Book Review: The King Is Dead by Suzannah Lipscomb

Title: The King Is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII
Author: Suzannah Lipscomb
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Source: Library
Date Finished: January 17, 2021
Grade: A-


On 28 January 1547, the sickly and obese King Henry VIII died at Whitehall. Just hours before his passing, his last will and testament had been read, stamped, and sealed. The will confirmed the line of succession as Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth; and, following them, the Grey and Suffolk families. It also listed bequests to the king’s most trusted councillors and servants.

Henry’s will is one of the most intriguing and contested documents in British history. Historians have disagreed over its intended meaning, its authenticity and validity, and the circumstances of its creation. As well as examining the background to the drafting of the will and describing Henry’s last days, Suzannah Lipscomb offers her own illuminating interpretation of one of the most significant constitutional documents of the Tudor period.


What I love about this is that Suzannah Lipscomb took a topic generally agreed upon by current and past historians, turned it on its head, and gave detailed explanations as to why she’s right. I don’t have much of an opinion myself on the veracity of Henry VIII’s will or even his religion, but I do find it interesting to read about them. The facsimiles of the original documents, as well as the inclusion of Henry’s final will (verbatim with original spelling) were fascinating to look through. I’ve had an interest in the Tudors ever since I read a biography of Anne Boleyn in the seventh grade, so I usually find any book about them to be interesting. This one was no exception. I’ve been meaning to read Lipscomb’s work for years, and this was a good introduction.

While the details and lists of names could drag on for a bit, I understand that it is important to include them, of course. That is probably the only thing that detracts from my rating. This is going to be a book for a very niche group of people. Most readers will want a cursory overview of the Tudor period, but for those of us who want to take a deeper dive into this fascinating and often turbulent time and the lives of those who lived in it, this book is an excellent choice.

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Book Links

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