Recommendation: ‘The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII’ by Dr Suzannah Lipscomb.

Henry VIII is one of the most well-known monarchs in British history and accordingly features in an impressive amount of films, TV shows and books. From Wolf Hall to Carry On Henry – he has been presented in a variety of ways.

Lipscomb’s book, rather than just being another addition to Henry’s bibliography, stands out as a great piece of work on an incredibly important historical document: Henry’s last will and testament. Key sources like these are the only reason we know anything about the past, and it is great to see them being explored in such depth. This particular source as noted in the blurb, “is one of the most intriguing – and contested – documents in British history”, due to the many historical debates that surround it. Historians have argued over why it was written and whether it is truly valid. Lipscomb explores the context of the will which includes a look at Henry’s last years, the will’s creation and the succession of his heir Edward VI. As well as this historical exploration, a transcript of the will and testament is included in early modern English.

The book itself is lovely, featuring images of the original document and portraits of key players of the period including Katherine Parr and John Dudley. It’s a great book that proved very useful when I was writing my dissertation: ‘The monstrous empire of a cruell woman’ – To what extent did sixteenth century views of women, in France, England and Scotland, define royal women’s ability to wield political power?, as this document was a key factor in the accession of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor respectively. Both Mary and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate, yet Henry’s last will and testament added them back into the succession, which was the basis for which they could both make their claims.

I would strongly recommend Lipscomb’s book for anyone wanting to explore Henry VIII and his legacy.

You can find it on the Waterstones website here

Book
The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb courtesy of suzannahlipscomb.com

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