Book Review: “Henry VIII – and the Men Who Made Him” by Tracy Borman

Jane Seymour (1)

I purchased this book with a bit of hesitation because my library is full of book on the most infamous Tudor king. I wondered if Borman would be able to open my mind to any new information, or if I would be disappointed in the regurgitated information that I have read over the years.

Here is a bit about the book in case you are not familiar:

Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry?s life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionally as rivals?many of whom have been underplayed in previous biographies.

These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry?s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.

Recounting the great Tudor?s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman?s new biography reveals Henry?s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy.”

The author of this book, Tracy Borman, is a Historian and “joint Chief Curator for?Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, Whitehall and Hillsborough Castle.” Borman also is a frequent visitor to our TV screens with appearances of historical programs. Many of us believe she has one of the best jobs in the entire world.

Keeping all that in mind, Borman has amazing access to documents and history that many of us could only dream about. She shows her skill as a researcher and writing in this piece of nonfiction. If you believe that you know everything there is to know about Henry VIII I implore you to read this book.

With the interesting insight of the men who surrounded the King we can see how loyalty could both raise you to great heights and bring you down in a spectacular fashion. We also learn that Thomas Cranmer’s undying loyalty to his King is what inevitably saved him during the reign of the fearsome Tudor king. We learn from the book that after the death of King Henry that Cranmer wept by his bedside and in honor (most likely) of his king he began to grow out his beard. Cranmer went on to be a father figure to Edward VI.

I really do not want to spoil this book for you – please pick up a copy and see for yourself. Borman’s ability to report history in an easy to read manner is refreshing and definitely puts her at the top of my list of favorite authors. I have also read her book on Thomas Cromwell, as well as Elizabeth’s Women – both fantastic reads. Currently I am reading her book Private Lives of the Tudors.

Find this book online:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon – US

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