The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant
By Robert Hutchinson
Oh the Tudors. What a bunch you are — paranoid, mean-spirited, mean, gluttonous, and in the case of Henry, horny. This book only deals with his last years so a lot of the horny court play had run its course already and what was left was a sick, dying man sadly looking for companionship in his last days.
For a man so concerned with his public image and legacy, specifically an heir, he’s remembered much differently than I’m sure he ever thought possible even in his wildest dreams. In his later years, Henry was incredibly obese and most likely spent every minute of his last days in pain. His ulcerated legs constantly oozed. His diet of meat, meat, and more meat caused digestion issues, and he still worried about maintaining appearances. He’s an interesting figure and it’s obvious why so many people want to write books about him and the Tudor court. Honestly though, a book about Henry’s PR machine is something I’d probably read though.
It’s his final wife, Katherine Parr, who brings his family back together though. Welcoming Mary and Elizabeth into the fold and Henry, at this point, adds them to his succession line. His heir, Edward, dies at the young age of 16, Mary turns out to not be the best at ruling, but Elizabeth, well, she turns out to be Henry’s true legacy. Interesting how that works sometimes isn’t it?
This book is broken into chunks meaning each chapter is about a certain aspect of his life — his sickness, his will, his last queen, and his death. While it’s interesting to see these aspects broken down this way, the timeline gets muddles and I found it slightly hard to follow in terms of what year it was and what was important.
I’ve read a lot about the Tudors, both fact and fiction, and some of this felt too familiar to be as interesting as I wanted it to be. I’m glad I picked it up and I’m sure it’ll add a new perspective to my next Tudor historical fiction read. I realize that while I am sort of tired (sort of bored would be a better way to put it) of the Tudors, I know I’ll probably pick up another book about them and I’m not sure why. Perhaps that will be many days down the road though.