Chosen by Waterstones as one of their best books of 2023

In grand royal palaces, Prince Harry grows up dreaming of knights and chivalry – and the golden age of kings that awaits his older brother. But Arthur’s untimely death sees Harry crowned King Henry of England. As his power and influence extends, so commences, a lifelong battle between head and heart, love and duty. Henry rules by divine right, yet his prayers for a son go unanswered. The future of his great dynasty depends on an heir. And the crown weighs heavy on a king with all but his one true desire.

Above: Limited edition proof jacket

Alison Weir’s most ambitious Tudor novel yet reveals the captivating story of a man who was by turns brilliant, romantic, and ruthless: the King who changed England forever.

"After writing the Six Tudor Queens series of novels on the wives of Henry VIII, all written from each queen’s point of view, I thought it would be interesting to give Henry himself a voice in fiction. The result is this novel, Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown, which imagines the story of his life as he saw it. My aim was to explore not only his relationships with his wives from a very different viewpoint, but also his interactions with the men who dominated his reign: Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer and a host of others who were close to the King. I also wanted to show what made Henry the man he later became, whom some perceive as a tyrant or even a monster; my aim was to draw a more balanced portrait, and to analyse and understand Henry’s complex character.

So meet Harry, golden prince and legendary king, the product of a fractured childhood and later a victim of a cruel fate that denies him the heirs he needs to secure the succession of the Tudor dynasty. The book begins when he is eleven years old and has been dealt the most painful blow of all. It follows him through his youth and reign, taking an epic journey through forty-four years of one of the most turbulent periods in history – as seen by England’s most famous, or (for some) notorious, King.

It’s a riveting tale, but ultimately a poignant one, and my hope is that readers will be left with a more sympathetic – and empathetic – view of a man who is all  too often portrayed as a caricature of his true self."

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"What an achievement to have brought Henry’s world to life – you’ve covered so much in this book, and the gradual change from raw youth to golden king to the declining power of a regretful man is beautifully done. It is intriguing to see the events of these extraordinary years from Henry’s viewpoint and to have a chance to understand what the queens could not, along with the vast political landscape that he had to navigate.
   There are so many moments of wonderful emotion and power, especially as Henry’s expectations of each great love crumbles or is suddenly destroyed, and as his impetuous moves bring consequences he couldn’t imagine – the losses of Wolsey, of Cromwell, even Katheryn – yet which he must justify to maintain his essential belief in himself. The politics and manoeuvring are key to the narrative development, and the shifting of allegiances around him and from him is fascinating. There’s so much rich description in the background to his world, and the ending is absolutely terrific!"

"What an extraordinary achievement this novel is. I too found the ending particularly moving, as the novel comes full circle – and it’s riveting to see all the key moments from the Six Tudor Queens series play out through Henry’s eyes. I found the passages where we see Henry as a father so compelling, especially the arc of his relationship with Mary, and the intimacy of the scene where he wonders if he is to blame for Jane losing their baby. And your perspective on Henry and Cromwell is absolutely fascinating – the friendship, the tension, Henry’s resolution to rule alone after Cromwell’s fall. Such insight into the King’s vulnerabilities and convictions!"


‘We’ve read all about the six wives... it’s time to bring Henry, the man who made and married them, back to centre stage. As always, Alison Weir is ahead of the curve – and at the top of her game. Her wide knowledge and unparalleled understanding of the Tudor era fuels a sympathetic, but never sycophantic, portrait of England’s most compelling king.’ (Sarah Gristwood, author of The Tudors in Love)

‘In her brilliant new novel Alison Weir achieves the impossible: she makes Henry VIII’s story feel like it has never been told before. Piecing together a wealth of rich period detail and eyewitness accounts, she gets under the skin of the man who is so often dismissed as a much-married monster and gives us an altogether more nuanced, compelling and human portrayal. This novel will open your eyes and, at times, break your heart. By the end of it, I felt like I had met Henry for the first time.’  'It’s a stunning book - an absolute tour de force. I didn’t want it to end. Hands down the best portrayal of Henry VIII I’ve ever read. Huge congratulations.' (Tracy Borman, author of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I: The Women Who Changed History)

‘Alison Weir has written a highly readable, knowledgeable and entertaining novel that her legions of readers will love.  Henry VIII is here in the flesh, from fresh, engaging youth to virile sovereign determined on European domination, to querulous elderly tyrant. This is royal Tudor life both in broad scope and intimate detail and readers are in for a sumptuous journey.’ (Elizabeth Chadwick)
‘What a book! Alison has done a fantastic and impressive job of bringing to life such a notorious historical figure as a multi-faceted, imperfect yet likeable and even, at times, pitiable character. It's a big book, yet moved along at quite a breathless pace – it was bittersweet and poignant to see his youthful optimism and big-heartedness gradually eroded and embittered. Likewise all his hopes and dreams for each marriage – I found myself wincing as one after another went horribly wrong! Complex, captivating and memorable.’ (Tracy Rees)

"Absolutely riveting." (A Little Book Problem)

"There’s no way we could do a summer historical fiction list without Alison Weir’s massive coda to her Six Wives series of novels, which takes on the brutal, extraordinary man who made their lives so memorable and miserable by turns." (Paste Magazine)

"In her newest biographical novel, royal expert Weir explores the viewpoint of this towering figure [Henry VIII], beginning with the passing of his beloved mother, the subject of her previous book, The Last White Rose (2022). Henry inherits a wealthy kingdom and indulges in tourneys, feasts, and luxurious clothing, which Weir evokes in detailed scenes of jaw-dropping extravagance. In well-paced fashion, readers view his transformation from fun-loving Renaissance man consumed with his glorious image to an aging, tyrannical king desperate to ensure the succession. Weir meticulously illustrates his significant relationships with not just his six wives but also his political allies and rivals and such shrewd advisers as Wolsey and Cromwell. Readers of her Six Tudor Queens series won’t find unexpected revelations here, but this believable tale is a solid choice for historical fiction devotees." (Booklist)

"Weir regales readers with the life of England’s King Henry VIII. What a life to be king, answerable only to God! Full of hormones and high privilege, Prince Henry, barely into his teens, can hardly wait to feel the weight of the crown on his brow and to marry his late brother’s wife, Katherine of Aragon...  Henry (or Harry, as he is sometimes called, takes great pleasure in his adulterous dalliances, in eating and jousting, and in his exercise of power. And don't even think of defying him or plotting against him, because you will die. Even predicting the King's death is deemed treason. Weir takes the abundant history and weaves imagined conversations and motivations into a delightful yarn. It's so much better to read about Henry VIII now than to have lived back then. An all-around fun read about a king and a cad." (Kirkus starred review*)

"This is characteristically dynamic, sympathetic stuff from one of historical fiction's biggest names." (BBC History Revealed)

"Deeply compelling. Weir, as always, brings the reader inside the head of her subject, presenting a Henry VIII who seems true to life and relatable. Far from the monster of popular perception, Weir’s Henry is a nuanced character constructed out of her very considerable research into Henry’s life and reign. The book draws the reader into Henry’s life and experience. I found it impossible to put down!" (Elizabeth Norton)

"Bringing history alive like no other, Alison Weir's second book in the Tudor Rose trilogy focuses on the captivating story of Henry VIII. A compelling read aboit the Tudor dynasty.' (My Weekly)

"Weir has taken on a mighty challenge in writing a novel from Henry’s perspective. Not only does the tale need to be internally consistent with [her] six other books, it has to give more than each of them, to make reading it worthwhile. It has to present Henry in a sufficiently sympathetic way as to engage the reader’s emotions, whilst not ignoring his often cruel and despotic behaviour. Finally, it has to answer some of the questions about why Henry was a serial failure at marriage. Weir’s many years of experience in both fiction and non-fiction writing about the period have enabled her to rise confidently to the challenge!"
(Tudor Times)

"This book was remarkable. I have no idea how someone can write a book like this – the research that must have gone into it is astonishing. I was engrossed. Weir is a remarkable historian and this book really brought this period of history to life for me. A must for history lovers everywhere!" (Always Need More Books)

"After spinning out the story of Henry's queens oveer the course of six meticulously researched novels, Weir gives Harry (as he's affectionately known here, a very readable royal right of reply. Well told." (The Daily Mail)

After the outstanding success of her groundbreaking Six Tudor Queens sequence of novels, author and historian Alison Weir returns with the second book of her thrilling Tudor Rose trilogy charting three generations of the Tudor dynasty. It’s a fittingly spectacular and enthralling story which began with Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose – the tumultuous tale of the first Tudor queen – and now moves into the author’s most ambitious project yet... the captivating and utterly compelling story of her brilliant, passionate and ruthless son Henry who changed England and the established Church forever. Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown was always going to be Weir’s most challenging novel yet but after penning six books from the point of view of Henry’s six wives, this consummate author decided it was ‘time Henry VIII had a say in a novel all to himself. Written entirely from Henry’s viewpoint, Weir has employed her vast historical knowledge to filter the many political and religious controversies of the day and focus on both the man and the issues which exercised the early 16th century, and Henry in particular. And it is through her in-depth research, spellbinding storytelling talents, gift for authenticity, and a tantalising slice of artistic licence, that we enjoy a stunning portrait of Henry as we have never before seen him... human, flawed, charismatic, dogged by what he sees as his failures, and now very much the star of his own story. Weir’s superbly nuanced and entirely plausible portrait of an unforgettable king is set against the cultural, social and political background of his glittering court. It is the very human, fallible side of the turbulent, complex Henry that Weir brings to vibrant and credible life with aplomb and empathy, giving a fresh and enlightening perspective of the prince who wasn’t born to be king, but became the king that everyone remembers. So often labelled a monster, Henry is finally allowed to tell his own moving, intensely personal and enlightening story – a tale of struggle, disappointment and pain packed with the powerful, principal players of the Tudor court and rich in historical detail, intrigue, passion and cruelty. Immersive, enthralling and unforgettable, this series turns real history into a stage... a magnificent showcase where we connect to the past, witness events unfold against a breathtakingly authentic backdrop, and see the world through the eyes and ears of the people who shaped the future." (Lancashire Post)

"Enthralling and vibrantly written.  Alison Weir terrifically brings to life the complex multifaceted King and captures magnificently the character of his wives and the court. The book is brimful of luscious portrayal of life during Tudor times – scents, the feel of cloth, the traditions, dress, politics and secrets of the court as well as intimate revelations. Readers discover an intricate, magnificent yet fictionalised life of a troubled man in his own words. Totally absorbing." (Sydney Arts Guide)

"An enthralling retelling of the life of one of Britain's most infamous monarchs." (Waterstones)

"What a man! What a life! What a book!" (reader review)

Having completed her Six Tudor Queens series of novels on the wives of Henry VIII, extensively researched and written from each queen’s point of view, Alison Weir now gives Henry himself a voice, telling the story of his remarkable thirty-seven-year reign and his six marriages. 
   Young Henry began his rule as a magnificent and chivalrous Renaissance prince who embodied every virtue. He had all the qualities to make a triumph of his kingship, yet we remember only the violence. Henry famously broke with the pope, founding the Church of England and launching a religious revolution that divided his kingdom. He beheaded two of his wives and cast aside two others. He died a suspicious, obese, disease-riddled tyrant, old before his time. His reign is remembered as one of dangerous intrigue and bloodshed—and yet the truth is far more complex.
   The King’s Pleasure brings to life the idealistic monarch who expanded Parliament, founded the Royal Navy, modernized medical training, composed music and poetry, and patronized the arts. A passionate man in search of true love, he was stymied by the imperative to produce a male heir, as much a victim of circumstance as his unhappy wives. Had fate been kinder to him, the history of England would have been very different.
   Here is the story of the private man. To his contemporaries, he was a great king, a legend in his own lifetime. And he left an extraordinary legacy: a modern Britain.

You can read my interview for the Historical Novel Society here:


Ahead of this new novel, Henry VIII: The Heart & The Crown, I invite readers to return to the sumptuous world of the Tudor court with this short companion story – told by the woman who knew Henry from the very beginning…
1491, Eltham Palace. Anne Oxenbridge is still mourning the loss of her young child when she accepts the position of wet nurse to Prince Harry, the Queen’s second son.
Beyond the silver cradles and luxurious Turkish carpets of the royal nursery, she knows there is something special about this baby – but never expected to love him as her own.
All too soon, singing and stories must be set aside in favour of books and learning. It appears that Anne’s time with her golden prince is also over . . . until a twist of fate reunites her with the boy who must now become King Henry VIII of England.

Original holding jacket.