Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England's Nero
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A compelling and groundbreaking study of Henry VIII as a deeply flawed individual, this book vigorously challenges old assumptions and new interpretations alike—now in paperback
Tudor historian John Matusiak paints an absorbingly intimate portrait of a man wholly unfit for power: his personality, his beliefs, his relationships, his follies, his hollow triumphs, and his bitter disappointments are all on full display in this biography. This is by no means yet another account of the "old monster" and his dealings. The "monster" displayed here is, at the very least, a newer type, more beset by anxieties and insecurities, and more tightly surrounded than ever by those who equated loyalty with fear, self-interest, and blind obedience. This compelling and groundbreaking book also demonstrates that Henry VIII's priorities were always primarily martial rather than marital, and accepts neither the necessity of his all-consuming quest for a male heir nor his need ultimately to sever ties with Rome. As the story unfolds, Henry's predicaments prove largely of his own making, the paths he chose neither the only nor the best available. For Henry VIII was not only a bad man, but also a bad ruler who failed to achieve his aims and blighted the reigns of his two immediate successors.
incarcerated in Fleet Prison until he did, while the other, Richard Reid, was ordered to the Scottish wars with a ‘following’ raised at his own expense. When Reid was subsequently captured and forced to pay a ransom to the Scots, the king was quick to share the joke with his cronies. Clearly, though, there were no broader grounds for mirth, since Henry’s vain pursuit of shadows abroad was creating a dismal tapestry of mounting problems, all of which would weigh most heavily upon his successor.
younger courtiers, he did so dismissively. Nor is there any trace in the first Tudor of the braying self-advertisement so closely associated with the second. When Henry VII posed late in life for his portrait by Michael Sittow, he did so almost contemptuously, it seems, with scarcely tended hair and restless fingers suggesting a man eager to be done. This was clearly a man of business rather than pleasure who, even in the fullest flush of youth could never have flaunted himself at court revels
mitres, so the king himself clung to his holy relics, roods and rosary beads with no less reverence. Even while lying in his bed on the Vigil of All Hallows, Henry was comforted by the intermittent ringing of bells throughout the darkness of the night, secure in the prospect of priestly absolution and no less assured of the efficacy of right behaviour in bringing God’s blessing. Immersing himself, therefore, in all manner of rituals, the king spent lavishly on tapers, smeared his forehead with
promises made to England, by making war with the emperor; notwithstanding the meeting of the two princes at Guisnes, where the French King had solemnly swore to keep all the articles contained in the league.’ He had also, it seems, ‘withholden the payment of money agreed on as to the delivering up of Tournay’ and ‘refused to pay the French Queen’s dowry’. ‘Wherefore’, Wolsey hoped, ‘the Commons would cheerfully assist the king in vindicating his Honours by granting the supplies necessary on this
presentation to the city corporation and leading merchants showed clearly the kind of psychology and appeal upon which his sovereign would come to rely more and more often. When one of his audience weakly ventured to suggest that business had decayed and that times were hard, Wolsey cut him short with the uninspired riposte that ‘it were better that a few should suffer indigence than that the king should at this time lack’, adding in his best baritone, no doubt: ‘Beware, therefore, and resist