How and why did Henry VIII turn from a glamorous Renaissance prince into this country’s greatest tyrant? David Starkey’s magesterial concluding biography, published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the throne, tells this remarkable, bloodthirsty story.
When Henry VIII came to throne in 1509, he represented fresh hope to a nation still reeling from the bloody Wars of the Roses. Not yet eighteen, the new king had already distinguished himself as a scholar, musician and athlete. So how did this glamorous young Renaissance prince become this country’s greatest tyrant?
It began with a longing for stability. Desperate for a son to cement his claim to the throne, Henry quickly became frustrated by the lack of a male heir from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His impatience increased after he became infatuated with the beautiful Anne Boleyn. When Anne refused to become his mistress, a desperate Henry was forced to take measures more extreme than anything previously imagined and that would set the course of British history for the next 500 years.
Forbidden by the Catholic Church to have his marriage annulled, Henry ordered his lifelong friend Thomas More to implement religious changes that would allow the besotted king to remarry. It was a move that would have fateful consequences for all involved. More’s loyalty to the Catholic Church led to his execution, while the establishment of the Church of England catapulted Henry to the height of his personal power. Catherine was dismissed from the royal bed, Anne was ushered in, and so began the bloody cycle of marriage, divorce and execution for Henry is still remembered today. And yet behind this brutal history was a man deeply traumatised by bitter divorce and the abandonment of the principles he once held dear.
David Starkey’s magisterial concluding biography of this most complex of British kings, published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the throne, tells the bloodstained story of his remarkable shift in character – from humanist prince to all-powerful despot – during one of the most vivid and significant periods of British history.
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Praise for ‘Henry: Virtuous Prince’:
This book is Starkey’s masterpiece. It combines the populist touch with deep insights of scholarship.’ John Guy, Sunday Times
‘Excellent…the really crucial events in the history of the British Monarchy since the Middle Ages are assessed with authority, wisdom and wit…This is Starkey at his fluent and entertaining best.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘It is brilliant, beady-eyed history, and every page of it has an intimate fascination…Starkey has eschewed the easy wisdom of hindsight…his strength is that he questions everything…he seeks fresh evidence…his writing is uncluttered and conversational, and he cuts through the back-story…with grace, clarity and wit…accessible and entertaining’ Guardian
‘Starkey has the mind of an historian but the eye of a court painter.’ Peter Ackroyd, The TimesAbout the Author:
David Starkey is Honorary Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and the author of many books including 'Elizabeth; Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII' and 'Monarchy: England and Her Rulers from the Tudors to the Windsors'. He is a winner of the WH Smith Prize and the Norton Medlicott Medal for Services to History presented by Britain's Historical Association. He is a well-known tv and radio personality. He was made a CBE in 2007. He lives in London.
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