Nothing consumed Henry VIII, England's wealthiest and most powerful king, more than his desire to produce a legitimate male heir and perpetuate the Tudor dynasty. To that end he married six wives, became the subject of the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century, and broke with the pope, all in an age of international competition and warfare, social unrest, and growing religious intolerance and discord.
Henry fathered four children who survived childhood, each by a different mother. In The Children of Henry VIII, renowned Tudor historian John Guy tells their stories, returning to the archives and drawing on a vast array of contemporary records, personal letters, ambassadors' reports, and other eyewitness accounts, including the four children's own handwritten letters. Guy's compelling narrative illuminates their personalities, depicting siblings often scarred by jealously, mutual distrust, bitter rivalry, even hatred. Possessed of quick wits and strong wills, their characters were defined partly by the educations they received, and partly by events over which they had no control. Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, although recognized as the king's son, could never forget his illegitimacy. Edward would succeed his father, but died while still in his teens, desperately plotting to exclude his half-sisters from the throne, and utterly failing to do so. Mary's world was shattered by her mother Catherine of Aragon's divorce and her own unhappy marriage. Elizabeth was the most successful, but also the luckiest. Even so, she lived with the knowledge that her father had ordered her mother Anne Boleyn's execution, was often in fear of her own life, and could never marry the one man she truly loved.
John Guy takes us behind the fašade of politics and pageantry at the Tudor court, vividly capturing the greatest and most momentous family drama in all of English history.