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#52 ~ The Autobiography of Henry VIII

The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George

As 2007 was the year that I fell in love with the Tudors, what better way to close it than by reading this book by Margaret George? It was a great choice. From the beginning where Will Somers and Catherine Carey Knollys exchange letters regarding the “manuscript” of Henry’s memoirs through the very end where Will writes about Henry’s funeral it is a pleasure to read.

Having read all of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series and the Carolly Erickson‘s The Last Wife of Henry VIII first in no way diminished this book. George’s descriptions of the executions of Anne Boleyn and her male companions gave me an almost physical response despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen. I had a hard time getting to sleep the night I read those accounts. I found myself willing Catherine Howard to get a clue/brain and change her behavior. Alas, she did not.

It was interesting to see how different authors portrayed the different historical characters. For example, Mary Boleyn is portrayed completely different here than she is in The Other Boleyn Girl. She is simply a royal whore in this book while she is a woman forced to become a token in her family’s plot in Gregory’s novel. It may simply be naive on my part, but I hope that she really was a woman of some virtue. Someone had to have been. I also enjoyed the characterization of both Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Charles Brandon.

In the other books, Henry came off as plain crazy and perhaps even a touch evil. In George’s book I liked that Henry felt more human. We can all delude ourselves when we want reality to fit into a specific box. It’s just that Henry had executioners available to take care of the messier realities. I really enjoyed this version of the love affair between Henry and Katherine of Aragon. How might history have changed had their son lived? Where would the Tudors be today? Although this book was over 900 pages long, it was a quick and enjoyable read. It was a wonderful way to complete my reading goal for the year.

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8 Comments

  • At 2007.12.21 01:57, sherry said:

    Oh my heart is all a-flutter! I was Googling “Tudor books in chronological order” and came upon one of your posts! Now I’m so excited to go through all your book reviews! And I read several of the books you mentioned in the aforementioned post. I also said, not five minutes ago, that I wanted to read a Margaret George book next year and what was your 52nd book? Wow, kismet!

    • At 2007.12.21 15:23, Sapna said:

      I’m reading a biography of Henry VIII – do you think that this book would be spoiled if I read it after the biography? This sounds fascinating, and I do enjoy the books better when they’re written in an almost fictional format than when written academically. (Though the biography I’m reading right now is actually written quite lightly, and I’ve enjoyed the first 30 or so pages I’ve gone through.)

      • At 2007.12.21 15:24, Sapna said:

        I’m reading a biography of Henry VIII – do you think that this book would be spoiled if I read it after the biography? This sounds fascinating, and I do enjoy the books better when they’re written in an almost fictional format than when written academically. (Though the biography I’m reading right now is actually written quite lightly, and I’ve enjoyed the first 30 or so pages I’ve gone through.)

        • At 2007.12.23 18:36, Tracy said:

          I’m so impressed with your last selection! I keep that book by my bed and read it when I can, but it’s too heavy to carry on the subway!! I’m anxious to get all the way through it, but part of me enjoys savoring it.

          It’s so exciting to get free books in the mail, isn’t it? I got my LibraryThing reviewers copy recently, too — “The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy” — I’m very backlogged right now (what else is new?!) but started the first few chapters…

          PS: One time I did take the Autobiography of Henry VIII on the subway with me and someone asked me if he really wrote it. 😉

          • At 2007.12.27 15:55, Literate Housewife said:

            Thank you all for your comments!

            Sherry, I’m so happy that I could help you. You will love this book.

            Sapna, I don’t think that reading a biography will take away from this book at all. I haven’t read a formal biography yet, but I knew about all the major events and that did nothing to detract from my experience. I can’t vouch for how much liberty she took with history or the order of events. That might be the only issue you might encounter.

            Tracy, I look forward to reading your review of your book. I am only a few pages into Dreamers of the Day. As much as I love the Tudors, it’s nice to read in a different time period. I love that story about the subway! I told someone what I was reading and I could tell by the look on his face that I needed to add “it’s a novel.” 🙂

            • […] to an end. It’s not all about the women, either. I am anxiously awaiting the moment when I begin The Autobiography of Henry the 8th. He was a fascinating man. I’d like to learn more about him from his perspective, even if it is […]

              • At 2008.09.15 02:25, eucalyptusjandals said:

                Oh I have to read this one. I’m a big Tudor fiction and non-fiction fan.

                • At 2013.02.07 22:21, Philippa Gregory in Chronological Order said:

                  […] in this order. 10. The Boleyn Inheritance 11. My Lady of Cleves 12. The Last Wife of Henry VIII 13. The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers 14. Her Mother’s Daughter 15. The Lady Elizabeth 16. Innocent Traitor 17. The Queen’s […]

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