My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read most of this history of the Tudor period in England while on vacation. I was glad I read it! an overview of the reign of Henry VIII up to Elizabeth I, I found this book to be both informative and captivating.
The author does a good job of describing the problems of this period in England’s history along with personalities, motivations, civil strife and religious persecution. He attempts to tie it all in with the theme of religion, the Reformation and the beginnings of the Anglican church which was to become England’s foundation. I think he succeeded.
Not normally drawn to lengthy historical tomes (I enjoy reading various genres but history is not my first choice), this 470 page book kept my interest as I was in turn amused, enthralled, and dismayed by the actions of those who used their positions to govern the English citizens. International politics also played a role as we see the interplay of marriages made for convenience or political gain. And of course, religious persecution was at the forefront also, as the pendulum swung back and forth during the years of the Reformation with Catholicism and Protestantism fighting for prominence.
Should a monarch also be given the position the head of the church, or is that a role unsuitable for a king (or queen)? where should the governing body come in and how much power should they have? Can a king (or queen) rule Parliament? these and many other questions are asked (and sometimes answered), in this book.
“Edward, coming to the throne of England at the age of nine, was hailed by some as the new Josiah. Josiah son of Amon, assumed the rule of his country at the age of eight and proceeded to do ‘that which was right in the sight of the Lord.’ He tore down the graven images of the Assyrian cults and broke the altars into dust. In his reign, the true law of God was providentially found and became the law of Judah. The parallels were clear to those who wished to eradicate the traces of the Romish faith. Edward was seen as a godly king with a fundamental biblical power.”
I felt I gained a better understanding of why Elizabeth was so threatened by her cousin, Mary of Scots, and I enjoyed reading and learning more about the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Sir Frances Drake.
“Some commissioners were sent to the queen of Scots. They found her in a fury, eager to tell once more the story of her wrongs ‘using bitter speeches of her misery’. One of the English delegation remarked respectfully, that foreign observers believed her treatment to be one of ‘singular mercy’. The queen’s reply (here paraphrased) was royal: ‘Mercy? What had mercy to do with it? I am as much an absolute prince as her Majesty. I am not, and have never been, her inferior. I have been a queen from my cradle. I have been proclaimed queen of France, the greatest realm in Christendom. Mercy is for subjects. I am not a subject.'”
I am looking forward to reading Ackroyd’s “Foundation”, the first volume in this series (not realizing when I found “Tudors” on my library shelf, that this is Volume 2 in the series). Peter Ackroyd has done a good job with his overview of this complicated period of England’s history.