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‘Means to be God, and do as pleases himself’ Martin Luther observed. It was a shrewd comment, not merely on the divorce in which the King was then embroiled, but upon his whole career. Henry VIII was self righteous, and convinced that he enjoyed a special relationship with the Almighty, which gave him a unique claim upon the obedience of his subjects. He subdued the church, sidelined the old nobility, and reorganised the government of his realm, all in the name of that Good Lordship which was his God-given responsibility.
As a youth, he was a magnificent specimen of manhood, and in age a gargantuan wreck, but even in his prime he was never the ‘ladies man’ which legend, and his own imagination, created. Sexual insecurity undermined him, and gave his will that irascible edge which proved fatal to Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell alike. Several times during his reign he took out his frustrations in warfare, but succeeded only in spending vast sums of money. Henry VIII dominated England during his lifetime and for many years thereafter, as a warrior, as a renaissance Prince, and as Supreme Head of the Church, but his personality is as controversial today as it was in his own lifetime. He is a figure impossible to ignore.
Professor David Loades has spent most of his life investigating the remains, literary, archival and archaeological, of Henry VIII, and this monumental new biography book is the result. His portrait of Henry is distinctive, he was neither a genius nor a tyrant, but a man’ like any other’, except for the extraordinary circumstances in which he found himself.