Suzannah Lipscomb’s book 1536 is subtitled The Year that Changed Henry VIII. The historian claims that the Tudor king changed during the course of his reign from a carefree, intelligent, “golden” prince into a tyrant. Her argument is that the events of 1536 are what made the difference.
It was certainly a rough year for the king. Two of his queens died, one by his decree, he was humiliated across the “civilised” world because he was seen not to have been man enough to prevent his wife committing adultery and he sustained a leg injury which effectively put an end to his physical activity. He also hit 45 years of age which was seen as old at the time, lost his favoured illegitimate son who he had been considering as part of the line of succession and his subjects staged a march which could have resulted in his overthrow. The author lays out these and other events clearlyl showing how they came about and what effect they had on the king.
The argument is well put that this was the turning point of Henry’s life and that after this date he became tyrannical and despotic. I am not completely sure that the case is 100% made that it was this particular year but Henry’s character did change and it was at about this time of his life. The events that the author describes will certainly have played their part.
Suzannah Lispcomb is an excellent popular historian. I have read a number of her books and heard her speak live at an event (in the days when that was possible). This is not a long book but it is well laid out and the narrative flows well. I found it to be gripping reading although I already knew most of what I was reading. What is fascinating is the case that the author makes and also the whole question of Henry’s character. Despite his popular image as jolly he was a man who used and abused almost absolute power.
If you like your popular history or have an interest in Tudor history I highly recommend this book.