Book Review: Henry VIII – Tudor Serial Killer: His Victims and their Stories by Gerard Batten
I was interested to read this book, first of all, because it seemed to me that the title is expressing the view of many Ricardians, who find it baffling that Richard III is seen by many as the archetypal murderous tyrant when clearly Henry VIII was far more murderous and tyrannical.
The book begins by examining whether Henry could be justifiably called a psychopath, and I think the answer is pretty unequivocal. The author cites a book which ranks Henry against a psychological spectrum designed to identify psychopathic traits, in which Henry scored 174 where the starting score for a psychopath is 168. He scored particularly high for emotional detachment and ruthlessness.
Henry’s health and injuries are also considered and the author points out that, if his behaviour deteriorated after his famous jousting accident, he was already showing some of those psychopathic tendencies before that.
About seventy of Henry’s victims and the reasons for their demise are explored, grouped according to these reasons. There is some overlap, but generally I feel this is quite a sensible way of organising the book – it tends to sort them naturally in a more or less chronological order as well.
There is a ‘Verdict’ given in Chapter 19 which states his good and bad qualities, but the author does seem to admire his strength and the effects of Henry’s break with Rome, stating that his negative characteristics contributed to his being able to force through his radical changes. This praise for Henry’s ‘freeing the English nation from the influence and power of a foreign potentate’ (the Pope) serves to reinforce the author’s own political agenda, as he is opposed to England being ruled by Europe, as a UKIP MEP.
He then goes on to cite the discovery of Richard III’s remains and the information revealed by his DNA’s analysis, speculating on how much could be discovered if other monarchs’ remains could be similarly examined.
Finally, there are two Appendices – the first listing all of Henry’s victims in chronological order and the second pointing out which English monarchs’ tombs have already been disturbed.
Mr Batten does not say much about Richard and, in the scant remarks he does make, he states that Richard ‘murdered his rivals’ to obtain the throne. However, when analysing the execution of Edward, Earl of Warwick (George’s son), he does point out that he was well treated by Richard. This pleased me until I read the end of the paragraph: ‘had Richard been quite the monster of Shakespeare’s play then we might have expected him to have done away with young Edward in 1483 along with the Princes in the Tower, (my italics) but he did not.’ His source for this view is Alison Weir.
All in all, the tragedies of Henry’s victims are brought home to the reader by becoming more personalised and I think this makes it worth a look.