Posted By Claire on July 15, 2009
“The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards” by Philippa Jones, and published by New Holland Publishers, is a fascinating read, particularly as I have recently read Kelly Hart’s book on the same topic.
This book, however, takes things much further and really delves into Henry’s love life and also puts forward the theory that Henry VIII was responsible for at least eight children in all (not counting miscarriages and infant deaths), three legitimate and five illegitimate!
This is the first time I have heard this theory, but Philippa Jones is pretty convincing.
I enjoyed this exploration into this monarch’s love life for many reasons:-
- It is meticulously researched and all theories are backed up with evidence.
- It shows a new side to Henry VIII – Was he really a tyrannical womaniser or was he actually a hopeless romantic who was always on the look out for Miss Right? This book explores this.
- It is groundbreaking in the theories it puts forward – I had never heard of some of the women that Henry is linked with in this book.
- It goes into detail on what happened to each of Henry’s women and their children.
- It has a chronology at the front so that you can see where each of these women fitted into Henry’s life and his six marriages.
- It looks into Henry’s formative years and what made him the man he was.
- It explores each of his marriages in detail.
- It is the one-stop guide to Henry VIII’s love life!
If you’re like me, you want to know as much as possible about a book before you order it, so here are the chapter titles with a brief summary on each:
- The Formative Childhood Years – This chapter looks at Henry VIII as a product of his family and explores his relationship with his family and his life as Prince Hal.
- The First Encounter – This chapter looks at Elizabeth Denton, thought to be Henry’s first “encounter”.
- The Longed for Wife and the Maids of Dishonour – Chapter 3 is divided into three sections: one on Catherine of Aragon, who was Henry’s first real love, another on Anne Hastings, who was the sister of the Duke of Buckingham and mistress of Henry, and a third on alleged mistresses Etionette de la Baume and Jane Poppincourt.
- The Wordly Jewel and the Plotting Widow – This chapter looks at Henry’s relationship with Bessie Blount, which resulted in the birth of Henry’s first son, Henry Fitzroy the Duke of Richmond, and explores Richmond’s life, his marriage to Mary Howard and the subsequent plotting of her family.
- The First Mistress Boleyn and the Questionable Bastard – A chapter detailing Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn, a look at whether she really was “the Hackney of England” (loose and licentious) and an exploration into whether either of her children, Henry and Catherine Carey, were the King’s bastards.
- The Wool Merchant’s Wife and the Amazing Mercenary – I found this chapter particularly interesting because it looks at Henry’s relationship with Jane Pollard, a woman I had never even heard of, and her son, Thomas Stukeley, who was said to look very much like the King.
- The Huntsman’s Wife and the Blustering Diplomat – Have you heard of Mary Berkeley and her son, John Perrot? No, neither had I, so this chapter is very enlightening!
- From Mistress to Queen to the Executioner’s Block – A fantastic chapter on Anne Boleyn’s rise from diplomat’s daughter to Queen of England. This chapter is great for us Anne Boleyn fans because it is a detailed look at her life and considers her relationships with Thomas Wyatt, Henry Percy and the King himself. It also gives a very good overview of Henry’s struggle for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
- The Mysterious Mistress and the Tailor’s Foster Daughter - A look at Etheldreda Malte, alleged illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII, her mother, Joanna Dingley, and how Etheldreda came to be the foster daughter of tailor, John Malte, and have her education paid for by the King – fascinating!
- The Question of Mary or Madge and the Quiet Queen – Chapter 10 details Henry VIII’s affair with Margaret Shelton, while he was married to Anne Boleyn, the fall of Anne Boleyn and Henry’s attraction to Jane Seymour. I love this chapter because it gives an eye witness account of Anne Boleyn’s execution and gives evidence that Cromwell completely fabricated the dates of Anne’s supposed acts of adultery.
One thing that I found strange in this chapter is that it talks of Jane Seymour being “an adherent to the New Religion”, whereas I had always thought of Jane as a staunch Catholic!
- The Virgin Queen and the Merry Maidens - A look at Henry’s very short marriage to Anne of Cleves, later rumours of her remarriage to the King after Catherine Howard’s execution and the mystery baby boy. Did Anne actually have a baby by the King?
This chapter also examines Henry VIII’s relationships with Anne Bassett, stepdaughter of Lord Lisle and former maid of Jane Seymour, and Elizabeth Cobham.
- The Foolish Queen, the Last Queen and the Last Love – Chapter 12 is divided into three parts: Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr and Katherine d’Eresby. It looks at the rise and fall of young Catherine Howard, the King’s final marriage to Catherine Parr, and rumours that Henry wanted to divorce Catherine Parr and marry Charles Brandon’s widow, Katherine d’Eresby.
- According to Rumour – This wonderful final chapter looks at rumours of relationships and illegitimate children which are not supported by historical evidence. If they are true then the King was indeed a very busy man!
Philippa Jones ends her book with a conclusion where she ponders what would have happened if Catherine of Aragon had given Henry a son and heir, and where she sums up what she thinks of the King. Jones says:
“Henry VIII was a man who longed for love. His tragedy was that he was looking for a love that could never exist. He had a vision of the perfect woman, an image of his mother, and no woman could measure up to this fantasy.”
She also comments that his mistresses gave him the “adulation and devotion” that Henry needed to be the King of his fantasies and to feel loved, and that Henry’s obession with having a male heir coupled with his unrealistic picture of the perfect woman “distorted Henry’s natural desire to love and, most of all, to be loved”. Sad.
Whatever we think of Henry VIII, his wives, his mistresses, the rumours and scandals, it is important that we consider these “Other Tudors” because although they were extramarital affairs and illegitimate children with no real claim to the throne, they each made their mark on the King and the time they lived in. As Philippa Jones says of Henry’s children:
“they are all Tudors, and their charm and exceptional natures let King Harry’s Bastards make an indelible mark on the history of the Tudor period”.
So, what do I think about this book? Well, I think that it is a must-read for anyone who, like me, is struggling to understand Henry VIII and the relationships he had. Author and historian Philippa Jones has obviously put a huge amount of time into researching Henry VIII, his alleged mistresses and children, and all sources are listed in the notes at the back of the book. This is great for readers who want to put extra research in and it also gives the book credibility.
“The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards” was published in paperback in the UK on 1st July 2009 and is available at Amazon UK – click here for details – and from sellers on Amazon US – click here for US details.