top of page

'1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII' by Suzannah Lipscomb

Updated: May 5, 2020

...Also a book I've read at least thrice now. As the name suggests, it covers the life-altering and history-altering events that all happened in the year 1536. And let's remember, it's not all about Anne Boleyn's death.

To get to the real Henry, beyond the 'wife-killer/ despot/ monster/ over-eater' image that the general public is familiar with, one needs to see him clearly in two ways: as a sovereign who needs to have male heirs as a state emergency, and as a healthy male who suffers a life-changing accident. In 1536 these two collide: he falls during a joust, badly hurting himself, Anne miscarries a boy. You cannot think of a more crucial turning point in the life of Henry VIII.

That year also saw the death of Katherine of Aragon, Henry's wedding to Jane Seymour (how many wives can a guys have in the same year?), Pilgrimage of Grace, The final act of Reformation...1536 has been called by some historians as 'annus horribilis' for Henry - and it truly was. Its events saw through Henry's metamorphosis from a young, kind, attractive king to a fat, immobile, obese despot. Usually when Henry is mentioned, his image is of the latter, but one must remember that he was already forty-four when the year started. And he only spent ten and a half years representing the 'fat' image. Anyway...

This book goes to the heart of the metamorphosis, and explores it from all sides: his relationships with his wives, his masculinity (and its importance in Henry's time), his ecclesiastic inclinations, the establishment of the new Church and its similarities/differences with the old religion. The book goes into every aspect of Henry's life, and does so in detail, and upon reading it, one really 'gets' Henry the Eighth, the man and the king.

N.B. - Here's an article Professor Lipscomb has also published about Anne Boleyn, entitled 'Anne Boleyn: Whore, Witch or Cinderella?'

Here's a link to the Historic Royal Palaces podcast episode where the author Suzannah Lipscomb talks on the subject of Two Henrys.

And here's a two-part documentary presented by the author herself about Henry and Anne "Lovers that Changed History":

Two more podcast episodes from Historic Royal Palaces on the subject of Henry VIII and his character:

- Philippa Gregory: 'The Young Henry VIII'

16 views0 comments


bottom of page