Thursday, June 14, 2012

The End of His Days

The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant by Robert Hutchinson

Summary: A blazing narrative history that boldly captures the end of England's most despotic ruler and his court -- a time of murderous conspiracies, terrifying betrayals, and sordid intrigue
Henry VIII's crimes against his wives are well documented and have become historical lore. But much less attention has been paid to his monarchy, especially the closing years of his reign.
Rich with information including details from new archival material and written with the nail-biting suspense of a modern thriller, "The Last Days of Henry VIII" offers a superb fresh look at this fascinating figure and new insight into an intriguing chapter in history.
Robert Hutchinson paints a brilliant portrait of this egotistical tyrant who governed with a ruthlessness that rivals that of modern dictators; a monarch who had "no respect or fear of anyone in this world," according to the Spanish ambassador to his court. Henry VIII pioneered the modern "show trial": cynical propaganda exercises in which the victims were condemned before the proceedings even opened, proving the most powerful men in the land could be brought down overnight.
After thirty-five years in power, Henry was a bloated, hideously obese, black-humored old recluse. And despite his having had six wives, the Tudor dynasty rested on the slight shoulders of his only male heir, the nine-year-old Prince Edward -- a situation that spurred rival factions into a deadly conflict to control the throne.
"The Last Days of Henry VIII" is a gripping and compelling history as fascinating and remarkable as its subject.
Review: An informative and thorough history of the last days of Henry VIII.
It must have been so dangerous to live during Henry VIII's reign, especially during his last years. People who were in favor one moment could be in disfavor the next. I had gotten the impression of Henry VIII's rage and  mood swings during reading about him. This was the first book I read that focused almost solely on his last years. I was fascinated by the diagnosis that Hutchinson gives Henry VIII. The diagnosis was Cushing's Syndrome and explains a lot of Henry VIII's symptoms. His weight was always attributed to his overeating, which certainly could have contributed. It's impossible to diagnose accurately since it happened so long ago, but it is a valid explanation. 
 Treason, treason, and more treason. Luckily there was a helpful list of events and important in the book so it was easier to keep track of everyone, including who was dead and who was still alive. Everyone was trying to obtain as much power as they can and that only got worse after Henry VIII died. Including some history of Edward IV provides a perspective of how tenuous power can be. Once a king dies, nothing is certain even if he has a will created. 

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy English history, especially the Tudors.

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