The Tudor Roses

The Tudor Roses

The Rose Blog

Lacey Baldwin Smith - Henry VIII: A Review

Henry VIII by Lacey Baldwin Smith


The first thing you will notice about this book on Henry VIII by Lacey Baldwin Smith is that it starts not at the beginning but rather with the end. The opening chapter concerns itself with Henry’s death, when the great ‘tyrant’ is at his most vulnerable. Starting with Henry’s demise sets the scene for what is an in-depth and interesting look at the King’s life.

The biggest difference with this book is that Smith has attacked the subject covered by many from a totally different angle. He has not written it to consider every historical noteworthy chapter or event in Henry’s life; no what Smith has done is to delve into the mindset of one of England's most loved, feared, famous and infamous Kings - the monarch, the man and the childlike, playground behaviour with Charles V and Francis I.

This is a psychological look at Henry, a look a what drove the man, his passions, his fears, his loves and his weaknesses. Smith endeavours to take you into the innermost workings of someone who on the outside appears to be tough, sometimes uncaring and unloving, strong willed and overtly confident in himself and his position as a divine right monarch. In doing so Smith uncovers a different side to Henry, a side not often portrayed or seen. I will not go into too much detail so as not to spoil it for those who have yet to enjoy this amazing examination of Henry.

Along the way you find that through necessity to compare and contrast the three different monarchs, Francis I and Charles V are also dissected and autopsied for all to see. The differences, and the similarities, between these three powerhouses of the 16th Century is a mind opener and sometimes startlingly surprising. As mentioned above, you can clearly see the playground antics of these three rulers vying to be top dog in rule, war and riches; the inner child of each is exposed and the ‘my one’s better then your one’, testosterone filled competition between them is laid bare.

When you think of Henry most think of him as one of the greatest monarchs this country has ever known or the tyrannical monster that killed wives and subjects alike without so much as a second thought. After reading this book you may have a totally different outlook on the sovereign you think you know. Smith very cleverly does not try to impress on the reader what he thinks of the King, of why he did what he did and if he was wrong or right. He presents you with evidence and reason and leaves it up to you to make your own mind up. This book definitely gives you pause for thought and shines a refreshing new light on areas of Henry either never touched on or only ever mentioned as almost a footnote to the man. You will find new ways of thinking about many of the important historical moments in Henry’s life, but as said, this is not a history book on him but a psychiatrists couch discussion.

I would say that to read Mr Lacey Baldwin Smith’s Henry VIII it would be advisable to have read other biographies or histories on the King first as this makes the whole book more relevant and some subject matters a lot clearer to the reader. Someone completely new to Henry may find some aspects puzzling and be left wondering ‘what was that all about’! I will warn you that some may find it heavy going and it is not, in my opinion, a light, quick read; though ultimately very enjoyable.

So, in conclusion, do I like this book and would I recommend it to others? The answer is a 100% yes to both, though I would only recommend it to those with an already basic grasp of Henry and the Tudor period. I loved the different angle with which Smith comes at Henry, the writing style is easily read physically, though some bits needed a re-read to make them clear and to fully understand them, which is why I class it as not a light read and could be seen as heavy going - you need to be fully in reading mode and your attention to be kept fully on the text in front of you for this one. A good bedtime read (if not too tired) but not one to dip in and out of whilst watching the television (obviously Tudor related) or looking after a couple of rowdy young boys!

If you love the Tudor period and/or Henry VIII and you know a bit about it and/or him already, then go and buy this book, it is a necessity for any Tudorite’s or Henrician’s bookshelf!

Review by:

Darren Wilkins
The Tudor Roses

Henry VIII by Lacey Baldwin Smith is published by Amberley Publishing and is available direct from them and all good bookshops and online stores.



Forgot your password?