Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Monarch and Conspirators: The Wives and Woes of Henry VIII, by John Van Duyn Southworth, narrates the life and times of one of England’s most colorful and controversial monarchs. Although focusing on Henry VIII and his immediate family, Southworth not only tells Henry’s unusual marital history but also describes England’s rise to the status of a major European power and its break from allegiance to the Roman Catholic church. The book’s central theme is the establishment of the house of Tudor and its quest for dynastic security. Southworth contends that it was Henry VIII’s need for a male heir to guarantee the succession that drove him to marry six times. The first and last chapters of Monarch and Conspirators continue this theme. The former describes the Wars of the Roses, the advent of the Tudors, and the reign of Henry VII; the latter completes the story by describing the dynastic struggles faced by each of Henry VlII’s children.

The pivotal point in Henry’s reign came in the mid-1520’s when, despite years of marriage, Princess Mary was the only surviving child of Henry and Catherine of Aragon. It was then that Henry remembered the doubts that he had first expressed when the match between him and Catherine, the recently widowed wife of his brother Arthur, was proposed. These doubts were based on Leviticus’ warning that “if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: they shall be childless.”...

(The entire section is 447 words.)