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A novel of Henry VIII set around London and Southern England

12th June 2023

Henry the VIII: The Heart and The Crown by Alison Weir, a novel of Henry VIII set around London and Southern England.

A novel of Henry VIII set around London and Southern England

I listened to this as an audiobook and the voice of Elliot Fitzpatrick was a perfect match for the storyline.

I studied the Tudor period at school, I found Henry VIII’s life and reign quite fascinating, with his six wives, his mercenary ways of ridding himself of them and how this man of letters seemed to generally withstand all the machinations at court and keep his head and throne.

The author looks at the man’s personal life, his way of dealing with adult intimate relationships, and in modern day I think one might say he had a few issues around attachment and separation anxiety. He was also not the natural heir to the throne, he was the ‘spare’ but his brother died and he had to take the reins.

The author also paints him as a man with complex thought processes, determination and intellect, with a great fondness for learning. He was an entitled head of state who understood the politics of internationalism but sometimes miscalculated, leaving England isolated at times and rather short of friends. Many of his decisions were governed by his need to sire a male heir and as a reader, you really feel the pressure both on him but also on his various wives – it was like a capricious and daunting thread running through his life.

I was enthralled by many aspects of this novel, particularly the political upheavals, religious acrobatics and Henry’s management both of internal court shenanigans and international relations. I remember The Field of Cloth of Gold from sixth form studies but I really didn’t grasp the consequences and political deliberations that informed the event. Nor, really, that he chose wives expediently – mostly – in order to make a good alliance with another country; his Queen, Kate, as she was known, was a clear example of how Spain and England came together for a period, through the ties of marriage.

It is a very colourful period of history which is vividly portrayed. and a lot of familiar characters pass through the pages of the book. Courtiers and advisors came and went on a whim, beheaded on occasion as a result of a swift and sometimes badly formulated decision (sometimes at the behest of those closest to him for their own ill-gotten machiavellian gains); sometimes there was a perceived threat to the monarchy and consequently individuals were incarcerated and killed. It is striking how many names from that era have a street in central London named after them, which demonstrates the power of the period. There is much mention of the various palaces to which the Court journeyed throughout the year, in and around London, many long since gone. In many ways this is a really good novel to conjure up the sense of footsteps past, to ponder in present day where all these great buildings were sited and to imagine the lives that were lived within their walls.

This is a large tome and I really enjoyed my immersion into Tudor history.

Tina for the TripFiction Team 

Catch the author on Twitter @AlisonWeirBooks and IG: alisonweir.historian 

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