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The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George

Posted By Claire on December 15, 2009

Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Christine Nicole Kimmell was kind enough to write this review on Margaret George’s fictional “autobiography” of King Henry VIII:-

The Autobiography of Henry VIII - US Version

The Autobiography of Henry VIII - US Version

The Autobiography of Henry VIII, With Notes From His Fool Will Somers, was an absolutely fascinating read. Although it is fictional it feels as though you are actually in Henry VIII’s head. It is the only book that I have read that has ever made an effort to get to know Henry, rather than the image that he created for himself. It shows vulnerability and heart, which is a rarity when reading about Henry.

The book focuses exclusively on Henry VIII, with the exception of the bits of humor and perspective interjected by Will Somers. The back drop is beautifully painted, detailed but never boring. Absolutely a must read for anyone who is interested in “getting to know” Henry VIII personally.

One of the aspects of the book that I most enjoyed was the attention paid by the author to Henry’s life before he became king, unlike other novels that I have read, that seem to gloss over the first 25 years of his life.

Henry’s personality is also much more deeply explored than I’ve ever read before. Rather than building upon his already well known public persona, the author takes the time to show some of Henry’s insecurities that he may have been trying to hide beneath the pomp and grandeur of his image. Henry is credited with enough intelligence to realize the views the people around him had about his more whimsical tendencies, whereas it is generally believed that Henry was too self involved and childish to realize that others knew it was him in a play, or knew he was the tall, red-headed, masked figure.

The Autobiography of Henry VIII - UK Version

The Autobiography of Henry VIII - UK Version

The only part of the book that I found disappointing was that Anne and Henry’s relationship felt like it was somewhat minimised. The author gives the impression that Henry viewed Anne as more decorative, rather than an intellectual equal. It does not paint the picture of a passionate romance, more of a lukewarm infatuation that was easily moved on from.
In conclusion, this book is an absolute must read for any Tudor enthusiast. It is a challenging read, challenging in that it makes you stop and think. I found myself reading excerpts to my husband and pondering over the deeper meaning of certain quotes. It is an enormous book, but don’t be put off by that. I had an extremely hard time putting it down. While reading it, it literally feels as though you’ve gone back in time. The thoughts, feelings and situations of the “characters” have definite parallels to our own modern lives and gives interesting and poignant perspective.

Review by Christine Nicole Kimmell

You can read an excerpt from this novel and read an interview with the author at Margaret George’s website – see

This book is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK – click on book covers above – or from your favourite book retailer.


6 Responses to “The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George”

  1. Jeni says:

    Thanks for the review Christine and thanks for posting it Claire! I was actually just sitting here looking at different books I wrote down on my Christmas list and this book was on it. It looked intriguing to me, but I didn’t know if it was a good read or a waste of time. After reading your review, it makes me excited and hopeful that maybe I will get it for Christmas 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 So thanks again!!!!!

  2. Claire says:

    Hi Jeni,
    So, what other books did you put on your Christmas list? Hope you get some good ones and that you have a wonderful Christmas! x

  3. Jeni says:

    I listed: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn by Retha Warnicke, Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir, Henry VIII: Man and Monarch by David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey, Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England by Alison Sim, and about 18 others. I don’t expect them all of course, I bolded ones that I really want (which I listed above). I went through a lot of the books on this site and wrote them down! It just seems like I can’t learn enough about the whole time period!!! 🙂 Have you heard any reviews or anything about Divorced, Beheaded, Survived by Karen Lindsey or England Under the Tudors by G.R. Elton?? Just curious! &Thanks for what you do on your site…I am always finding something new on it which sparks more research on my end & lots of learning!!! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas as well!!

  4. Claire says:

    Good choices ! I would also recommend David Loades’ “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”. I haven’t read Karen Lindsey’s book, only excerpts from it, but you could check out reviews on Amazon. G R Elton is a well-respected historian and I read his “Reform and Reformation” years ago and it was very good. I’ve just done a “Primary Resources” page – see – and will be adding to it as I find online digitised historical sources. It is easy to get lost in Letters and Papers or the various chronicles, they’re fascinating!
    I’m so glad you like the site, thank you for saying so x

  5. Hannah says:

    I really enjoyed this book. It’s a challenge at times but well worth the read. Margaret George was very brave to tackle a novel about Henry VIII in such detail from his own perspective, and I think she did so successfully.

  6. Karissa says:

    I am quite pleased with this book! Alot of the fiction for this period rotates around everyone EXCEPT Henry it seems. I was very interested to see things from his point of view and i was not disappointed. Although his love with Anne B did seem sort of lack luster, there was a bit of the madness he felt for her. I would definantly recommend this book not only to fans of the era, but anyone looking for an interesting read.

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