Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: The Autobiography of Henry VIII

The Autobiography of Henry VIII with notes by his fool Will Somers 
by Margaret George

I am slowly becoming an expert on Henry VIII. I had a lot of time on my hands when I stopped working later in my pregnancy. I picked up Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl to read before I watched the movie (though I haven't gotten around to the movie yet.) It was the first historical fiction that I read and I really enjoyed it. I decided to read the rest of Philippa Gregory's books, but I knew that they were not written in chronological order. This is when I found The Literate Housewife's post "Philippa Gregory in Chronological Order," exactly what I was looking for! 

From there, I read The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory's story of the life of Kathrine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife. This one was my favorite of her books so far. I then read The Boleyn Inheritance, Gregory's book about Henry VIII's 4th and 5th wives (Anne of Cleves and Kathrine Howard). 

I decided to supplement the Gregory books with some of The Literate Housewife's suggested additional books to fill in the gaps. The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson was the next book that I read. It covered Kathrine Parr's life from childhood to death, including her marriage to Henry VIII. It was good and I like that it covered her entire life, not just the years that she was married. 

That's a nickel. 
This is where I picked up The Autobiography of Henry VIII. I was kind of surprised when I got to the library and saw this behemoth. As I no longer have the time on my hands that I had during my pregnancy, I was a little apprehensive about beginning a book of this size. I did have to renew it in order to finish, but I absolutely loved this book and finished it relatively quickly. 

This isn't actually an autobiography. It is just written as if it were his journal and his jester, Will Somers, made notes in it before sending it to Cathrine Carey (Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII's illegitimate daughter.) I really enjoy historical fictions. It takes an imaginative author to take the known facts and bring them to life by giving the characters thoughts and motivations. 

Having read so many accounts of King Henry VIII by this point, it was refreshing to hear the same stories through his point of view. Between the different books and watching Showtime's "The Tudors," there are some differences in the order of events. That is to be expected though, since I don't imagine that definitive records exist. 

Of all of the books about Henry VIII that I have read so far, this is the one that I would recommend above the others. It covers the entire scope of his life and tells a side of the story you don't often hear. 




  1. I have also read SEVERAL books about King Henry VIII. Well, not so much about him, but about his wives and his daughters. Have you read The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory? That is my favorite of all of her books and is even on my list of top 10 favorite books ever! I have also read several books about King Henry's wives by Jean Plaidy. I LOVE her writing and it is said that she writes with quite a bit of historical accuracy. I would highly recommend her books and might even go back and start reading some of them again myself! I'll have to check out this autobiography- thanks for the tip!

  2. The Queen's Fool is the next book chronologically so I was planning on picking that one up soon. I am reading The Lady Elizabeth right now. I haven't read any Jean Plaidy but I will definitely check into her books.