Derek Wilson’s new book on Henry VIII

From This Is North Devon:

IF YOU say Henry VIII to most people, the iconic image that is likely to spring to mind, will be the magnificent full-length portrait, painted by his contemporary Hans Holbein. In it, Henry looks impressive and imposing: jewels on his chest, codpiece thrusting forward, arms akimbo and his eyes glaring out of the canvas.

However, according to one leading Tudor historian, like many people across the ages, we have been bamboozled by this stunning image. Indeed, Derek Wilson from West Buckland goes so far as to say the portrait is probably the most effective piece of propaganda in the whole of English history.

“This is Henry as he wanted to be seen,” says the author.

“The reality was rather different. When that portrait was painted that apparently magnificent man was fat, balding and a semi invalid. He had just fairly narrowly survived a major rebellion in the country. He had been 28 years on the throne and he had no male heir. His own illegitimate son, his fall back heir, had just died. He was on his third wife and he was actually staring failure in the face.”

Henry, he contends, strikes that famous domineering pose to suggest he was a splendid and powerful king.

“This is not the case,” says Derek. “We have been deceived.”

In latest book on the Tudors, A Brief History of Henry VIII, Derek, puts forward the view that Henry VIII was a man who lived in the shadow of his own father. He was haunted by the achievements of Henry VII, a fine king who had established peace in the country after the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII won his crown in battle, saw off rebellions and was a man of considerable stature.

Full article

Amazon pre-order links (both due out soon):


  1. This should be a very interesting and controversial book. I’m about to link to Amazon and buy it immediately.
    Derek Wilson is quite good at writing psycho-biography. That genre was recently hashed over again on the Q&A pages, and I referred there to Wilson’s previous books on the Dudleys and on Charles I. And while psycho-biography is still disparaged by academic historians, I do think it has a legitimate value when done correctly and carefully. If anyone could accomplish that task with Henry VIII, it would be Derek Wilson.
    Lara, I will offer to “live-blog” my reading of Wilson’s book, once it arrives, if you’d like.

  2. That would be great! It’s nice that this one will be out soon in both the US and UK and it is reasonably priced.

  3. “The Uncrowned Kings of England”, about the Dudleys, was a superb book. I’ve read it several times and seem to get something different from the pages each read.

    Thank you, PhD, for offering to live-blog this book on Henry. I hope it arrives to you fast!

  4. I just finished reading A Brief History of Henry VIII and found it very thought provoking and suffciently compelling that I couldn’t wait to finish the last page. A fascinating view of Henry, reminiscent of a contemporary expose of a public figure.

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