The sub-title of Beverley A Murphy’s book Bastard Prince is “Henry VIII’s Lost Son”. Actually, I don’t think that anyone with any passing interest in Tudor history will have lost sight of Henry Fitzroy, the acknowledged illegitimate son of the king, and as he had a place in court and was given significant roles by his father I don’t think that “lost” is accurate. Although I knew most of what is in this book from Fitzroy’s appearance in other books of Tudor history I was pleased to read a book that concentrated solely on him and it helped to put more things in context.
This is an interesting book for the general reader who knows a bit about Tudor history but it does assume that you have a working knowledge of at least the outline of events in Henry’s court so it is probably not the best book to start with if you want to untangle the story of the time. Henry Fitzroy was the only son of Henry VIII who lived beyond early childhood during his lifetime although there were quite a few dead babies. As Henry’s chances of a legitimate male heir became slimmer Fitzroy potentially became more important. He could have been king or he could have been used by groups within the aristocracy to make themselves more powerful. He could be an asset to Henry or he could be a weapon against him. Of course, people at the time didn’t know that Henry’s third wife would bear him that legitimate son or that Fitzroy would die before that date.
I thought that the author told this story in a straightforward and interesting way. It was useful to have an understanding of how contemporary people thought about the situation. I hadn’t realised the full degree to which Henry acknowledged his son and cared for him. It was enlightening to see how Fitzroy was used for state roles but yet kept apart from the succession.
This is a book for those interested in Tudor history and for any who might wish to indulge in some thinking about what might have happened had Fitzroy lived. One author who has used her imagination about a possible future for Fitzroy is Tanya Huff and my review of her vampire novels which feature him is here.