Young Henry

The Rise of Henry VIII

Robert Hutchinson

Thomas Dunne Books

Set during the same years of Henry VIII’s life as The Tudors, this book charts his rise as a magnificent and ruthless monarch

Immortalized as a domineering king, notorious philanderer, and the unlikely benefactor of a new church, Henry VIII became a legend during his own reign. Who, though, was the young royal who would grow up to become England’s most infamous ruler? Robert Hutchinson’s Young Henry examines Henry Tudor’s childhood beginnings and subsequent rise to power in the most intimate retelling of his early life to date.

While Henry’s elder brother Arthur was scrupulously groomed for the crown by their autocratic father, the ten-year-old “spare heir” enjoyed a more carefree childhood, given prestige and power without the looming pressures of the throne. Everything changed for the young prince, though, when his brother died. Henry was nine weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday when he inherited both his brother’s widow and the crown.

As King, Henry preferred magnificence and merriment to his royal responsibilities, sweeping away the musty cobwebs of his father's court with feasting, dancing, and sport. Frustrated, too, by the seeming inability of his wife, Katherine of Aragon, to produce an heir, Henry turned his attention to a prospective second queen whose name would endure as long as his: Anne Boleyn. With the king still lacking a successor by the age of 35, however, the time for youthful frolic had come to an end.

Divorcing his wife and the Catholic Church, executing his lover and his violent will, Henry charged forward on a scandalous path of terrifying self-indulgence from which there was no turning back. Young Henry is an illuminating portrait of this tyrannical yet groundbreaking king—before he transformed his country, and the face of the monarchy, irrevocably.


Read an Excerpt

Young Henry
'At about three of the clock ... was conveyed through the city [of London] with many lords and gentlemen, the Duke of York, second son of the king, a child of about four years or thereabouts ... sitting alone on a courser, [he] was had unto Westminster to the king.'Henry's official entrance into London before being knighted by his father, 29 October 1494.1 
Henry VIII was born into a very structured and disciplined world. Comprehensive directives had been laid down for his mother's confinement, the fixtures and


Praise for Young Henry


“Hutchinson complements his biography of the old king (The Last Days of Henry VIII, 2005) with this portrait of the young monarch up to the late 1520s, when Henry had turned against his chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, for failing to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon. She, of course, had been previously married to Henry’s elder brother, Arthur, whose death cleared the way for Henry’s ascension to the throne. Katherine’s role as her father’s diplomatic pawn is prominent in Hutchinson’s account, which after a run through Henry’s infancy and adolescence that is replete with descriptions of his accoutrements and investitures, settles into twentysomething Henry’s effort to live up to a late medieval king’s job description as warrior-in-chief. He did so with his capture of a few French towns in the 1510s. Henry’s return to his realm, devotion to courtly revels, and vexation over Katherine’s inability to beget a male heir occupy the balance of Hutchinson’s narrative. Pulling quotations from the archives that convey Henry’s pious yet imperious personality, Hutchinson ably meets history fans’ unflagging fascination with Henry VIII.”

"Anyone who sees history as boring should be given Robert Hutchinson’s book post haste. Without sacrificing facts and research, he has the ability to construct an absolutely compelling narrative and, though I never thought I’d say this of a book on Thomas Cromwell, one that is impossible to put down. He is one of the few authors who keep you up till 3 a.m."
—The Bookseller

“Although Hutchinson, a British journalist and former publishing director, points out that Henry VIII was not the “great libertine with an insatiable debauched appetite that some fiction writers would have us believe,” his fifth book on Tudor England (Elizabeth’s Spy Master) should still please those fans of the salacious television series The Tudors who would like to set Henry’s early reign in its proper factual context. Hutchinson delves into the forces that shaped Henry VIII from his birth in 1491 to the birth in 1533 of his daughter Elizabeth. Hutchinson is admirable at pulling out amusing tidbits from the primary sources he obviously plumbed to write this breezy account of how Henry’s cloistered youth influenced his public role as monarch. Hutchinson points out that the early Tudors realized their hold upon the English throne would always be precarious, and thus ruthlessly eliminated rival claimants and were obsessed about producing enough male heirs to ensure the succession. While often enlivened by Hutchinson’s irreverent commentary, the book bogs down in detail at times, and skips over pertinent information at others.”
—Publishers Weekly

"Robert Hutchison's Young Henry, set during the same period of Henry VIII's life as The Tudors, proves a factual complement to the television drama that has captured modern imaginations. Hutchison (working backward from his previous Last Days of Henry VIII) plumbs myriad historical documents to prove that Henry, rather than the "great libertine with an insatiable debauched appetite" of popular legend, was a fun-loving, spirited young man with a bit of an obsession with creating an heir to the Tudor line. Henry VIII was a third son, but after his brothers' deaths, the responsibilities of the crown fell to him--including wedding Katherine of Aragon, the queen infamously set aside in favor of Anne Boleyn in later years. Young Henry begins with Henry's childhood, covering everything from his education to his first exposures to the pomp and circumstance of court. He then moves on to Henry's young adult years, a time marked by elaborate -and expensive- celebrations, a series of failed military endeavors and a surprising amount of piety. Ending just after the courting of Anne Boleyn, Young Henry provides a focused approach to understanding the crazed Henry VIII remembered by future generations: a man fixated on the idea of creating a male heir, no matter the cost. Though it can be difficult at times to follow all the names and relationships Hutchison covers, anyone with a passing interest in Tudor history will catch up quickly and delight in a detailed profile of one of England's most famous--and infamous--monarchs."
Shelf Awareness


"a gruesome story, of pride, greed and flaunting arrogance, blood and cruelty, cunning and stupidity... [Robert Hutchinson] has created a delightful and instructive book."Paul Johnson, Literary Review

"the narrative is compelling and horrible... It is a riveting story, splendidly told."Allan Massie, The Daily Telegraph

Robert Hutchinson gives a thoughtful sideways view onto 16th century court politics in House of Treason... a fascinating account of the Howard dynasty"Dominic Sandbrook, The Daily Telegraph ‘Books of the Year'

"Hutchinson is a lively biographer and brings the period vividly to life. One has a keen sense of its sights and smells as well as the less immediate stink of fear, betrayal and unbearable pain. This book gives a balanced view of the choices and compromises, the moral subtleties and the physical horrors of the age."The Tablet


"Hutchinson tell's the horrible story admirably and compellingly, acknowledging Cromwell's rare abilities, while making no excuses for his character..."Allan Massie, The Observer

"gripping... Hutchinson tells his story with infectious relish and vividly evokes the politics and personalities of this extraordinary decade."Anne Somerset, Literary Review


"Robert Hutchinson's lucid and learned volume gives us a vivid portrait of Walsingham... an excellent book."Frank McLynn, Independent on Sunday

"Walsingham emerges from these pages as a hero of epic stature."Daily Telegraph

"full of stimulating detail... vivid glimpses of the world of Elizabethan espionage"Simon Callow, The Guardian

"Hutchinson neatly combines his expert knowledge with an impressive narrative suspense and mordant sense of humour... A darkly informative read."Waterstone’s Books Quarterly


"The idea of looking in depth at the 1540s is terrific... genuinely original... fresh and interesting..."—The Sunday Times

"... the scholarship of this book is meticulous... Hutchinson brilliantly conveys the atmosphere of terror... a gripping narrative... Hutchinson provides an across-the-spectrum grand slam portrait of the second Tudor monarch. No one writing about Henry VIII in the future will be able to ignore this magnificent book."—Frank McLynn, Daily Express

"gripping... This is a scholarly but racy account focusing on the final four years of Henry's long reign."—The Field

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Robert Hutchinson

  • ROBERT HUTCHINSON is a historian, archaeologist, and broadcast journalist, most recently chairing the media division of Britain’s Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee. Hutchinson has written several books on the history of the Tudors, including Last Days of Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s Spymaster, and Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister, as well as contributing to The History Channel’s Inside the Body of Henry VIII. He lives in England.

  • Robert Hutchinson


Available Formats and Book Details

Young Henry

The Rise of Henry VIII

Robert Hutchinson



Thomas Dunne Books