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The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story…

The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story from Inside the Vatican (2012)

by Catherine Fletcher

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11924164,232 (3.38)11
"In 1533 the English monarch Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife of twenty years Catherine of Aragon in pursuit of a male heir to ensure the Tudor line. He was also head over heels in love with his wife's lady in waiting Anne Boleyn, the future mother of Elizabeth I. But getting his freedom involved a terrific web of intrigue through the enshrined halls of the Vatican that resulted in a religious schism and the formation of the Church of England. Henry's man in Rome was a wily Italian diplomat named Gregorio Casali who drew no limits on skullduggery including kidnapping, bribery and theft to make his king a free man. In this absorbing narrative, winner of the Rome Fellowship prize and University of Durham historian Catherine Fletcher draws on hundreds of previously-unknown Italian archive documents to tell the colorful tale from the inside story inside the Vatican"--Provided by publisher.… (more)
  1. 00
    Letters of Henry VIII, 1526--29: Extracts from the Calendar of State Papers of Henry VIII by Tim Coates (lilithcat)
    lilithcat: This book of correspondence among various players in this drama, including Casali, shows at first-hand the machinations and manœuverings that went on.

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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an intereting book highlighting the ins and outs of papal diplomacy in the 16th century. It got a little drawn out towards the end but the overall narrative is pretty fascinating. ( )
1 vote tanzanite | Dec 4, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read a lot of Tudor related books -- both historical and historical fiction. This book is a fascinating read that (for once!) does not simply regurgitate the same information and facts that are all present in each of the many Tudor-related books that are released. First of all, Catherine Fletcher is no slouch -- as the promotional material states she holds a PhD in history from the University of London. Secondly, she has taken the entire matter of Henry's divorce and the related break with Rome and turned it on its head by digging through the Italian and Vatican archives to find documents that detail the correspondence going on between London and the Vatican as well as documents pertaining to the inner workings of the Vatican in its attempt to find a solution (or block a solution) to Henry's little problem: Katherine of Aaragon who just happened to be the niece of the King of Spain.

If you've read the other books about Henry VIII and think you're ready for a more scholarly look at the issue from a relatively new angle pick up this book. ( )
1 vote KellyHewitt | Oct 22, 2013 |
I discovered this book through a post on the History Matters blog, "How Book Covers Sell History". The book was originally titled Our Man in Rome: Henry VIII and his Italian Ambassador, with a cover image of a man's hands leafing through a book on a table, a small folded document lying next to the book. But for the US edition and for the UK paperback, the title was changed to The Divorce of Henry VIII: the untold story from inside the Vatican, and the cover art is now a portrait of Henry.

The change was a mistake. This is not just another "Henry divorces Catherine to marry his bimbo and creates the Church of England" book. It's really the story of Gregorio Casali, Henry's ambassador at the Vatican, and Renaissance diplomacy in general, seen through the lens of Henry's "great matter". I'd likely have skipped this one if I'd just seen the later title, and I expect that some people drawn to the book by that title may be disappointed, though one hopes that others will find an interesting new field to explore.

One must have needed strong nerves to serve as an ambassador at this time. Communications - yours to your prince and your prince's to you - took time, assuming they arrived at all; your messengers might succumb at any time to bandits, kidnapping, illness, or sheer exhaustion. You had to expect that your letters would be intercepted. You might need to act on your own, and hope that your actions would meet with your prince's approval. And in a time when the great powers of France and the Holy Roman Empire won and lost allies as those allies' interests changed, you could never be sure who was your friend and who your enemy.

The story of Gregorio Casali is also one of the importance of family in this time. His own career was aided by family ties to the Vatican and Roman nobility. Because of those ever-shifting alliances, and (to borrow one of Fletcher's chapter titles) the ingratitude of princes, it helped to have multiple irons in the fire. So Gregorio did his best to find posts for his brothers that would tie the family to other European powers in the event that his connection with England collapsed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and learned a great deal. Though I have read a fair bit about this period, I am by no means a Renaissance scholar. I did not know, for instance, how common it was for countries to be officially represented abroad by non-citizens, something that would raise eyebrows today. Nor did I know that there was a serious suggestion that Henry be allowed to commit bigamy (an idea he quite reasonably rejected on the grounds that it would cast doubt on the succession).

So come for the divorce and stay for the diplomacy. You won't be sorry.

Other recommended reading: Letters of Henry Viii, 1526--29: Extracts from the Calendar of State Papers of Henry VIII
  lilithcat | Mar 28, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The period of Henry the VIII has always held a fascination for me so I was excited to get this book. The nice thing about this book is that it is covering an area of the period that is not often covered. It is packed with information and took a bit to get into for me but I did enjoy it. It is a scholarly work and as such would not recommend it to all readers interested in the times. I was fascinated by all of the facets of politics that were occurring at the time and the level to which diplomats worked on their own. ( )
  goth_marionette | Dec 28, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have been an avid reader of the story of Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty since the tender age of ten. My mother gave me my first book about The War of the Roses at that age. (I was a precocious reader. ) I wanted to know more about these Lancasters I was reading about and this lead to Henry.

In all my reading I have not come across a book the focused on the subject told from the viewpoint of Henry's diplomatic corps.

I learned from Ms. Fletcher's tome a great deal about how diplomacy worked during this time period. There was new insight into how/why some decisions were taken. I found myself often feeling like I was re-reading a familiar scene from the other side of a mirror.

I have put the hardcover non-advanced readers version on my holiday gift list. ( )
  AzureMountain | Dec 12, 2012 |
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The divorce of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon is one of those great events of history. You probably know the story.
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On Friday May 17, 1527, a secret trial began in Westminster.
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