LITERATURE

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII

. October 2012. 284p. 978-1-25001-261-6. 27.99.
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In 1533, Henry VIII divorced his wife of 23 years, Katherine of Aragon, and married Anne Boleyn. Anne was noticeably pregnant and everyone hoped for the male heir Katherine had not produced. It’s a good idea to write about the king as he was then, not as he grew older and increasingly monstrous. But Hutchinson (House of Treason) botches the job, drowning the central narrative in a sea of detail. The text lingers all too lovingly on clothes and jewels, how much they cost, oaths sworn, meals eaten, ceremonies and fetes lived through. In addition, although this is Hutchinson’s fourth book on the Tudors, the author’s judgment is far from impeccable on matters royal. It’s debatable, for instance, whether Henry was England’s “greatest king”—there are rivals for the title—and there seems no illness for which Hutchinson does not have a diagnosis. But the principal weakness of this popular history is that glitter overwhelms story.
VERDICT A good idea but it doesn’t work. Young Henry will satisfy neither the casual reader nor the academic (at whom it is not aimed in any case).

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