Bringing Henry VIII to Hay

This was my second visit to Hay and my first to the Winter Weekend. I had very fond memories of the May festival so was delighted to be invited to experience this beautiful part of the world in a different season. Because it was only a day trip, I set off from my home in London at the crack of dawn in order to make the most of it. Sadly, thanks to a slight disaster with my car (note to self: it takes diesel not petrol!), I arrived with only minutes to spare. But I hugely enjoyed the brief time that I spent there.

My subject this time was my new biography of Henry VIII, which tells the story of our most famous king through the eyes of the men who surrounded him throughout his life. Of course, when we say the name Henry VIII, we tend to think of the six wives. They might be the reason why he has gone down in history as our most famous king, but they only tell part of his story.

Exploring the men in Henry’s life reveals a very different king to the bloated tyrant of legend. They show him to be of fierce loyalty, abiding affection, vulnerability, fear and insecurity, as well as the more ruthless side to his character that we know so well.

Even though there have been numerous books written about Henry over the years – not to mention the plethora of television dramas, films and the like – it seems that people still can’t get enough of him. That was certainly the case at Hay, where I was delighted to see a packed-out marquee for my talk. Discussing Henry through the eyes of his men sparked some fantastic questions and comments – and, I hope, a little more sympathy for this most notorious of monarchs.

Tracy Borman’s new book, Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him, was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 1 November.