The Life And Times Of Henry Viii

Essay, Research Paper

Book Review

Robert Lacey?s The Life and Times of Henry VIII was first published and copyrighted in 1972 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. This most recent edition was published by Welcome Rain in 1998, though Weidenfeld and Nicolson still hold copyright privileges. Lacey, a former scholar at Bristol Grammar School and Selwyn College at Cambridge, is most noted as a historical novelist. More of his works include Robert, Earl of Essex, an Elizabethan Icarus and the internationally renowned biography of Elizabeth II, Majesty.

The Life and Times of Henry VIII is a biographical work concerning the life of the most infamous, yet well respected King of England. The third child of King Henry VII was not expected to become king, but Henry VIII was known for his wisdom and strength from a very young age. Sir Thomas More compared the young King to the king of beasts, ?If a lion knew his strength, it were hard for any man to hold him.? Lacey never loses sight of the great king?s majestic character in this biography that depicts Henry VIII ?s role as the ?lion? that stood in the center of changing England during the early 16th century. The Life and Times of Henry VIII explores Henry VIII ?s pursuit for the throne, his historically infamous actions there, and his active role in the English reformation. Lacey hails Henry VIII as an admirable leader, despite his controversial lifestyle and political endeavors. With the future of the monarchy at stake, the king?s actions are not only excused but many of his decisions are deemed imperative.

A changing world welcomed religious reformation during the sixteenth century. The teachings of Martin Luther spread rapidly; many had hoped to renew religion as Europe saw it. England, too, was ready for change. However, Henry VIII brought reformation to England for personal gain. Lacey insinuates that the king was well within his right to take control and establish himself head of church and state. Despite Henry?s previous support in the defending of and providing for the Papal position in England, he found the power of the church to greatly rival that of his own. The Catholic Church, as a whole, threatened the English succession of the monarchy. Lacey portrays the king?s tyrannical approach to religious reform as little more than an attempt to harness the loyalty of his subjects away from the pope, and direct it toward the crown.

While the author notes the vigorous and lavish lifestyle led by Henry VIII, the king?s life is downplayed to chronological historical information. While a many of his subjects became scornful toward the king?s often cruel and bullish tactics in enforcing his political intentions upon the religious right of the people, very few were so bold as to challenge him. King Henry VIII had truly instilled loyalty and devotion into the hearts of his subjects; by bringing the English monarchy to the pinnacle of its arbitrary power.

Lacey believes Henry VIII to have been a remarkable leader. He supports that decisions of the king should not be questioned. Henry VIII was the King of England who achieved his position and inspired his subjects with faithfulness and dedication. Spielvogel, the author of Western Civilization describes Henry VIII as a man who didn?t use his ability as king for the people, but for his self benefit. Spielvogel also states that Henry VII ?s primary break from the Catholic Church was for Henry VIII to have an heir to the throne. The English accepted the basic changes that were made after England?s break from the church, due to the fact that matters of theology, ceremony, and doctrine stayed relatively the same. According to Spielvogel, the people appreciated Parliament?s involvement in the reorganization facilitated by King Henry VIII of England. Spielvogel is not as adamant as Lacey, though, when describing the people?s support for the king himself.

Lacey?s illustration of King Henry VIII contradicts my own opinion of England?s great ?lion? on numerous accounts. Though Lacey is obscure in revealing a true relevance to the leadership abilities of Henry VIII, it is undeniable that the historian looked highly upon the king. Henry VIII was forceful and assertive, yet he wasn?t the ?great? king Lacey portrays him to be. Henry VIII may have been king, but to make himself head of the church and state shows only that he took advantage of his position. I agree with Lacey that the Catholic Church had too much control over the lives of England?s people and Henry VIII did have a right to prompt the monarchy higher. However, Henry VIII was a relentless and apathetic king to his subjects. The immoral life Henry VIII led caused the king to make, yet never admit multiple inappropriate mistakes. Comprehending right from wrong was not anything Henry VIII often thought about; as a child Henry VIII was told that he was perfect and therefore could do what he pleased. Henry VIII felt his perfection, and thus egocentrism, continued throughout his reign. Lacey makes excuses for Henry VIII?s behavior, just as the king?s subjects did, long ago.

My opinions on the reign of King Henry VIII and my opinions of Henry VIII the man are more comparable with those thoughts of Spielvogel, the author of Western Civilization. Spielvogel portrays Henry VIII to be a king who does things to better himself. I too feel that Henry VIII took advantage of his powerful position and risked the people?s faith, and sometimes lives, for his own betterment. Henry VIII was a cunning man who did not use his reign for anything except to make sure an heir to the throne carried on his name. The intelligence of Henry VIII is undeniable, but he did not use his powers as king where they were needed most. In spite of his pursuit for self-gratification, King Henry VIII does take responsibility for raising the English monarchy to a point it would never succeed again. I, in addition to many historians, could continue to criticize the reign of Henry VIII, but without the reign of Henry VIII, noble England would not be what it is today.


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