In ‘Henry VIII: A History of His Most Important Places and Events,’ Andrew Beattie unravels the history behind the castles, palaces, and manors owned by Henry VIII.
The first part of the book focuses on Henry’s major palaces in London, the ones everyone’s familiar with, Hampton Court, Greenwich, Westminster, etc. For each place, Beattie provides detailed descriptions, an in-depth history of the site, Henry’s renovations, the major events of Henry’s reign that took place there, and a brief recounting of what remains of the site.
This would be a large enough undertaking, however, Beattie then moves on and provides as much detail as possible (which is limited in some cases by a lack of source material) about Henry’s more minor and regional manors, some of which it isn’t even clear whether or not Henry ever actually visited.
This book shows us Henry the architect, revealing just how extensively he modified, renovated, modernised, and extended all of his properties. Each location is brought to life with photographs on the current site, which in some cases are sadly reduced to a plaque or a street name memorialising its former glory. Beattie also frequently refers back to Margaret George’s ‘Autobiography of Henry VIII,’ which can help anchor some of the more obscure locations for anyone familiar with George’s novel (if you aren’t, I also highly recommend).
Beattie does not deeply analyse the important events that took place at these palaces; instead, he provides a brief summary of the famous events which he contextualises within their physical locations, which isn’t often focused on by narrative historians.
This book was a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read, and I can see myself returning to it frequently in the future as a research resource.
Thank you to NetGalley and Pen & Sword for giving me the opportunity to review this important addition to the historical corpus.
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