Review: Henry VIII, Alison Weir

Rating: 3 out of 5

I have read a lot of Ms Alison Weir. In general, my problem with her history is that due to a lack of detail she likes to repeat herself and to talk a lot about culture and setting — I’m happy to say that this book avoids the problem and looks very closely at Henry himself. The opposite was rather the case, and the author left out information that she’s covered in her other titles.

Who was Henry based on this? The king comes out as someone whose best wishes rarely came true; a religious man and a learned man who wanted to leave the kingdom in better hands after his death. The struggles with Scotland and France play out during his reign but in a very different key in this book than normally, as these campaigns were almost never led by the king. The man who comes out worst from this is Thomas Cromwell.

Compared to some other biographies of the period, it was helpful to also be given a glimpse into the economy, especially that of the royal household. The designations of Greater and Lesser Houses is something I tried to follow up on based on the author’s descriptions here but didn’t actually find a lot, making this title itself very helpful.

Overall, I normally come away recommending Ms Weir because she writes about periods and people others don’t really touch upon. But here, her look into a very popular subject is still something to read as it builds upon the person and times of Henry we know from elsewhere.

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