Alison Weir is one of my very favorite historians I do not at all recommend reading her historical fiction for many and varied reasons, but her straight history is great Well researched, well backed up, and she frequently has some pretty interesting new theories to throw in the mix to make her books even fun to read She specializes in Tudor history, which, you know, my crack, so naturally I was quite pleased to find a book of hers that I hadn t read.Sadly, it s not her best Henry VIII The King and His Court tries to be, as the title says, a biography of the king and a snapshot of the Tudor court at the same time, and it doesn t succeed terribly well The first half of the book is heavily weighted towards the court, describing how it was organized, how it worked, and the people who attended it, while the second half covered Henry s reign in greater detail than the first half There wasn t a lot of overlap so we didn t get much about how the court was affected by the events of Henry s reign and vice versa We also didn t get to hear a lot about what Wolsey and Cromwell were doing to actually run the kingdom, which is perhaps understandable but still frustrating Plus, the first half was very difficult to get through because it was a lot of names and details without a lot of context Weir did also leave out a lot of the turmoil surrounding Henry s various marriages, but as she wrote an entire much better book specifically about them, I ll cut her some slack on that It seems to have been a deliberate choice anyway I don t think I would recommend this book unless you have a deep and abiding interest in the nitty gritty everyday world of the Tudor court In that respect it s an invaluable resource, but there are other and better biographies of Henry VIII if that s all you re after. I always enjoy Alison Weir s books she has a lively, engaging style and a knack for bringing both her subjects and the world they lived in truly to life, and this book is no exception Henry VIII is a larger than life figure anyway after all, every schoolchild grows up knowing divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived But there was a lot to the man than the simple stereotype of a fat, bloated tyrant who chopped his wives heads off Charting his evolution from a handsome young prince with idealistic views of learning and governing to his latter incarnation as, yes, a fat bloated tyrant is truly fascinating.The sheer amount of detail in this book is incredible from the food Henry and his court ate, the houses they lived in, to the clothes they wore, down to the very sheets of the beds, nothing is too small or insignificant to escape mention It really serves to bring the Tudor court to full colour and vigour.My only quibble is that is perhaps focuses too much of Henry s life at court and not enough on his European relations and the Reformation itself is somewhat skated over But then, the title of the book is King and Court and Henry s life within his English Court is the focus of the book, not his international relations with France, Spain and Rome. WEIR S BOOK OUTSHINES ALL PREVIOUS STUDIES OF HENRY Beautifully Written, Exhaustive In Its Research, It Is A Gem She Succeeds Masterfully In Making Henry And His Six Wives Come Alive For The Reader Philadelphia InquirerHenry VIII, Renowned For His Command Of Power And Celebrated For His Intellect, Presided Over One Of The Most Magnificent And Dangerous Courts In Renaissance Europe Never Before Has A Detailed, Personal Biography Of This Charismatic Monarch Been Set Against The Cultural, Social, And Political Background Of His Glittering Court Now Alison Weir, Author Of The Finest Royal Chronicles Of Our Time, Brings To Vibrant Life The Turbulent, Complex Figure Of The King Packed With Colorful Description, Meticulous In Historical Detail, Rich In Pageantry, Intrigue, Passion, And Luxury, Weir Brilliantly Renders King Henry VIII, His Court, And The Fascinating Men And Women Who Vied For Its Pleasures And Rewards The Result Is An Absolutely Spellbinding Read There, in a charity shop, completely unblemished as in a proper bookshop, lay Weir s encylopaedic description of one of the most magnificent courts of English royalty And it was mine for only 95p.I ve not read any of Weir s books before She s written about pretty much every Tudor monarch or individual connected with Tudor monarchy you can think of I used to read books like this all the time but the 1001 list has my heart set on novels Because this was immaculate and a tenth of the price it was supposed to be, I snapped it up though It sat well with my reading of Mantel s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.There are plenty of reviews out there which complain that this book isn t actually about Henry VIII at all They complain that it s hard to find the king, buried as he is under the detailed descriptions of the world he inhabited Having read the book, I agree This book should really be entitled The Court of Henry VIII.But that didn t bother me too much I wasn t after a blow by blow description of his life I was after a description of the times, and although the book was mis named, I tried not to let this distract me from what is after all a good history.There s not much narrative thread though, and readers should be forgiven for thinking that because the opening line starts with the death of Henry VII they re going to get a chronicle of the next 40 years They re not What they do get are just over 500 pages split into 63 chapters This works out at just under 8 pages a chapter While this seems quite short, the book is printed in something like 5pt font And each of these chapters deals with a different facet of the court I ll admit, I found it slow going.But it wasn t slow going in the way a plate of broad beans is slow going This was slow going in the way treacle pudding with custard is slow going You want to take your time You want to gaze on the awesome jewel encrusted splendour before you, to soak yourself in the sumptuous riches of cloth of gold, velvet and syphilis.Wait, no He didn t have syphilis This is a common myth and one of many that Weir debunks in her attempt to get at the truth behind a man who was very much larger than life In the end, he appears as one who ruled according to the beliefs of his day Let s not forget that these shifted like the sands of the Thames estuary and doomed many who attempted the passage.Henry was a magnificent statesman, of that there is no doubt He may well have even been the preeminent one of his day But he was a product of his time and Weir shows this very well It is a flattering portrayal.However, like the wardrobes of the day, Weir s writing is weighed down by almost ludicrous attention to detail There are characters in here than a Russian epic and it s hard to keep track sometimes of who is central to the events described There are long lists of things, clothes, purchases, buildings, gifts, animals, etc., etc It s all a bit too much sometimes.If you are a fan of the Tudors and not too much of a fan of Henry, you re going to love this If you are after a traditional biography of Henry himself, be warned that this might be a frustrating read. This is a maticulously researched history, not a novel In fact, this books from its first pages points out how poorly researched are most novels about this great English king If you want to know Henry the 8th, I would recommend reading and studying this book by Alison Weir. I love this book,and I find it a very easy read Weir has a way of making the story of Henry VIII and his court come alive for her readers Weir also have a knack for finding little known facts that most historian only skip over Like the fact that prior to Anne Boleyn trial for treason, In April it was announce that Anne was pregnant In May she was arrested,and she was beheaded on May 19 Weir ask the question, uh, what become of the pregnancy This biography is very impressive In general I think Alison Weir is a fabulous biographer Her research is very thorough and her writing isn t so full of details that you get lost However, she has completely outdone herself with this book I have read several books about the six wives of Henry VIII, but never a biography of his own life so this was a treat I always thought of Henry VIII as some egotistical monster that liked divorcing or beheading his wives so that he could move on to his next catch Yes, he had an ego, a big one, but he wasn t a monster He was influenced by so many things, his upbringing, his religious beliefs, and especially that of his personal counselors I always thought of him as a one man show being king and head of the Church of England after he left the Catholic faith, but it wasn t that way at all I didn t realize the impact that his counselors had on his decisions until I read this book Anne Boylen wasn t taken down by Henry, she was taken down by his closest counselor, who didn t like her and wanted her gone So he made her into an adulterer and a traitor, two things that she was not I love how the author puts you into Henry s world by describing how the court worked, what he ate, where he slept, what his rooms were like, what the houses castles he lived in were like and what he wore His daily life is very well described and is easy to imagine It was also interesting to find out about what kind of person he was He was extremely intelligent and talented He was a marvel at sports of all kinds, played musical instruments, wrote music and poems and was very well educated He was also a charmer and knew how to put on a good show He had a big temper as well so everyone around him had to be careful about what they said or did in order to not incur his wrath.He was very fit and active until he started to have a recurring infection in his legs that would send him to bed for weeks on end and eventually took his life After the infection began he started putting on weight and it made his condition even worse They don t really know what happened to him the last few weeks of his life as he was in almost total seclusion and no one let any information out about what was going on So the cause of death can only be speculated at His death was kept a secret for two days after he died.Fabulous book If you want to understand Henry VIII, read this Definitely a different perspective than I had anticipated. In one sense, I am at a disadvantage in assessing this volume I am not an historian of this era, so I cannot confidently judge well the accuracy of Alison Weir s rendering of events and people That said, I am most impressed with this work The author covers many aspects of English history including day to day life of the time We read of medical practice ugh , music, art, architecture, customs, drama, clothing, sports e.g., hunting, archery, tennis, jousting, and so on , the internecine politics when losers could lose their lives politics was serious business , and the relationships among families in England of the era This book is as much about the country at that time as about Henry VIII Henry VIII is portrayed in great detail This is not a Charles Laughton view of the king It is much nuanced It is true that, if Weir be correct, Henry became rigid and unforgiving and vain and distrusting and autocratic as he aged He drove England close to financial ruin with his wars which often had little effect, even though costing much and with his incessant building projects his own palaces as one key example.But this should not detract from other of his accomplishments He supported the arts he was one of the educated and intellectually oriented monarchs of the time It may be that Weir romanticizes him to some extent, and that ought to be noted But his was not simply a dissipated period in English history Of course, many would wonder about his rendering of the multitudinous wives of the monarch Weir does spend time on this part of his life, including the Machiavellian politics associated with Henry s marriages factions would use potential wives as pawns in power struggles Weir s assessments of the various wives are pretty fair We might be surprised to know of his affection for Katherine of Aragon it is fascinating to watch the pas de deux between Anne Boleyn and Henry before their wedding and so on Then, the descriptions of the hard ball politics of the era featuring actors such as Wolsey, Cromwell, More, Cranmer, and the nobles of the time All in all, an accessible and very readable work on Henry VIII and his time I d strongly recommend This review can also be found here What can I say about this book Oh yeah.I hated it.I fucking hated this book I would insert the Instagram picture of how I annotated every single page, but GR won t let me and I m lazy so you can click the link to my blog if you really want to see it I mean, look at all of those sticky notes Look at those annotations Look at the pure rage that I have for it.Let s start with the thesisMy aim in this book is to draw together a multitude of strands of research in order to develop a picture of the real Henry VIII, his personal life throughout his reign, the court he created, and the people who influenced and served him p 2 To do this, she uses anecdotal evidence No joke She uses anecdotal evidence to show how the life was and how things were in the court That s horrendous For a woman who bills herself as a historian, she comes across like Philippa Gregory None of them studied history, but they pretend to be them without the same academic rigor.So, what s wrong with using anecdotal evidence From my line of research aka psychology anecdotal evidence is a no no because it holds no scientific basis It has no grounding in fact It s just a story that someone told, one that can t be verified by other sources.A brief example of one of these anecdotes A rumor went around the court that Anne Boleyn was the product of an affair Henry had with Anne s mother, Elizabeth Boleyn nee Howard This rumor could be used to show what was going on in court and what people were whispering in the conservative i.e Catholic faction.But, no Weir goes ahead and literally hashes out the rumor She says that Henry couldn t have fathered Anne, but that it might be possible that he had sex with Lady Boleyn when he was a teenager And that it can t be ruled out When there s no evidence to support something of that nature.Which brings me to my second issue The lack of citations.The above anecdote and her conclusion did not have a citation to show that others have thought about this or spoken about it or that there were any sort of primary sources that hinted to this same thing It felt like every few pages I was writing down source citation because there was none.Weir makes claims without supporting them That s just what she does Or she doesn t use citations correctly I was always taught to cite early in the paragraph, as early as possible, when the same source is used She cites at the last second, making it confusing Then, she just makes claims without citing anything.Then, Weir s biases come into play Especially against anyone in the Boleyn family I ve already written extensively about this in my review of her fiction book Anne Boleyn A King s Obsession It was also discussed in the comments over on Goodreads, so I ll also link that here.This is best illustrated in Weir s use of biased primary sources I m talking about Eustace Chapuys While I will agree that Chapuys is a rich source to use to look at a very Spanish viewpoint of The Great Matter aka the annulment of Henry s marriage to Anne , he can t be used as a verifiable source since he bought into any rumor or hint of slander against Anne Boleyn and her family Yet, in one breathe, Weir said that historians have called him untrustworthy but she s going to use him because he s worth it.So, you already know that with her use of a biased source, you re not getting a real picture of what was going on and what the court was really like.My last I lie but the last gripe I feel like expanding on is that Weir doesn t focus on important power shifts The rise of Cromwell was barely mentioned and he created the court Wolsey s fall was also barely talked about Same with Anne Boleyn s fall and the rise of the Seymours Or the rise of the conservatives Weir was far interested in the properties that Henry owned, bought, and modified than actually telling me about the power factions in the court that he created.So, what parting words do I have for all of you who stuck around to read this Don t read this There are far better books on this topic than this And if you do read it, constantly remember that Weir is literally banned from certain universities because of the issues that I ve brought up and probably since I m not a historian But I care about academic rigor like a historian. Un exhaustivo y soberbio trabajo sobre la corte de Enrique VIII, uno de los personajes m s controvertidos de la historia de Inglaterra y de la historia Universal sin lugar a dudas Sus castillos, sus costumbres, la moda, los alimentos y hasta detalles de la higiene o la falta de ella que se practicaba en esos entonces.Los primeros cap tulos abordan minuciosamente todo lo escrito arriba El resto de la obra es una radiograf a de cada personaje cercano al Rey y su corte Por fortuna, no se enfoca espec ficamente al tema de l y sus esposas Ya hay mucho de ello en otros libros y la misma Alison Weir ya se ocup de ello en un libro especial.La lectura es a veces cansada por tanto y tanto detalle Tomen nota de los tapices, los muebles y otras banalidades del interior de sus palacios pero no por ello desmerece un trabajo que no es otra cosa que una fotograf a en alta definici n en escrito, tanto as que uno puede palpar la poca, las pasiones y la vida social y pol tica de una Inglaterra que decidi caminar sola partiendo de la soberbia y a la vez, magnificencia de un hombre como Enrique Tudor.Lean todo lo que tengan que leer, resuelvan sus pendientes, pidan vacaciones, pues un libro con medio centenar de p ginas dedicadas a la bibliograf a, merece respeto y tiempo Al menos, respeto al trabajo de la autora, indudable experta en el tema.
Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.Alison Weir is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens, and of historical fiction Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs She received her formal training in history at teacher training
- 642 pages
- Henry VIII: The King and His Court
- Alison Weir
- 25 February 2019 Alison Weir