Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Tudor Biographer Reviewing Another Tudor Biographer's Book, Part II

Earlier this month, I posted on one Tudor era biographer reviewing another Tudor era biographer's work--in that case Linda Porter reviewing Anna Whitelock. This time, it's Anna Whitelock reviewing John Guy, who has written biographies of St. Thomas More and his daughter Margaret, Mary, Queen of Scots, and St. Thomas of Canterbury (St. Thomas a Becket). Anne Whitelock reviews John Guy's new study of Henry VIII's children for the BBC History Magazine:

Anna Whitelock considers a new look at Henry VIII's children, and how his marital troubles shaped their lives

Henry VIII was a king infamous above all else for his desire for a male heir. The story of Henry’s marital difficulties is well known – as are the children of this most dysfunctional family, who have been the focus of countless individual studies. However, they have not been considered together as often as might be expected. While Guy does not offer much that is significantly new in terms of the detail of the lives of Mary, Edward, Elizabeth and Henry Fitzroy – his first-born son and the illegitimate offspring of his affair with Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Blount – it is a useful enterprise to bring the king’s children together in one accessible volume.

In doing so the book charts the impact of Henry’s marital difficulties on his offspring. Their formative years were played out in the shadow of high politics, and in vivid descriptions Guy documents how their lives, lifestyles, households, furnishings and education were directly affected by the vagaries of their father’s favour. As this account demonstrates, their childhood and adolescence amounted to an eventful, and traumatic, apprenticeship for rule. . . .

Rather than simply rehearsing the key events of each of the reigns, Guy’s focus is more on the sibling rivalries, conflicting faiths and competing ambitions that tore the family apart during the years that followed. It is a pacy and accessible narrative of the unfolding family drama, but one might have hoped for a little more detail about the personality and rule of each of the children. . . .

This may be a well-known story, but Guy presents it with typical narrative flair and attention to detail, producing a book with obvious appeal.

Read the rest here. This could become a regular series--stay tuned for A Tudor Biographer Reviewing Another Tudor Biographer's Book, Part III!

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