Children of England: The heirs of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

This is one of Alison Weir’s earlier books telling the stories of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I from the time of Henry’s death to the accession of Elizabeth to the throne.

I enjoyed finding out more about the lives of these monarchs; their education, their religion and their outlook on life. It was also good to set their lives in the context of their time and to understand the political and economic challenges they faced as well as the way they tried to impose their religious views on their subjects.

I feel I understand more about Edward and Jane as human beings rather than the cyphers they can sometimes appear in more general histories. I knew both were fervent Protestants but hadn’t realised just how important their religion was to them. I also didn’t realise what a horrible upbringing Jane had as the daughter of 2 very ambitious parents

It was also interesting to find out more about the kinder side of Mary’s nature; we are too used to her being presented as Bloody Mary who would burn anyone who didn’t reconvert to Catholicism. It was also interesting to find out more about her marriage to Philip of Spain. Whilst I might deplore her intolerance in matters of faith I ended up feeling sorry for her; she had a pretty crappy life.

The person I learned least about was Elizabeth. Her sections of the book didn’t contain much that I hadn’t already read elsewhere.

I enjoyed the book; like all Alison Weir’s books I found it easy to read and it captured my interest. Unlike her books about the various medieval queens though this one feels a bit superficial and I wasn’t left with a real feeling of knowing more about the period.

I would categorise it a way of starting to get to know the later Tudor period rather than a book that adds significantly to what you already know.

That said, I would always recommend reading books by Alison Weir.

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