Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Himby Tracy Borman
From acclaimed historian Tracy Borman, a penetrating new portrait of Henry VIII and the men who greatly impacted his life and historic reign
Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry’s life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionally as rivals—many of whom have been underplayed in previous biographies.
These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry’s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.
Recounting the great Tudor’s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman’s new biography reveals Henry’s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy.
“[Borman’s] beautifully perceptive and dynamic reassessment of Henry VIII places emphasis, as the book’s subtitle indicates, not on the monarch’s infamous marriages but rather on the kaleidoscope of male figures both high- and middle-born who were drawn to the king throughout his life as moths circle a bright flame . . . Here in this highly engrossing biography, the notoriously larger-than-life English monarch, seen from an original and revealing perspective, lives anew in full and in the epic proportions he so well deserves. For all Tudor enthusiasts.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Capably intuiting the personalities of both Henry and his influencers, the author concentrates not on the worn path of brutality and numerous marriages, but on the political landscape, the emotional pulls, and insecurities of Henry’s decisions. Choosing to illuminate Henry’s environment and his vulnerabilities, Borman’s writing style is easily accessible, and she succeeds in delivering a uniquely intimate portrait.”—Historical Novel Society
“Borman essentially puts aside Henry VIII’s notorious and well-hashed relationships with women in favor of showcasing stories of the advisers and servants who surrounded the intelligent, mercurial king . . . Borman’s astute analysis of Henry’s personality demonstrates how both low-born and noble advisers affected his reign. It’s generally agreed to that to be a woman in Henry’s circle was to throw caution to the wind in hopes of great reward; Borman’s ambitious narrative shows that being a man in Henry’s court can be just as fraught.”—Publishers Weekly
“Borman skillfully shows Henry maneuvering his men like chess pieces; when they opposed him, they suffered violent downfalls. Henry eventually assumed control of his realm, but it was too little, too late. Tudor fans will enjoy this outside-in biography as a different view of a complicated monarch.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Fascinating . . . Borman’s deep background knowledge serves her—and the reader—well. The pages and years fly by, and one has the feeling of stepping into an engaging historical lecture by a master of the subject . . . For readers curious about royal history or fascinated by the styles of leaders in our own time, Henry VIII makes for a compelling read.”—BookPage
“The incredibly detailed and vivid narrative transports readers to a time when women were seen as no more than a commodity to be traded, and conspiracy loomed in every corner. This engaging page-turner is enhanced by flawless prose and an absorbing plot, making it a perfect choice for fans of historical fiction and post-Tudor England.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Historian Borman embeds a fictional character in the royal court of James I in her promising debut novel . . . By introducing Tom Wintour, a real-life figure, as Frances’ love interest, Borman adds a little historical heft and a lot of spice to her tale. The action culminates with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, as the stage is nicely set for volume two of this projected trilogy.”—Booklist
“Tracy Borman’s debut historical novel has it all: conspiracy, betrayal, dark intrigues, bloody deeds, a poignant love story—and the most famous plot in English history. In the debauched court of James I, nothing is as it seems, loyalties are torn, and danger is all around. At the centre of it all, Borman has created an engaging and courageous heroine, and her highly accomplished writing ensures that the reader is swept along to a shattering and shocking climax.”—Alison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII
“Exquisitely written, sumptuous in detail and thrillingly plotted, The King’s Witch takes you deep into the darkness of the early Jacobean Court and into the heart of the wonderful, unforgettable Lady Frances. The first of what promises to be a magnificent trilogy.”—Kate Williams, author of Becoming Queen Victoria and Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
“Borman’s passion for the Tudor period shines forth from the pages of this fascinatingly detailed book.”—Alison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII
“For Borman, the intimate particulars of everyday life are what help the past come bracingly, stirringly alive. Her full-quivered social history of the Tudor monarchs . . . furnishes readers with a ‘Hey, did you know . . . ?’ on almost every page . . . [An] authoritative work.”—New York Times Book Review
“Like Alison Weir . . . Borman is an authoritative and engaging writer, good at prising out those humanising details that make the past alive to us.”—Guardian
“[Written] with effortless verve . . . [A] riveting history.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“[A] fascinating new book . . . No royal family is better known . . . But there’s still much to learn from The Private Lives of the Tudors thanks to the expertise and persistence of Borman . . . The most captivating moments of Private Lives, and there are plenty of them, bring the reader into other personal Tudor moments of strength, weakness, and heartache.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Comprehensively researched and compulsively readable . . . The potions, plots, liaisons and marriages described in this book are thoroughly entertaining . . . A bloody good read.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“An intelligent, sympathetic, and well researched biography.”—Wall Street Journal
“Excellent . . . This deeply researched and grippingly written biography brings Cromwell to life, probing into his complex personality and exposes the Henrician court in all its brutal, glittering splendor.”—Independent (UK)
“Should be catnip to fans of Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Wolf Hall novels about Cromwell.”—USA Today
Remarkable though Henry’s marital history is, it is not what defines him. Far more influential than the women in his life were the men with whom he was surrounded. Although he was raised in a predominantly female household, the overbearing, often suffocating, presence of his father Henry VII dominated his early years. The sudden death of his elder brother Arthur at the age of just fifteen propelled Henry into the limelight, and, once king, he gathered around him a coterie of high-spirited young men to keep him entertained. During the course of his thirty-seven-year reign, he would attract some of the brightest minds of the sixteenth century: from omnipotent councilors such as Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell to the renowned scholars Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus, and the arrogant, ruthless members of the aristocracy, such as the dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk. In his private domain, meanwhile, he was attended by an array of different men: servants, barbers, physicians, fools and other lesser known characters whose job it was to attend to Henry’s every need, to entertain him and to listen to his confidences. It was these men who shaped Henry into the man—and monster—that he would become. And he, in turn, dictated their fates. This book will tell the story of England’s most famous monarch through the lens of the men who surrounded him, drawing in the many and varied characters at appropriate points in the narrative. As such, it will provide a fresh perspective on this much-studied monarch: a biography from the outside in.