Wednesday, May 8, 2013

John Guy on Henry VIII's FOUR Children

According to the publisher, Oxford University Press:

Behind the facade of politics and pageantry at the Tudor court, there was a family drama.

Nothing drove Henry VIII, England’s wealthiest and most powerful king, more than producing a legitimate male heir and so perpetuating his dynasty. To that end, he married six wives, became the subject of the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century, and broke with the pope, all in an age of international competition and warfare, social unrest and growing religious intolerance and discord.

Henry fathered four living children, each by a different mother. Their interrelationships were often scarred by jealousy, mutual distrust, sibling rivalry, even hatred. Possessed of quick wits and strong wills, their characters were defined partly by the educations they received, and partly by events over which they had no control.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, although recognized as the king’s son, could never forget his illegitimacy. Edward died while still in his teens, desperately plotting to exclude his half-sisters from the throne. Mary’s world was shattered by her mother’s divorce and her own unhappy marriage. Elizabeth was the most successful, but also the luckiest. Even so, she lived with the knowledge that her father had ordered her mother’s execution, was often in fear of her own life, and could never marry the one man she truly loved.

Henry’s children idolized their father, even if they differed radically over how to perpetuate his legacy. To tell their stories, John Guy returns to the archives, drawing on a vast array of contemporary records, personal letters, and first-hand accounts.

*The intriguing family drama of England's most powerful king and his battle to perpetuate the Tudor dynasty
*A tale of six marriages, adultery, execution, and the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century
*A skilfully woven narrative based on original documents, personal letters, eyewitness accounts, and the handwritten letters of the four children themselves
*Shows how the childhood experiences and relationships of Henry's four children shaped their later lives - and the destiny of a nation

Note the inclusion of Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond! When Alison Weir wrote her book on the children of Henry VIII, she highlighted the heirs of Henry VIII at the end of his reign (Edward, Jane Grey, Mary, and Elizabeth). John Guy explains why he included the Duke of Richmond and comments on Mary's character in this interview:

What inspired you to write The Children of Henry VIII?

I got fed up with people from tv companies or guides in stately homes trying to tell me that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn came to visit X or Y places as a family, with baby Elizabeth in one or other of their arms. The royal children were brought up in nurseries set apart from where their parents were living, often many miles apart. The children were together only on a handful of occasions in Henry’s entire reign, and each was rarely able to spend much time with Henry or their mother. I wanted to include Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son, since he tends to be forgotten and yet he was an important part of the story in the earlier years. I also thought it could be illuminating to relate and position each of the children more precisely to one another, and that this might improve our understanding of the period as a whole, which turned out to be the case.

What do you think is one of the most common misconceptions about Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor?

Mary was by nature generous, especially to her friends and supporters, but could also be generous to those who opposed her – after all, she had decided not to execute Lady Jane Grey until she learned of Wyatt’s rebellion and of Jane’s father’s role in it. She tended to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when I found how much she hated Elizabeth from the beginning and how this vendetta played out in Mary’s own reign, I was rather shocked. I was also surprised to discover the scale of Mary’s intransigence over religion in Edward’s reign – even when her cousin the Emperor Charles V told her to cease making her own houses symbols of resistance to Protestantism by having mass celebrated daily and inviting passers-by to attend, she wouldn’t stop. Charles thought it was enough that she had a licence to say [attend] mass herself – to satisfy her own conscience. He was too experienced a politician to think Mary should deliberately provoke the Duke of Northumberland. And he certainly didn’t want Mary to seek exile in his own dominions. I hadn’t realized just how intransigent Mary could be – something Philip was to discover fairly quickly when he married her.

Guy means that Mary should have stopped with just having Mass celebrated for her attendance--not that Mary "said" Mass! Leanda de Lisle writes of Guy's achievement in the April 2013 issue of the Literary Review:

John Guy is that rare cross: a scholar who also writes for the popular market. It shows here, as he sketches with verve and fluency the education and beliefs, as well as, briefly, the reigns of these last Tudors. But where he excels is in illuminating the relationships between the squabbling siblings. They say if you've got lemons make lemonade, and in Guy's hands the story of The Children of Henry VIII is fresh, sparkling and sharp.

De Lisle also comments that the "squabbling siblings" were "horrid to each other, but not horrid enough"! and suggests that Mary, having failed to bear a child by Philip of Spain to bump Elizabeth from the succession, should have used one of the plots against her (the Wyatt Rebellion Guy mentions above perhaps) as a reason to have Elizabeth executed. Philip of Spain prevented that action and surely lived to regret it as Elizabeth repaid him with war in the Spanish Netherlands and pirate raids on Spanish ships.

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