Book Review: “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies” by Richard Heath

75418858._SX318_Two kings, two rivals from different countries defined the 16th century. One was the spare to his father’s crown, but when his eldest brother suddenly passed away, he became the next Tudor king. The other was the sole heir to his parent’s large kingdom and would become the Holy Roman Emperor. Wars, the Reformation, and family drama kept these two men, Henry VIII and Charles V, busy and at each other’s throats. They would sometimes join and fight for one another’s causes, showing the importance of international politics. With each new scenario, their relationship would shift, either for the best or the worst. Richard Heath has combined the stories of these two monarchs, these “frenemies,” into one joint biography, “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I have read many books about Henry VIII, but Charles V was a side character in many of these books. When I saw this book, learning more about Charles V intrigued me.

Heath begins his book with Henry VIII, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was never destined to become king, but when his eldest brother, Arthur, died unexpectantly, he became the next King of England. In contrast, Charles V was destined to become King of Spain as he was the only son of King Philip I, King of Castile, and Queen Juana of Castile and Aragon. Henry VIII had multiple wives and one legitimate son who would not live long as king. In contrast, Charles V had one wife, Isabella of Portugal, and numerous children, including the next King of Spain, Philip II.

Henry VIII and Charles V had similar ideals and were raised to be devout Christians, even if the way they fought for their faith was different. Charles V’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon, was Henry VIII’s first wife. The two monarchs and their respective countries, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and England, enjoyed close relationships. However, the 16th century was notorious for its ever-shifting political landscape, especially concerning the wars in France, and Italy, that involved King Francis I, the Pope, and Suleiman the Magnificient.

To untangle the messy political dilemma of the 16th century in a dual biography is quite a feat, which Heath does well. I wish he had included a chart to break down the different treaties and wars he chose to highlight in this book because I needed help figuring out which war was which and what each treaty agreed to do. Overall, I think if you want a decent introduction to the life of Charles V and how his relationship with Henry VIII changed over time, I would recommend you read “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies” by Richard Heath.