I received an ARC through Netgalley and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
This is probably the first book that’s purely about Henry (in a way) that I really liked. Earlier this year, I read Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir, which was a complete disaster. So, I was hopeful that this one would be better. It definitely was!
Borman takes the stance that Henry is such an enigma — and he is; he’s a hard man to capture because he was so changeable — so it’s easiest to get to his character by looking at the various men he considered favorites. Namely, the Boleyns and Howards, Seymours, Charles Brandon, Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, and Thomas Cromwell to name a few. All of these relationships fluctuated through his reign, especially since he beheaded quite a few listed.
What I really enjoyed was that this was a great summary of Henry’s reign and a good analysis of the men. It didn’t get bogged down on the wives like many books would, but kept that light and focused more on the men who were behind these various power grabs.
I definitely learned a lot about the men and I felt like I came away from the book with a little more knowledge on the topic. Sometimes, these books can be a review for me. But this felt like a review with extra detail. It didn’t feel like a wasted read.
However, I do have my cons.
Borman tackled a very heavy topic here because she never set out with specific men in mind. I think that if she had limited herself to a few men rather than try to talk about every single man, it would have been a stronger book. Henry got lost a lot of the time. It was hard to find him and his personality because the strong men around him swallowed him up sometimes.
Another thing was that I did not like her analysis of Anne Boleyn. She relied very heavily on Chapuys and old historical “fact” that has been largely disproven (such as Jane Boleyn hating her husband, George) by modern historians.
So, this was good. It was very enjoyable. I had minor issues with the book, but I’d love to have a finished copy of this for my Tudor shelf.
If you’re into Tudor history, who is your favorite person who had influence?