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The Other Tudors : Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards

by Philippa Jones

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249882,738 (2.77)4
'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.

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I gave up about 40 pages into it. The author was making unsupported claims about what certain historical figures thought and felt. The writing sometimes went way off course. It's still on my bedside table in case I get an irresistible urge for some Tudor trashtalk, but I think I'm ready to throw in the towel on this one. ( )
  MizzBirdsong | Oct 25, 2020 |
Although personally televisionless, I saw a couple of episodes of The Tudors at friend’s homes and found it historically dubious but satisfactorily entertaining. The Other Tudors is somewhat similar, although author Philippa Jones meets history at least half way. Henry VIII’s only acknowledged illegitimate offspring was Henry Fitzroy, latter Duke of Somerset and Richmond; therefore Fitzroy’s mother Elizabeth Blount was Henry VIII’s only “acknowledged” mistress. In France, “royal mistress” was actually an official title; this was never the case in England; thus without the testimony of invisible time-travelers in the Royal Bedchamber there’s no way of knowing for sure who Henry VIII was playing hide-the-Royal-Scepter with. Ms. Jones discusses a bevy of other potential mistresses, whose credentials range from almost certain (Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister) to speculative (Mary Berkeley) to outright fictional (Lady Eleanor Luke, who appears in The Tudors as a plot device to give Anne Boleyn somebody to be jealous of before Jane Seymour). The Royal Bastards are obviously even more speculative; Jones argues that Henry VIII was reluctant to acknowledge illegitimate children since they were potential claimants to the throne (not terribly unreasonable, considering the claim of the Tudor dynasty itself) and therefore married his discarded mistresses off to accommodating husbands if and as soon as they became pregnant.

Thus, if The Other Tudors is considered as a straightforward history identifying mistresses and bastards, it’s pretty dubious. OTOH, if it’s considered as a series of short biographies of Tudor characters, chosen arbitrarily on the basis of putative relation to Henry VIII, it’s pretty interesting. Henry’s perhaps son by Mary Boleyn, for example, was Henry Carey, eventually Baron Hunsdon. Hunsdon became a favorite of his putative sister, Elizabeth I, and was appointed to a series of increasingly important posts – Master of the Queen’s Hawks (1560); Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners (1564); Lord Warden of the Eastern Marches and Governor of Berwick (1568), Privy Councilor (1577), and Lord Chamberlain of the Household (1585), among others. As Lord Chamberlain, he organized an acting troop – The Lord Chamberlain’s Men – to amuse Elizabeth; they had their own theater, The Globe, and their own stable of actors and playwrights – including William Kemp, Philip Burbage, and William Shakespeare. Imagine that. Elizabeth arranged for Carey/Hunsdon to have a monument in Westminster Abbey; I’ll have to check it out if I ever get there again.

Another supposed mistress was Margaret Shelton, lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn. The Imperial Ambassador reported Henry was “enamored” of her; Jones claims “most scholars” acknowledge she was the king’s mistress, and since Henry eventually did pick another one of Anne’s ladies (Jane Seymour) as queen it’s not unreasonable. If so, Margaret Shelton didn’t have any royal offspring; she eventually married Sir Thomas Wodehouse and eventually became the direct maternal ancestor of P.G. Wodehouse. Imagine that.

Mary Berkeley supposedly became Henry’s mistress after her marriage to Sir Thomas Perrot; Henry stayed at Berkeley Castle periodically to hunt with Sir Thomas and engendered a son, John, eventually Sir John Perrot. The Mary-as-mistress claim is based on the argument that contemporaries criticized Sir Thomas as being much more interested in hunting than in his wife – reportedly there’s a stanza in The Fairie Queene identifying Mary as “fair Thyamis”, Sir Thomas as “Therion, a lose unruly swayne” and John Perrot as “Sir Satyrane”, “begotten” on “Thyamis” rather than her son by “Therion”. The other lines of “evidence” are that Henry and Elizabeth treated Sir John – who had an uncontrollable temper - with considerable indulgence, ignoring various brawls and outbursts that would have been treasonable if taken seriously. Under Elizabeth, Sir John was sent to Ireland twice, once as President of Munster and once as Lord Deputy. Ireland seems like an odd choice for a man whose whole reputation was based on lack of tact and diplomacy, but Sir John seems to have risen to the occasion and governed Ireland to the mutual satisfaction – or at least, equal dissatisfaction – of both the Irish and English. Nevertheless, he made enough enemies that a whispering campaign caused him to be withdrawn to England and eventually sent to The Tower where he was found guilty of treason in 1592 (supposedly he said “God’s Death! Will the Queen suffer her brother to be offered up a sacrifice to the envy of his frisking adversary?” indicating that he thought he was Henry VIII’s son – although Jones allows there’s no solid evidence Perrot ever actually made such a statement). Although Elizabeth might have eventually pardoned Perrot – she allowed his son to inherit – the question became moot when Sir John died in the Tower later in 1592. The “imagine that” item here is that Jones’s claim that a direct descendant of Sir John – and therefore possibly a direct descendant of Henry VIII – is a dentist working in Essex. (I can’t find any such person on the Web – but I haven’t looked very hard; I note in passing that there are claims that Ross Perot is also a descendant of Sir John Perrot).

Interesting enough although rather convoluted; if all the possible candidates actually were mistresses of Henry VIII it’s surprising he ever found time for matters of state. No maps, which would have come in handy, but there’s a genealogical chart at the front of every chapter. No references, except in endnotes; pictures of some of the interested parties. Might be of interest to anyone romantically inclined who saw The Tudors. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 28, 2017 |
Henry VIII is one of those historical figures that most everyone has heard of, even those today not interested in history. He’s usually remembered for being the dude with six wives and being a really nasty tyrant. It’s intriguing to see him in a different light, through the different lenses of his different wives, mistresses, and illegitimate children. He’s still a tyrant but one who’s a bit more understandable and relatable.

It was interesting to examine the personage of Henry from the point of view of someone eternally looking for his definition of love. He sounds like a perfectionist that was always looking for an ideal that didn’t exist, not letting anything or anyone stand in the way of that pursuit. That balanced with the demands of his kingdom and ruling gives us one of the biggest names in history.

I love exploring obscure historical figures, and you can’t get more obscure than a royal mistress with no name (as one example of Henry’s many loves). This book goes into detail the lives of the women who shared his heard and bed, however little a time that may be. The children that resulted from those liaisons round out a picture of a man who felt deep, intensely, but briefly.

Despite the subject matter and the exploration of obscure historical figures, this book had a major flaw. The author tended to wordiness, to the point where I got bored to tears at times. She would spend pages after pages after pages on the minutiae of Henry’s children’s lives, up to old age, that I felt like we lost sight of the book’s intentions or goals.

The introduction led me to believe that we were exploring Henry’s loves and children as a reflection of him as a person and that goal was reached for the most of the book. Yet, at times, way too much information was included in the narrative, and I got lost in the shuffle.

A stimulating subject and the depth of knowledge and research behind this book grab the attention of readers. However, this book suffers by an overly-verbose delivery that drags it down. I got lost in a slew of facts and figures that seemed to deviate and meander away from the central topic. While interesting in their own right, I felt like some of the meanders were out of place and boring in this book. Now a bad work on this subject but not the best either. ( )
1 vote Sarah_Gruwell | Sep 8, 2016 |
I enjoyed some parts of the book, and other parts I felt tempted to skim. The tone of the book is definitely academic and not for those with merely passing or casual interest in the Tudor period. But the tone (in my opinion) sets certain expectations for the accuracy of the writing and the substance of the research that I felt were not met. There were occasional errors in names, but the errors I noticed most (besides spelling) were dates. (Example: Elizabeth Amadas is said to have married for the second time in 1532. two sentences later, her BIRTH year in given as 1580, and it is stated that she would have been around 50 at the time of her second marriage.)

The background on the individuals assumed to be Henry's "other" illegitimate children was interesting, but at times a bit too in-depth. (The contents of the letters to the Council concerning the childish bickering between Loftus and Perrot in Ireland, for example, added nothing to my enjoyment of the book or understanding of the person...but it was one of the more detailed chapters.) I agree with other readers that the author tends to make sweeping generalizations and assumptions that she does not back up with adequate sources. Some of them are interesting -- after all, new theories have to begin somewhere, right? Some of them are almost laughable, when viewed against other works with better support, though I am not one to dismiss ideas simply because no one else has ever said it. The author even points out claims made (and in some cases, even generally accepted) that turn out to have only one obscure -- and possibly even anachronistic -- source. But with the wealth of writing that exists on the Tudor period, some of the assumptions made in this work feel lazy rather than new or daring.

Overall, I am glad I read this book. I would not recommend it as a source for any historical research, unless you were to use it as a starting point for digging deeper and finding MORE support for some of the claims made herein (if such support exists). Having read numerous nonfiction and historical fiction writings on Henry VIII and the Tudor period, it was, at the very least, interesting to see some of the more peripheral names cropping up in the genealogies and events. ( )
1 vote tarheel96 | Apr 11, 2014 |
This book is not a reliable history book. Jones speculates that Henry VIII had more mistresses and children than any other historian thinks he did. There is a lot of maybe, could have, etc. The chronology of the book is also odd. I wondered where some of the information came from and looked at the bibliography at the end of the book. I was surprised and annoyed to see WIKIPEDIA there. I spend so much time teaching my students NEVER use Wikipedia as a scholarly source and was horrified to see it in this book!! ( )
  gildaclone | Sep 20, 2013 |
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'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.

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