I felt like I already knew a lot of this history and it took me a second to figure out why. Well, it’s all pretty readily available, but it just simply occurred to me that between Wolf Hall, The Tudors, A Man for All Seasons, and Beckett, so much of this material is well-trod for me. That has no bearing on how good and how enjoyable I found this history to be. To be clear, this is a writer who heavily researched this topic, but focuses on the availability of this history for mass readers. Not being a historian, I appreciate this.
So because the history is so familiar, some notes that I found interesting. For one, this is NOT structured as a narrative, although it DOES tell the story in narrative form. So one of the more interesting parts is that Henry is survived by two wives, and their stories continue past the narratives told in those movies and shows. So there’s a funny kind of anti-climax (well, it’s a false anti-climax sense he’s not the center here).
In addition, this book really does a wonderful job how incredibly scary times these were for women, and any man who crosses the crown. Henry is king, but he’s a tyrant and a dictator willing to kill as needed. And the other thing is how incredibly petty and shortsighted so many of the actors in these events are. It has parallels to so many other times (cough cough) this belief that the means you use to destroy someone cannot be used to destroy you.