty-seven-year reign, he would attract some of the brightest minds of the sixteenth century: from omnipotent councilors such as Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell to the renowned scholars Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus, and the arrogant, ruthless members of the aristocracy, such as the dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk. In his private domain, meanwhile, he was attended by an array of different men: servants, barbers, physicians, fools and other lesser known characters whose job it was to attend to Henry’s every need, to entertain him and to listen to his confidences. It was these men who shaped Henry into the manand monsterthat he would become. And he, in turn, dictated their fates. This book will tell the story of England’s most famous monarch through the lens of the men who surrounded him, drawing in the many and varied characters at appropriate points in the narrative. As such, it will provide a fresh perspective on this much-studied monarch: a biography from the outside in.
Table of Contents
Preface: 'The son was born to a greater destiny' 1
Introduction: 'The changeableness of this king' 5
Chapter 1 'The king's second born son' 9
Chapter 2 'Having no affection or fancy unto him' 37
Chapter 3 'Lusty bachelors' 62
Chapter 4 'His Majesty's second self 84
Chapter 5 The servant is not greater than his lord' 99
Chapter 6 'Youths of evil counsel' 115
Chapter 7 "The most rascally beggar in the world' 146
Chapter 8 'The inconstantness of princes' favour' 178
Chapter 9 'The man who enjoys most credit with the king' 202
Chapter 10 'I shall die today and you tomorrow' 236
Chapter 11 'Resisting evil counsellors' 249
Chapter 12 'Every man here is for himself' 286
Chapter 13 'A goodly prince' 309
Chapter 14 'The greatest wretch ever born in England' 330
Chapter 15 'He has not been the same man' 362
Chapter 16 'My dearest son in Christ1 375
Chapter 17 'I have been young, and now am old' 403
Epilogue: 'Some special man' 419
Author's note 431
Picture acknowledgements 499