A Matter of Faith: Henry VIII, the Days of the Phoenix by Judith Arnopp

About the book:

Finally free of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, is now married to Anne Boleyn and eagerly awaiting the birth of his son. In a court still reeling from the royal divorce and growing public resentment against church reform, Henry must negotiate widespread resentment toward Anne. He places all his hopes in a son to cement his Tudor blood line, but his dreams are shattered when Anne is delivered of a daughter.

Burying his disappointment, Henry focuses on getting her with child again, but their marriage is volatile and as Henry faces personal bereavement, and discord at court, Anne’s enemies are gathering. When the queen miscarries of a son, and Henry suffers a life-threatening accident, his need for an heir becomes critical. Waiting in the wings is Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting who offers the king comfort and respite from Anne’s fiery passions.

But, when Anne falls foul of her former ally, Thomas Cromwell, and the king is persuaded he has been made a cuckold, Henry strikes out and the queen falls beneath the executioner’s sword, taking key players in Henry’s household with her.

Jane Seymour, stepping up to replace the fallen queen, quickly becomes pregnant. Delighted with his dull but fertile wife, Henry’s spirits rise even further when the prince is born safely. At last, Henry has all he desires but even as he celebrates, fate is preparing to deliver one more staggering blow.

Henry, the once perfect Renaissance prince, is now a damaged middle-aged man, disappointed in those around him but most of all in himself. As the king’s optimism diminishes, his intractability increases, and the wounded lion begins to roar.

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I have read the first book in this series and loved the portrait of the young Henry VIII. In this novel he is older, but it seems, not wiser! We are taken into the head of this monarch and although it can never be a true representation of the complexity of this man, Judith Arnopp manages to bring about a consistency that brings him to life on the page. His hopes, fears and dreams – all of which seem likely considering what we know of the history, are brought to the fore in the way only a novel can portray.

We have all seen films of Henry VIII, of his awful actions in his own court, of his bullying and cajoling to get what he wants. What is great in this novel is that we see also his insecurities – his longing for an heir, his hopes for Anne, his devastation at the loss of his sister Mary, and the eventual tragedy that befalls him, the church and the hapless Anne Boleyn, whose only crime was not to produce the required son. How he becomes the narcissistic and controlling megalomaniac that he eventually becomes, is tempered with his inner doubts. He knows he is bad, but is too selfish to remedy it.

Cromwell’s hand in Anne’s demise is subtly drawn, and the way Henry lurches afterwards to Jane Seymour is credible, as Jane seems to be able to put aside her personality do his bidding — the opposite of Anne who made him wait before she would marry him. It is a story nearly everyone knows – the story of Henry and his wives, yet this is so fresh, to feel his story from the inside.

Congratulations to Judith Arnopp – massively entertaining and a  superbly inventive insight into the mind of one of our most famous monarchs.

Vey highly recommended for all Tudor fans.

Get it HERE: Universal Link: http://mybook.to/amofaith

Judith’s next non-fiction book coming soon: How to Dress like a Tudor will be published by Pen & Sword in 2023.

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