The Other Tudors Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards
by Phillipa Jones
Everybody thinks they know the tale of King Henry VIII's wives: divorced, beheaded died; divorced, beheaded, survived. But behind this familiar story, lies a far more complex truth. This book brings together for the first time the 'other women' of King Henry VIII. When he first came to the throne, Henry VIII's mistresses were dalliances, the playthings of a powerful and handsome man. However, when Anne Boleyn disrupted that pattern, ousting Katherine of Aragon to become Henry's wife, a new status quo was established. Suddenly noble families fought to entangle the king with their sisters and daughters; if wives were to be beheaded or divorced so easily, the mistress of the king was in an enviable position. While Henry VIII has frequently been portrayed as a womanizer, author Philippa Jones reveals a new side to his character. Although he was never faithful, Jones sees him as a serial monogamist: he spent his life in search of a perfect woman, a search that continued even as he lay dying when he was considering divorcing Catherine Parr thus leaving him free to marry Katherine d'Eresby. Yet he loved each of his wives and mistresses, he was a romantic who loved being in love, but none of these loves ever fully satisfied him; all were ultimately replaced. "The Other Tudors" examines the extraordinary untold tales of the women who Henry loved but never married, the mistresses who became queens and of his many children, both acknowledged and unacknowledged. Philippa Jones takes us deep into the web of secrets and deception at the Tudor Court and explores another, often unmentioned, side to the King's character.
I discovered this book while looking around the Amazon.com website. I was intrigued right from the start as I have always been fascinated with Mary Boleyn whom had been a mistress to Henry VIII before he married his second wife Anne Boleyn. I have read a little about Bessie Blount, another of Henry’s mistresses and about the son Henry Fitzroy he had with her, but had not read any more about any other mistresses or children. I was excited to get this book and dove with an open mind and was quite impressed.
Philippa Jones has a writing style that is very easy to read. Her words flow in a manner that makes the reader feel as though they are reading a story or a diary rather than a series of facts. I enjoyed the way she presented her findings, giving some information about the mistress whom had a relationship with King Henry VIII. Then if a child was born from that relationship Jones moved on to speak about the child’s life and how the King, although not always openly acknowledging the child, gave assistance and support. I also very much liked that Jones went into a great deal of depth about each child’s life, looking at their younger years, right through their lives up until their death. I felt this gave the reader a deeper understanding and knowledge about each child and the type of person that they grew up to be. It was also very fascinating to read how Henry VIII’s legitimate children, Mary, Edward and Elizabeth interacted with the adults whom may have been their half brothers or sisters. I enjoyed this as it felt as though Jones was providing an all-round image of each illegitimate child and helped the reader learn as much as possible about their lives.
There was only one small statement that I had a slight issue with and that was concerning the dates and order of the births of the Boleyn children. Jones wrote that Mary Boleyn was the oldest child, born in 1499, George was born next in 1504 and Anne was born in 1507. Jones does state that there is considerable debate about the dates and the order of the births of the Boleyn children and I have to agree with her. I have to admit that I tend to side with historian Eric Ives in the belief that Anne Boleyn was born in 1501 and George in roughly 1504, and not at the dates that Jones gives. Yet this is my only slight complaint about the book and honestly since there is debate over when the Boleyn children were born it is a very minor complaint at all!
I did like that Jones proposed that Mary Boleyn did not sleep with King Francis I during her time in France. It is a very common belief that Mary succumbed to the French King’s charms, went to his bed and for a short time became his mistress. However although this is a very common belief there is very little evidence to support this. In fact the only evidence are two letters written decades after Mary’s time in France, both of which are quite slanderous to Mary and her sister Anne. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Jones challenged this common belief and gave a little more credit to Mary Boleyn’s chastity.
I cannot say I completely agree with all the women Jones put forward as Mistresses to Henry VIII, nor all the children she stated were bastards of the King. Personally I just do not believe that the evidence put forward always means that the child born was a bastard of Henry VIII. There could be a multitude of reasons why Henry VIII supported the mother and child, reasons that do not have to be simply because the child was his bastard. It could even be as simple as that Henry favoured the parents of the child or they were loyal members of his court. Whatever the reasons I will say that Joneses book was a fascinating read. I think that so much of Henry VIII’s private and sexual life was carried out with such secrecy and discretion it is difficult to know the real truth about the women that he slept with. And it is even more difficult to know the truth about any children that may have been born to him out of wedlock. Especially since there was no such thing as DNA testing back in the Tudor age! History is often full of speculation and what ifs, but I do think that Philippa Jones presented detailed cases for each mistress and bastard and supported her statements with a great deal of evidence and information. What each person draws from this information is up to them.
I found this book to be an absolutely fascinating read. It was really interesting to learn more about the women and children who had a part of Henry VIII’s life. Often we only learn about Henry VIII, his six wives and the three children legitimate children that survived him. Joneses book gives the reader the opportunity to learn more than that just this. She opens up a different side of Henry VIII, a lover, a father, a man whom cared deeply about the women he was with and the children he had. This is defiantly a great book to read if you want to learn a little more about the private life of Henry VIII and the mistresses and children he had.