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Look Inside | Reading Guide
Oct 29, 2002
| ISBN 9780345437082
Dec 18, 2007
| ISBN 9780307415479
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Oct 29, 2002 | ISBN 9780345437082
Dec 18, 2007 | ISBN 9780307415479
For fans of Wolf Hall, Alison Weir’s New York Times bestselling biography of Henry VIII brilliantly brings to life the king, the court, and the fascinating men and women who vied for its pleasures and rewards.“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.
For fans of Wolf Hall, Alison Weir’s New York Times bestselling biography of Henry VIII brilliantly brings to life the king, the court, and the fascinating men and women who vied for its pleasures and rewards.BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Alison Weir’s Mary Boleyn.Henry VIII, renowned for his command of power, celebrated for his intellect, presided over the most stylish—and dangerous—court in Renaissance Europe. Scheming cardinals vied for power with newly rich landowners and merchants, brilliant painters and architects introduced a new splendor into art and design, and each of Henry’s six queens brought her own influence to bear upon the life of the court. In her new book, Alison Weir, author of the finest royal chronicles of our time, brings to vibrant life the turbulent, complex figure of Henry VIII and the glittering court he made his own. In an age when a monarch’s domestic and political lives were inextricably intertwined, a king as powerful and brilliant as Henry VIII exercised enormous sway over the laws, the customs, and the culture of his kingdom. Yet as Weir shows in this swift, vivid narrative, Henry’s ministers, nobles, and wives were formidable figures in their own right, whose influence both enhanced and undermined the authority of the throne. On a grand stage rich in pageantry, intrigue, passion, and luxury, Weir records the many complex human dramas that swirled around Henry, while deftly weaving in an account of the intimate rituals and desires of England’s ruling class—their sexual practices, feasts and sports, tastes in books and music, houses and gardens. Stimulating and tumultuous, the court of Henry VIII attracted the finest minds and greatest beauties in Renaissance England—poets Wyatt and Surrey, the great portraitist Hans Holbein, “feasting ladies” like Elizabeth Blount and Elizabeth FitzWalter, the newly rich Boleyn family and the ancient aristocratic clans like the Howards and the Percies, along with the entourages and connections that came and went with each successive wife. The interactions between these individuals, and the terrible ends that befell so many of them, make Henry VIII: The King and His Court an absolutely spellbinding read. Meticulous in historic detail, narrated with high style and grand drama, Alison Weir brilliantly brings to life the king, the court, and the fascinating men and women who vied for its pleasures and rewards. NOTE: This edition does not contain illustrations.
Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of… More about Alison Weir
“Alison Weir has perfected the art of bringing history to life.”–Chicago Tribune“A DETAILED JOURNEY THROUGH THE COURT AND LIFE OF HENRY VIII . . . Thoroughly researched and entertaining, filled with delicious details for general readers and provocative argument for students of the period.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A Conversation with Alison WeirWhen did you first become interested in history?Alison Weir: In 1965, when I was fourteen, I read my first adult novel;it was a historical novel about Katherine of Aragon, and I could notput it down. When I finished it, I had to find out the true facts behindthe story and if people really carried on like that in those days. So Ibegan to read proper history books, and found that they did! It was ashort step from doing research to writing my own books, and by theage of fifteen I had completed a three-volume compendium of factson the Tudors as well as a biography of Anne Boleyn, and had begunto compile genealogical information for a dictionary of kings andqueens, which would, more than two decades later, be the basis of myfirst published book, Britain’s Royal Families.At school, up to the age of sixteen, I found history boring, for wewere studying the Industrial Revolution, which was all about acts,trade unions and the factory system, and I wanted to know aboutpeople, because it is people who make history. My teachers wereunaware that I was spending all my free periods and lunch breaksresearching my own history projects in the school library. I didpass my GCE exam, but was told my grade was not good enoughto study history at an advanced level. This was a great disappointment,as the subject for the advanced course was the Tudors and Stuarts,something about which I already knew a great deal. I would loveto think that the teachers who excluded me have seen my pub-lishedwork.When did you begin to write professionally?AW: During the early 1970s, after attending teacher training collegewith a view to teaching history, I spent four years researching andwriting a book about Henry VIII’s wives, but this was rejected bypublishers on the grounds that it was too long–something of anunderstatement, since it filled 1,024 manuscript pages typed on bothsides and without double spacing. In 1991, a much revised and editedversion of this manuscript was published as my second book, The SixWives of Henry VIII.In 1981, I wrote a biography of Jane Seymour, which was rejectedby Weidenfeld and Nicholson as being–wait for it–too short. Thepublishers, however, put me in touch with my present firm of literaryagents who, in the course of a conversation about which subjectI should write about, rejected my suggestion of a book about LadyDiana Spencer (who became Princess of Wales that year) on thegrounds that people would soon lose interest in her! Instead, it wasagreed that I should write a biography of Isabella of France, wife ofEdward II, but this was never finished because the births, very closetogether, of my children intervened in 1982 and 1984, and I had verylittle time for writing.In 1987, it occurred to me that my dictionary of genealogical detailsof British royalty–which I had revised eight times over twenty-twoyears–might be of interest to others, so I rearranged the contentsonce more, into chronological order. Britain’s Royal Families becamemy first published book, in 1989, from The Bodley Head, and the restof the story is–dare I say it?–history!How do you go about writing your books?AW: I research from contemporary sources as far as possible; fortunately,most of those for the periods I have written about are in print.I use secondary sources to see what views historians take on mychosen subjects, but in the end I make up my own mind, basingmy conclusions as far as possible on contemporary evidence.I transcribe my information into chronological order, under dateheadings, so that when I have finished my research, I have a veryrough draft of the book. This method has the curious advantage ofhighlighting discrepancies and often new interpretations of events,chronological patterns, and unexpected facts emerge. Anyone whohas read The Princes in the Tower will know how startlingly well thismethod of research worked for that particular book.How would you describe your role as a historian?AW: I am not a revisionist historian. I do not start with a theory andthen try to fit the facts around it. I draw my conclusions from theknown facts. As my research progresses, I gain some idea of the viewpointI will take, but I am always ready to alter it if need be.You have to consider the known facts in detail and avoid suppositionin order to get as near to the truth as possible. You must not onlytake into account what is written about someone or something, butwho wrote it, since many sources are biased, prejudiced, or unreliable.Where possible, I verify my facts from reliable sources only, and if theonly source is suspect, I say so.What is your aim in writing history?AW: I want to bring history and its characters to life by including asmuch personal detail as possible, by inferring new ideas from theknown facts, and by researching the political and social background sothoroughly that my subjects are set in an authentic context. Manypeople have told me that my books read like novels. Perhaps this is because,when I write, I feel I am really there, so strong is my feeling formy subject. On occasion, I have been so moved by the events I havebeen describing that I have felt like crying. The old adage that truth isstranger than fiction is more than true for me, and if (as a couple ofrecent reviewers have complained) it is old-fashioned to recount historyas a rattling good story–which in many ways it is–then I amhappy to be thought outdated.When you were researching and writing about Henry VIII,did you come to like him?AW: Surprisingly enough, yes! Actually, I’ve liked him for a long time.I’ve always felt that he has been greatly misjudged and perceived as acaricature of his real self. Therefore, this book is a sympathetic studythat looks at events from the King’s viewpoint. For example, mosthistorians have focused on Anne Boleyn during the days leading upto her execution. I’ve focused on Henry. Few people have taken intoaccount the fact that his only son was dying a lingering death fromtuberculosis at this time.I think, when it comes to historical characters, you have to judgethem by the values of their own time, not by ours. Henry was notyrant, as Richard III was; only in his last years did he become thefat, diseased autocrat of popular perception. In fact, I wanted to usea little-known portrait of the young Henry, painted when he waseighteen, slim and long haired, on the jacket, but my publishersfelt–probably quite correctly–that no one would know who it was!Yet my aim was to present to my readers a different view of Henry:the real Henry, whom I had come to know very well through myresearch.What is your opinion of screen portrayals of Henry VIII?AW: I suppose the enduring image is that created by Charles Laughtonin Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), but it’s theclassic caricature, and very far removed from the real Henry. A farbetter portrayal is that by Keith Michell in the BBC drama series TheSix Wives of Henry VIII (1969), followed by a film of the same name.Here is a pretty authentic Henry: an acting tour de force and a delightto watch! Robert Shaw’s portrayal in A Man for All Seasons (1966) wasvery different but equally convincing.Did you uncover anything new while you were researching thebook?AW: Yes, quite unexpectedly. I certainly didn’t set out to be controversial,but I discovered a letter written by Henry VIII containingevidence that places a whole new construction on the reasons forAnne Boleyn’s fall. This evidence makes sense of something that historianshave puzzled over for centuries: why Henry could have consentedto the destruction of a woman he had so greatly desired andloved.Was Henry VIII the lecher of legend?AW: Possibly, although if he was, he was very discreet about it. Forthis reason, we have only fragments of information about his sex life,but I’ve uncovered enough of them to make me revise the opinion Iarrived at in my earlier book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII.One historian has famously described Henry VIII as "thatgreat puppet." Do you agree with this assessment?AW: Not at all. Henry was certainly suggestible and sometimes swayedby the opinions of others, but the evidence overwhelmingly suggeststhat for the most part he remained firmly in control. In fact, he wasthe one usually doing the manipulating. Given his grasp of affairs, hispowerful intellect, encyclopaedic memory, and efficient communicationsnetwork, it was not easy for any man to rule him. He was theKing, and he never let anyone forget it.
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