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Henry VIII's Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey [Hardcover]

Jessie Childs
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Dec 10 2007

A pioneering poet whose verse had a profound impact on Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, Surrey was nevertheless branded by one contemporary as “the most foolish proud boy that is in England.” He was the heir of England’s premier nobleman, first cousin to two of Henry VIII’s wives---Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard---and best friend and brother-in-law to the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.

Celebrated for his chivalrous deeds both on and off the battlefield, Surrey became, at only twenty-eight, the King’s Lieutenant General in France. He had his portrait painted more often than any other Tudor courtier, but his confident exterior masked insecurity and loneliness. A man of intriguing contradictions, Surrey was both law enforcer and law breaker, political conservative and religious reformer. The self-styled guardian of the traditional nobility, he was recklessly outspoken against the “new erected men” of the court. Cromwell was a “foul churl,” Paget a “mean creature,” and the problems that beset Henry VIII’s realm were, Surrey hinted, “the bitter fruit of false concupiscence.”

He witnessed and was inextricably caught up in all the major events of the reign: the break with Rome, the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Reformation, the executions of his two cousins, Henry’s French wars, and the brutal power struggle at the end of the reign to which he fell victim. His life, replete with drunken escapades, battlefield heroics, conspiracy, and courtroom drama, sheds new light on the opulence and artifice of a dazzling, but deadly, age.

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Praise for  Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

“Rarely have I felt so utterly captivated by a history book. It is stunning. Jessie Childs is a major new talent.” ---Alison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII

“A truly superb biography.”---A. N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph (UK)


“Judging from her debut with this riveting life of the brilliant, doomed Earl of Surrey, Jessie Childs is a rising star among historians. Just when we thought everything had been said about Henry VIII she makes us see him from a completely new angle. Her scholarship is inspired and her prose sparkles.” ---Desmond Seward, author of The Hundred Years War


“Childs’s book, beautifully written and researched, explores with subtlety the forces that made and destroyed Surrey.”---The Mail on Sunday (UK)


“Childs’ description of [the] complex maneuverings [at Henry VIII’s court] is excellent . . . this book opens a fascinating window to the mid-Tudor world . . .”---The Guardian (UK)


“This is a rumbustious tale and well worth the retelling but what makes this biography special is the quality of the writing. It is as fluid and engaging as the research is careful and penetrating.”---History Today (UK)


“A fascinating story . . . a very readable and diligently researched book.”---The Literary Review (UK)



About the Author

Jessie Childs, born in England in 1976, was educated at Oxford and has worked in television as a researcher for historical documentaries. Henry VIII’s Last Victim is her first book. It won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography 2007. She lives in London, England.

Visit her online at www.jessiechilds.co.uk.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
So you are looking for a reliable historical study that confirms and puts in proper context a lot of the great historical fiction that is coming out on the Tudor Era: well, why not try the English historian Jessie Childs's recent work, "Henry VIII's Last Victim" for starters. This writer recounts the story of the Henrician Revolution - the period in the early 16th century when England was transformed politically - through the often misplaced efforts of one the kingdom's leading aristocratic families, the Norfolks. In the space of several decades, this baronial family strived to dominate the royal court by currying favour with a capricious and jealous monarchs. The book takes stock of who the Duke and his family represented as power brokers in the realm, and how Henry and his other advisors used them to pursue an aggressive war policy against Scotland and at times France and Austria. Thomas, Third Duke of Norfolk, the uncle of Anne Boleyn, is portrayed as a wool-and-dye Catholic who eagerly sought to head up the King's council and defend the papal interests against the onslaughts of the reform party. As history shows, his ride to the top, while eventful, was bumpy and ultimately disappointing. His son, the Earl of Surrey and the darling of traditional circles, was seen as the person who would finish the ride and claim the prominence that so eluded him because of the failings of his family, including his wife and nieces. It is here that the book really takes off. The reader gets an insider's view of how a young lord was trained back then to assume the responsibilities of a magnate at the highest level of power. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Study May 29 2011
By John Spiers - Published on Amazon.com
Your interest in Renaissance and Elizabethan times will be well served by this book, for you will understand the daughter much better when you come to know her father. The title of the book refers to Surrey, who I'd never really encountered before. The combination of talent in literature (he invented the English sonnet), sense of entitlement, daring with the backdrop of those uncertain times make a fascinating subject.

The author Jessie Childs is up there with Spence, Kurlansky and Schama for turning history into a rollicking good read. She, like the others, gives the history by telling the experience of a given player. Childs shows her subject, Surrey, from youth to a premature death, from despair to glory, over time and place. Surreys are central figures of their times, so the cast of characters is wide. Her scholarship is first rate, and I await more from her.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fills in some gaps Nov. 26 2008
By Mercedes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although this book was very helpful in filling the gaps usually left by general histories, I found the depiction of Earl of Surrey to be flat and two-dimensional. After finishing the book, I didn't really feel that I knew him much better than before I started. However, I did have a much clearer understanding of the difficult tightrope walked by every person who came into contact with the court during this stressful era.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writer, fascinating subject June 3 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a real treat. Surrey is so important in the history of English poetry and his life was too short. Jessie Childs is a careful researcher and writer and this book is well worth reading.
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