Tudor Victims of the Reformation
This book describes a selection of people caught up in the turmoil that presaged the reformation - a period of change instigated by a king whose desire for a legitimate son was to brutally sweep aside an entire way of life. The most famous and influential of the victims were the two people closest to Henry VIII. His mentor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a great churchman and a diplomat of consummate skill.
The other was to be the King's second wife, Anne Boleyn. These two adversaries, equally determined to succeed, had risen above the usual expectations of their time. Wolsey, of humble birth, became a price of the church, enjoying his position to the full, before coming into conflict with a woman who had no intention of being another passing fancy for the king.
She would become the mother of one of the greatest and most famous of England's monarchs. They were brought down by the factions surrounding them and the selfish indifference of the man they thought they could trust. Though they succumbed to the forces aligned against them, their courage and achievements are remembered, and their places in history assured.
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This isn't the book I assumed from the title that it was going to be and I found it a disappointment. Victims of the Reformation in Tudor times could have included Thomas More, Cardinal Fisher and the priors and Carthusian monks who could not consent to Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy, (mostly either starved to death or hanged, drawn and quartered), and about 99 Catholics under Elizabeth I's version of this Act. (Those killed under Mary would be victims of the Counter-Reformation if you are going to be picky.)
The book cover states that it describes "a selection of people" caught up in Henry VIII's marital problems and this is indeed the case however the selection is very small, covering Cardinal Wolsey and Anne Boleyn in the finest of fine detail, and with only a passing mention of any other characters. Just occasionally the long-drawn-out accounts of divorce proceedings or diplomatic exchanges let up and we get a taste of the Abbot of Whitby's disgusting slanders of Ann - he needed no Twitter to be really nasty - or the king's attempt to boost Henry Fitzroy. But mostly I'm afraid I found it rather indigestible, and I'm a keen reader.
This is no coffee-table volume either, the publishers have not wasted a penny on fripperies; there are few illustrations, all black and white drawings, and usually no provenance for them, nor is there a list of illustrations. The Contents page tells you nothing about what is in each chapter. I was initially attracted to the idea of this book as a prospective Christmas present, but it just doesn't have enough appeal.
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