Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown by Alison Weir

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Henry VIII The Heart and the Crown by Alison Weir

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown by Alison Weir

Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown by Alison Weir is published with Headline and is described as her ‘most ambitious Tudor novel yet…reveals the captivating story of a man who was by turns brilliant, romantic, and ruthless: the king who changed England forever.’

We all know the stories about Henry VIII. We all know about his six wives, Some of us, including myself, have read from Alison Weir’s fantastic and very informative Six Tudor Queens series. We all have some idea of the brutal acts committed under his regime. But do any of us know anything about the man? Do we know what drove him to such extreme acts? How many of us have ever considered a bit of empathy toward this reviled individual? Alison Weir set out to create a piece of work that would give Henry VIII a fictional voice, providing the reader with a more insightful picture of Henry from his youth as Prince Harry to his death at 55 years of age as the King of England.

“I wanted to show what made Henry the man he later became, whom some perceive as a tyrant or even a monster; my aim was to draw a more balanced portrait, and to analyse and understand Henry’s complex character”– Alison Weir

Although primarily an account of the life and death of this enigmatic and influential figure, Alison Weir also provides a very humane and complex account of his six wives and the challenges they each faced being married to such a powerful individual.

Henry was a second son so had little expectation of being king. Extremely sporty and an avid hunter, Henry was a very sociable young man, a jocular character, well-thought of by his friends. But, following the death of his older brother Arthur, Henry’s destiny changed. Henry was close to his mother and her death in his formative years had a great impact on him. His father was an old, unpopular monarch and when Henry’s time came, he swore he would be a different king. Betrothed to Katherine of Aragon, the now widow of his brother Arthur, the court received clarity from Rome that their impending marriage carried no transgression in the eyes of the church. But, as history writes, this doomed marriage was the beginning of a tyranny that ensued, when Katherine failed to give birth to a strong and healthy male heir. Over the course of their marriage, she had miscarriages, still births and sickly weak babies, with Mary, the only one of sound health. The pain that Katherine suffered was immense and she turned to God for solace during her very dark periods. While Katherine was grieving, Henry was deeply concerned for his dynasty to continue. Without a male heir, his line would end.

Henry feared the French would claim England as its own if a daughter was all he left behind. He knew that the people would not look favourably on a Queen of England, with the populace seeing a female as weak of character. Henry was determined that this would never be allowed to happen as long as he was able to procreate. Henry set his eye on Anne Boleyn but, due to his marriage to Katherine, he was unable to make a public display of his feelings toward her. Through his most trusted advisors, he put out feelers to Rome as to the possibility of an annulment of his marriage but the Pope stood firm declaring his marriage to Katherine sound.

Seeing no alternative Henry made the decision to break from Rome and to reform and mould the church into how he saw fit, a church that was understanding and amenable to his need for a male heir. Casting Katherine and Mary aside he married Anne Boleyn and it was really from this point that the cards started to slowly come crashing down.

Henry VIII was a complicated man with an enormous dilemma on his plate. He requested loyalty and respect from all his staff but as time passed suspicions grew. Quick to judge, he sent friends and allies to The Tower, strong in the belief that there were hoards of people out to get him. Socially he still was an active sportsman but fine living and age eventually slowed him down. His desperation for a son resulted in Henry making state and church decisions that caused friction in the court. But Henry despised anyone who would not come to stand by his side, leaving a trail of death in his wake. In 1547, six wives later, with three legitimate children, two daughters and one son, Henry VIII passed away. His break from the Catholic Church, establishing himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England, the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries had a lasting impact on English society. Henry VIII was an intelligent man, a tactician, a thinker, a philosopher, a man hungry for knowledge but he was also a very dangerous one. As the years passed and his tolerance faded, his behaviour lent more toward that of a ruthless dictator, a man determined to always have his own way at any cost.

Henry VIII The Heart and the Crown by Alison WeirAlison Weir paints a fascinating picture of this domineering and powerful individual over more than a forty year period. It’s very difficult to feel any empathy toward him but his struggle for a male heir and his fear of failure are vividly portrayed, adding a human element to an otherwise dark story. It would have been difficult to imagine Henry as the young Prince Harry but in Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown the court of the young prince is brought alive through authentic and very atmospheric descriptions. The level of research undertaken, the attention to detail and the cast of characters in this tome of a book, all combine to deliver an epic and truly comprehensive insight into the life and times of this extraordinary historical figure.

(c)Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.


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