Book Review – ‘Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies’ by Richard Heath

Thanks to Pen and Sword for gifting me a copy of this to review.

This is a new and interesting take on two of the biggest international figures of the sixteenth century. There are a lot of biographies on Henry VIII, fewer on Charles V, and I believe this is the first that examines these two big egos side by side. I knew a lot about Henry VIII before going into this book but a lot less about Charles V, so from that angle this book was fascinating.

It is obviously the result of a lot of years of research into both historical figures and it is very well-written to boot. It has a comprehensive bibliography, index, and a good selection of images in the central plate section. I also really like the bit at the beginning which explains about the use of names and spellings, given that both English and Spanish are used throughout.

A few very minor errors, probably just missed as I know I’ve done, like Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, being referred to as Reginald Gardiner, probably a mix up with Reginald Pole. There is also a suggestion that Thomas Culpeper confessed to intercourse with Katherine Howard, but from what I’ve read he never confessed to that, only to the fact that he wanted to, unless I’ve missed something.

A great exploration of two of the key figures in sixteenth century Europe, and well worth a read for anyone who is interested in the Tudors, particularly foreign relations, and those interested also from the Imperial point of view as both sides come across as equally important in this new exploration of Henry VIII and Charles V.


  1. Dynastic Marriages and the Anglo-Spanish Alliance
  2. The Education of Princes
  3. Overseas Adventures
  4. New Rivalries
  5. The Imperial Election and Royal Meetings
  6. Taking Sides
  7. Charles in England
  8. The ‘Great Enterprise’
  9. Rapidly Changing Alliances
  10. Personal Matters
  11. Hopes Destroyed
  12. Coronation and Divorce
  13. Unrealistic Fears
  14. Dangerous Isolation
  15. Renewed Friendship
  16. Conflicting Aims
  17. The End of an Era
  18. After Henry

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