Fascinating ... Here, Borman’s deep background knowledge serves her—and the reader—well. The pages and years fly by, and one has the feeling of stepping into an engaging historical lecture by a master of the subject ... For readers curious about royal history or fascinated by the styles of leaders in our own time, Henry VIII: And the Men Who Made Him makes for a compelling read. And it will hopefully tide committed Tudor fans over until Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the final book in her trilogy about Cromwell, comes out—whenever that may be.
Beautifully perceptive and dynamic ... Readers will be intrigued by Borman’s tales of the interactions between the king and Charles Brandon, Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, Eustace Chapuys, and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk ... in this highly engrossing biography, the notoriously larger-than-life English monarch, seen from an original and revealing perspective, lives anew in full color and in the epic proportions he so well deserves. For all Tudor enthusiasts.
Borman has set aside the usual feminised beats of Henry’s reign (divorced, beheaded, died) to see the king through his interactions with other males ... Borman is a steady guide to this sad compendium of tyranny, although her book might have been arranged with a more ambitious format. The cover of my review copy depicts Henry surrounded by six men in place of six queens; a tighter focus on fewer characters would have elevated the book from a simple biography leaning into the customary sources.
Borman, the joint chief curator for Historic Royal Palaces, claims that this 'biography from the outside in' offers 'a new perspective'. That’s not quite true, since others, including Hilary Mantel, have ploughed a similar furrow. Leaving aside its grandiose boasts, Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him does offer some interesting insights into the king’s character.
... we know much less about the men who served Henry, from his closest spiritual advisors to his shrewdest economic counselors. Tracy Borman’s Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him tries to remedy that ill, with mixed results ... The background [Borman] provides, though somewhat long-winded, does indeed lead the reader to a greater understanding of Henry VIII’s lifelong motivations and bugbears, which were many and varied ... Borman does an excellent job describing Henry’s upbringing, from enumerating his talented tutors to depicting his participation in lavish court celebrations ... Regrettably, the author’s writing begins to veer off track as she chronicles Henry’s ascent to the throne ... Borman has cast her net of research so wide that it’s difficult, at least at first, to distinguish who the truly important figures were. By introducing so many minor players, she complicates the narrative ... Though at times confusing and meandering, Tracy Borman’s Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him is a solid portrayal of a monarch who, after hundreds of years, still manages to capture and hold the imagination of generations.
Borman essentially puts aside Henry VIII’s notorious and well-hashed relationships with women in favor of showcasing stories of the advisers and servants who surrounded the intelligent, mercurial king ... While such a large cast of figures could easily allow some to get lost, Borman’s enjoyable narrative revisits many of these men over a span of several years ... Borman’s astute analysis of Henry’s personality demonstrates how both low-born and noble advisers affected his reign ... Borman’s ambitious narrative shows that being a man in Henry’s court could be just as fraught—and fascinating.
Borman skillfully shows Henry maneuvering his men like chess pieces; when they opposed him, they suffered violent downfalls ... Tudor fans will enjoy this outside-in biography as a different view of a complicated monarch.