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Henry VIII and the men who made him: The secret history behind the Tudor throne

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  54 ratings  ·  34 reviews

'An outstanding work of historical artistry, a brilliantly woven and pacy story of the men who surrounded, influenced and sometimes plagued Henry VIII.' Alison Weir

Henry VIII is well known for his tumultuous relationships with women, and he is often defined by his many marriages. But what do we see if we take a different look? When we see Henry through the men in his

Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I requested this book for at least three reasons. The first one was that I enjoy Tracy Borman's ways of presenting history and having read some of her books, I am still a fan of hers. The second reason was my interest in the Tudor period and the need to extend my (not scholarly) knowledge. Full satisfaction after reading this book. And, last but not least, I thought that reading more about the men who stood behind Henry VIII, and not just the king himself, might be an insightful. I honestly admi ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, netgalley
3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
Thanx you Grove Atlantic for sending me this eARC through NetGalley. It is a solid biographical study of the men who served Henry the VIII. Most books about this period focus on his six wives or Henry the VIII. The author has done an impressive amount of research, quoting extensively from primary sources, letters, diaries, official records, etc.
Henry the VIII was obsessed with producing a male heir to carry on his reign. His father had ended a civil war and Henry the V
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!

I received an ARC through Netgalley and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

This is probably the first book that’s purely about Henry (in a way) that I really liked. Earlier this year, I read Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir, which was a complete disaster. So, I was hopeful that this one would be better. It definitely was!

Borman takes the stance that Henry is such an enigma — and he is; he’s a hard man to capture because he was so
Rating: 3 stars
Tracy Borman’s most recent entry into the history of the Tudors, “Henry VIII and the men who made him: The secret history behind the Tudor throne” is a good solid work of non-fiction. It joins her previous book about the Tudor dynasty, “Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen” and it does a serviceable job of painting the picture of Henry’s court and the myriads of men surrounding him throughout his life. Unfortunately for me, it paints the pictur
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 stars

I read the Kindle edition.

“You shall, in your counsel-giving unto his grace, ever tell him what he ought to do…For if (a) Lion knew his own strength, hard were it for any man to rule him.” – Sir Thomas More

This is a wonderful history of the men who surrounded King Henry VIII. Born both high and low, these men surely shaped the king’s reign through their influence with him. They were advisors, courtiers, friends, servants – and even his rivals.

While most often remembered for his split wit
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
This has got to be by far one of the most interesting reads I have ever had; rivaled by Sharon Penman herself, who I hold as the best of historical writers and my favorite author in general.

I have always wanted Penman to continue from her Sunne in Splendour and have been disappointed in the attempts of authors who have ventured to touch on the reigns that followed Bosworth. I was relieved to find one who stood out.

Tracy Borman’s take on Henry VIII was refreshing, interesting, which one might e
Sarah Bryson
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tracy Borman’s book on Henry VIII was a refreshing look at one of England’s most controversial Kings. So often when books examine the life of Henry VIII they study the King through his relationships with this many wives and his children, but Borman’s book takes a very different approach. She studies the life and reign of Henry VIII through the men that served him. Through the courtiers and friends whom lived with the King, men who served his most intimate needs as well as those that carried out ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the publisher ---

Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry's life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionall
Melisende d'Outremer
Much to the ire of Tudorphiles everywhere - I did not find this especially enlightening. And like Oliver Twist - I wanted more and was left wanting.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Over the last few years I have come to rely on Tracy Borman’s books about Tudor England. She is an excellent historian, and has a clear-eyed and fresh approach to this well-traveled subject. In this book we do not spend the majority of our time on Henry’s wives, interesting though they are, nor on his split with Rome, momentous as that was. This book is a look at the men with whom Henry surrounded himself, men great and small, and their influence on the king.

Henry was not meant to be king, as th
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-books
It is hard to find new history books on Henry VIII that explore any new instances in his life. What this book does different is focus on his male relationships and those that were exploited for power and those that suffered from them with their lives. I am ceaselessly fascinated by the Tudor reign and this book does a great job of exploring the relationships between the men such as Wosley, Cromwell and Cranmer and the mercurial king. I have done quite a bit of reading about the Tudors so am fami ...more
Helen Carolan
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read as usual from Ms Borman detailing the men who shaped Henry 8th. Many men passed through his life some more important than others. Statesmen, tutors,friends and his father all played a part in shaping the man and king.Henry in his youth was loyal but as the years passed he became more bullying and suspicious of those around him and his loyalty counted for nothing. This was a man who was happy to demonstrate that he could raise men up, but he could also bring them down again. A f ...more
Sam Law
Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read

“Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived”

Thus goes the old mantra on how to remember what happened to Henry VIII’s six wives. It is accepted as fact that his marital intrigues were all about begetting a male heir, to bolster and shore up the shaky claim the Tudors had on the throne.

Most books on Henry deal with the man’s marital status, but this one is different. The author looks at the king from a viewpoint rarely if
John Reid
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seventy-odd years ago as children going to school, we surveyed Holbein’s famous painting of Henry VIII standing there, tallish for his day, red bearded, broad shouldered, deep chested, in ‘party dress’, with his – ahem – enormous codpiece protruding through the split at the front of his pantaloons, and laugh at the buffoon he so obviously was. Our English history teacher (English as in teacher and in history) upbraided us for our levity and explained that Henry was much more than the fool we tho ...more
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Divorced, beheaded, died.
Divorced, beheaded, survived.

This oft-repeated rhyme is what many first think of when the name of Henry VIII is mentioned. Thanks to their impact, the conflicts between Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn is probably the most famous segment of English history outside of World War II. New biographies and novels centered upon one or more of the six wives of Henry VIII come out every year, and each of those queens-- particularly Catherine of Aragon and Anne Bol
Anne Morgan
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
When people think "Henry VIII" they probably think of beheadings and serial marriages. But there is a great deal more to his legacy than this and Tracy Borman explores all of it in Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him. Borman examines Henry's life by looking at the men he surrounded himself with. Henry loved to have intelligent, active young men around him who shared his interests in hunting, hawking, dancing, and every other form of sport available. After a difficult relationship with his father ...more
Karen Meeus
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
The blurb was very promising, but the book did not meet all my expectations. It was a pleasant read, it’s the Tudors after all, but I had hoped for a more comprehensive work.

The focus is indeed on the men surrounding Henry, an approach that I found very intriguing. Though interesting, informative and obviously well-researched, I disliked the author's at times too subjective, strongly expressed or oversimplified conclusions.

I prefer more historical background information and nuance in a biograph
Svetlana Tishchenko
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
‘The retinue plays the king’ the phrase made immortal by W Shakespeare in his King Lear says it all. The book by Tracy Borman is all about the retinue of Henry VIII: the bold, the bad and the ugly.
There were so many men around Henry VIII, I lost my count at Cromwell. Some of them were so memorable, they made their way into The Tudors TV series. Some of them deserved a mere paragraph in Borman’s book. However, all of them together is what made Henry VIII who he was and vice versa.
I have read a lo
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
II would give this book a four on just based on its readability. There were some historical figures around Henry VIII that I found uninteresting. However, they might have been interesting to a British audience so I was a little generous in my rating. I am an American and frequently I find when I read English history books I feel that if I were British I would know something about the subject but because I am an American I am totally confused.

The strengths of the books are that I learned a lot a
Casey Wheeler
This book was interesting from the perspective that the focus was on the men who surrounded Henry VIII and not him. The book addressed the relationships with some of the better known names of that time - Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and Charles Branson (Duke of Suffolk) and also a number who are not as well known. It clearly shows that being a part of the court of Henry VIII was a challenge due to the swings in mood and personality of the monarch that would have someone in favor ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed Tracy Borman's biography on Thomas Cromwell, so I was excited to start reading Borman's new book, Henry VIII. Henry VIII did not disappoint; like Borman's previous work, this almost read like a novel. It was an entertaining read that had me invested in the various characters that played a role in Henry VIII's life.

A good deal of time is spent on the "major players" of the Tudor court such as Wolsey, Cromwell, and the Duke of Norfolk, however, you get a better glimpse at the less

Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

This is quite a deep dive of a history book. Spanning Henry VIII's extensive reign, Tracy Borman covers nearly every man who served Henry. I thought given my extensive reading on the Tudors that this would be old hat, but I learned quite a bit with this book! Wolsey, Cramner, Cromwell, Suffolk, More, these men are always discussed when Henry VIII comes up, but we finally get to hear about the men in lesser positio
Lynn Smith
Oct 22, 2018 marked it as to-read
I am so looking forward to reading this after attending a lecture at the BBC History Weekend in which Tracy Borman gave a lecture on this. It was a fresh approach away from his wives on the influences of the men in his life, father, educators, friends, servants and courtiers. He is still a tyrant, mistrustful, changeable particularly after 1530 and yet he is shown through sources to be affectionate, intelligent and at times vulnerable to manipulation which is not always shown in biographies or i ...more
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this, even though i have read ALOT on the King, it was refreshing for the dialogue not to focus too much on his wives, but him and the men that surrounded him and advised him.

We learn the Henry, even though strong willed and intelligent was easily lead and some of his closest attendants and advisors did lead him astray.
Henry would pull himself out of it, only to be drawn in again by someone else!

We learn how quick tempered and vain he was, especially towards the end of his life, n
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am a Tudorphile. A stimulating and refreshing way to look at probably the most written about king in English history. For all the 'high' and 'low' men that were in Henry's orbit there is a sense of irony that one of his favourites was his fool, Will Jester “ few men were more beloved than was his Fool…..Thus Will exiled sadness many a time” . This book was written very well that made it feel as if it was 'just' a sure more by TB will be read.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting view of Henry's life and his men - sorts them all out very well. While describing the men's relationships and their historical context, I also learned more about the political and household setup during Henry's reign. Neither too dry nor too descriptive and no creating fictions of character/personalities - the portraits drawn are supported with extensive resources.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and thought it was well-written.
Nóri Goreczky
rated it really liked it
Dec 06, 2018
rated it really liked it
Nov 29, 2018
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating, informative and surprisingly able to give a new viewpoint on Henry and his court. Ms Borman's writing is easy to read and she is an author I will be looking for more from.
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Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth's Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where