Review: The Children of Henry VIII

The Children of Henry VIIIThe Children of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Children of Henry VIII / 9780307806864

I picked up this book after finishing Weir's excellent "The Six Wives of Henry VIII". This book follows straight on from the end of that one, and is an excellent and engrossing look at the interactions between Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, and Jane Grey as they each in turn took the English throne whilst maintaining complex relationships with the others.

There's really not much to be said here that I haven't said already with regards to Weir's books: her scholarship is (as far as I can tell) excellent, her writing is fascinating, and she takes a great deal of care to cite her sources as she goes, along with the bias and relative trustworthiness of that source. I greatly appreciate her style, as it really conveys what was gossip, what was possibly true, and what was most likely true in her estimation.

If I have any criticism to give on Weir's writing, it would perhaps be that I wish she would use a few more commas -- sentences like "In late May Mary moved..." give me a moment of pause while my brain sorts out what I am reading. But this is a very minor point.

The only other issue I have with this book is that it feels like it short-changes us a touch on the Elizabeth front. The book covers Edward's ascension to the throne and ends with Mary's death and Elizabeth's rise to power. In a way this makes sense, given that the theme of the book is the interactions between Henry's heirs, and once Elizabeth is queen, there are no more heirs to interact with. And it's not like the book is lightweight, since it comes in at over 400 pages in the eBook version. But there's something rather disconcerting about reading so much about Elizabeth's struggles under Mary's reign and then signing off just as she comes into her own. I note that Weir has an entire volume solely on "The Life of Elizabeth I", so you might want to follow this book with that one.

~ Ana Mardoll


Makabit said...

I think there is rather a tendency to treat Elizabeth as her own thing...once she rises to power she is the last heir standing, and the whole story after that is so long and involved, that it would be hard to treat reasonably following a discussion of the rest of the family.

Margaret Irwin ended her duology of books about the young Elizabeth perfectly, I thought--Elizabeth gets called back to court, and Mary introduces her to her new husband. Elizabeth and Philip lock eyes, and the book ends.

DarcyPennell said...

I'm going to have to read this book! I wish I'd checked in with your site earlier today; I walked right past the library a couple of hours ago. I really love Alison Weir. She did the DVD commentary for the miniseries "Elizabeth R," which I also love, both with and without commentary. (the one with Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth.)

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