Posted By Claire on June 1, 2011
David Loades is one of my favourite historians and authors because I feel that I can always trust what he says because it is based on solid historical evidence. One of my favourite books, which has its home on my desk, is David Loades’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, so when I heard that Loades was writing a book on Henry I knew that I just had to have it and already it has a permanent home on my desk to help me with my research.
Henry VIII has always been an enigma to me, the Renaissance virtuous prince who turned into a monstrous tyrant, and I have always struggled with getting to grips with his psyche and his actions, but David Loades’s book has helped me on my quest to understand this Tudor monarch. As I read the book, I found Henry ‘growing on me’, I found myself understanding a little of what made him tick, what drove him and how he could do the things he did. For me, as someone who is constantly researching and writing about the life of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII is a fascinating character and I so want to get to grips with him and his reign. This book is such a help.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Henry VIII and his reign. It is so detailed (over 400 pages) and covers everything you need to know about the King and the period. The great thing is that David Loades’s style is not stuffy, it is highly readable, and the notes and references are brilliant, you know just what sources he has relied on and it is then easy for the reader to find that source. All in all a must read for Tudor history lovers and students.
Here is my usual rundown of what is covered in the book:-
- Preface – In the preface to this book, Loades explains that his book is different to Scarisbrick’s famous biography of Henry VIII in that Scarisbrick went into detail on diplomacy, whereas Loades’s work is based on Henry’s “personal monarch”, his relationships with the gentry, his marriages and military developments.
- Introduction: The Historiography of a King – Here, Loades discusses Henry’s image and how it has been invented over the centuries. He writes of how there is a “danger of reinventing Henry to suit the ideas of our own generation” and that we have to remember that Henry “in his own mind [was] a very moral and upright man as well as the model of a Christian Prince”. His people saw him “as a great and terrifying king” and he was loved.
- Chapter 1: The Prince, 1491-1509 – This chapter covers Henry’s family background (right back to John of Gaunt), the Battle of Bosworth, Henry’s parents and family, his education, his brother’s death and Henry’s rise to heir of the throne, and his relationship with his father.
- Chapter 2: A Renaissance King, 1509-1511 – Loades writes of the impact of Henry VIII’s accession, his desire to take the Crown of France, his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which was “a meeting of mutual desire”, his attitude to the aristocracy and the chivalric tradition, his love of jousting and sports, his interest in scholarship, theology and music, the birth and death of his son and the courtly love tradition which saw Henry being linked to Anne Hastings, sister of the Duke of Buckingham.
- Chapter 3: The King at War, 1511-1514 – This chapter covers, in detail, Henry’s war with France , the rise of Thomas Wolsey, Catherine’s governorship of England and the English victory over the Scots, the ‘betrayal’ of Ferdinand of Spain, the death of Richard Hunne (a case I had never heard of) and the establishment of the navy.
- Chapter 4: A Prince at Peace, 1514-1522 – Loades writes of the marriage of Mary and Louis XII, and his subsequent death, the marriage of Mary and the Duke of Suffolk, relations with Francis I, Wolsey’s diplomacy and the Treaty of London, the “xenophobic rioting” of 1517, the birth of Princess Mary, the King’s ‘dalliances’ and the birth of his illegitimate son, Mary Boleyn, the death of Emperor Maximilian and Charles V’s election, the Field of Cloth of Gold, Henry’s “Assertio Septem Sacramentorum”, the fall of the Duke of Buckingham and the 1521 treat between England and the Empire.
- Chapter 5: The Court of King Henry – How Henry’s court worked, the domus providencie and domus regie magnificencie, its organisation, the rise of the Privy Chamber, Henry’s various homes, his expenditure, the politics of the court and factions.
- Chapter 6: War & Poverty, 1522-1525 – Details on the war between England/Empire and France which Henry was committed to after signing the Treaty of Bruges, the discontent in England over the cost of war, the Battle of Pavia, the Amicable Grant, Henry’s secret negotiations with France and the Treaty of the More, Henry’s concern over Catherine’s inability to bear him a son and his growing belief that his marriage was contrary to God’s laws, the background of Anne Boleyn and Henry’s 1524 jousting accident.
- Chapter 7: The Origin of the “Great Matter”, 1525-1529 – A detailed account of Henry and Wolsey’s quest for an annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the Blackfriars Legatine Court, Catherine’s appeal to Rome and the adjournment of the Legatine Court, Wolsey’s problems with the annulment and foreign policy and his fall in favour.
- Chapter 8: Crisis & Change, 1529-1536 – This long and very detailed chapter includes Henry’s concern with the corruption of the clergy and his 1529 Parliament, his growing belief in his supreme authority, the issue of Royal Supremacy, Wolsey’s mistake , arrest for treason and death, Cranmer’s efforts to annul Henry’s marriage, the Nun of Kent, Anne Boleyn’s rose in status to Marquis of Pembroke and the couple’s visit to France, the consummation of Anne and Henry’s relationship, Anne’s pregnancy and their marriage, the final annulment, Anne’s coronation, Cromwell’s rise, the Supplication against the Ordinaries, the Act in Restraint of Appeals and the Act for the Submission of the Clergy, the birth of Elizabeth, the Act of Supremacy, the erratic relationship of Henry and Anne, the executions of More and Fisher and the deat of Catherine of Aragon.
- Chapter 9: The Lordship and Kingship of Ireland – I found this a very interesting chapter because I had never delved into Henry’s policy in Ireland. This chapter is excellent in giving a background to the three zones of Ireland, the English monarch’s rule of Ireland, which, in reality, “extended to less than a third of the island”, and how Henry’s father, Henry VII had allowed the Anglo-Irish peers to govern the country in his name. Loades goes on to explain how Henry VIII wanted more involvement and was “more inclined to bestow Irish offices upon his English courtiers”. He also covers the Butler/Boleyn Ormonde issue, the crises caused by Henry’s policies which resulted in rebellion, and the dissolution of the monasteries there. Loades concludes the chapter by saying: “At the end of Henry’s reign his second kingdom was probably more governable than it had been at the beginning, but in bringing about this improvement, he had sown the seeds of future trouble in a big way.”
- Chapter 10: A King in His Splendour, 1536-1542 – Henry’s serious jousting accident, Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage, Henry’s doubts over the validity of his second marriage and Cromwell’s use of this uncertainty to remove Anne “the one politician who was not amenable to more orthodox pressures, and who stood firmly in the way of any rapprochement with the Emperor”, the events of April and May 1536 which led to Anne’s execution, Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour, Mary’s submission to her father, Henry’s programme of reform and the subsequent Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion, the birth of Edward and Jane’s death, Cardinal Pole’s criticism of the king and the downfall of the Pole family, Henry’s short-lived marriage to Anne of Cleves and its subsequent annulment, his marriage to the 18 year old Catherine Howard, the progress to the North, Catherine’s infidelity, fall and execution, Cromwell’s fall and Henry’s need “to rediscover his manhood” through war.
- Chapter 11: The Return to War, 1542-1547 – Henry’s problems with James V of Scotland, the Battle of Solway Moss and death of James, the 1543 Treaty of Greenwich which proposed a marriage between Prince Edward and Mary Queen of Scots, the Anglo-Imperial agreement of February 1543 which resulted in the war with France, details on the war and the “round of diplomacy”, Henry’s marriage to Catherine Parr, the 1543 Succession Act, how the war caused “the refashioning of the army”, “the technological revolution of iron gun casting” and the recasting of the “naval administration”, the downfalls of the Earl of Surrey and the Duke of Norfolk, and the death of Henry VIII.
- Chapter 12: Legacy – Here, Loades discusses both Henry’s immediate and long term legacies, eg. the Royal Supremacy, the authority of Parliament, the Privy Council, the Navy, the break with Rome, his will, Edward’s reign which “never emerged from his father’s shadow”, Mary’s triumph over Lady Jane Grey which “was almost entirely thanks to her father” and “his last Succession Act and … will”, the accession of Elizabeth who was “Henry’s political and intellectual heir”, and “the mindset which made the seventeenth-century expansion and the North American empire a possibility.” Loades concludes this final chapter by saying that Henry “stood on the cusp between medieval and modern England, and that alone makes him an intriguing subject to study.”
- Appendix of Documents, Notes, Bibliography etc. – The Appendix is brilliant and contains 30 documents, including the 1534 Act of Supremacy, the 1539 Act of Six Articles and Henry VIII’s will. This section is followed by detailed notes and a full bibliography.
As you can see from my brief rundown (and yes, that is me being brief!) of the chapters, it is a comprehensive book on Henry VIII and his reign. I love my copy of J J Scarisbrick’s biography but this too deserves a permanent place on my desk.
Hardback: 448 pages
Publisher: Amberley (Feb 18, 2011)