King’s Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he’s just been handed a front-row seat to history. With a seat near the throne and an ear to the floor, Somers witnesses firsthand he dizzying power struggles and sly scheming that marked the reign of the fiery Tudor King. Somers watches the rise and fall of some of the most fascinating women in history, including the tragic Katherine of Aragon, the bewitching Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor, who confided in the jester as she made the best of the fragile life of a princess whom everyone wished was a prince…

Based on the life of the real Will Somers, ‘King’s Fool’ is infused with Margaret Campbell Barnes’ trademark rich detail and historical accuracy. This intimate peek into the royal chambers gives readers a unique view into one of the tumultuous periods in English history.”

REVIEW: I’ve always found Will Somers to be a fascinating historical figure, and wish that I had read more about him. This novel only served to make me wish even more than he had written memoirs – Somers witnessed the reigns of all six of Henry VIII’s wives, while also living in close and informal proximity with the King himself, which would have given historians a wonderful insight into the mind of one of England’s most infamous Kings. I have read a couple of Barnes’ other novels, which made this one even more interesting – Barnes portrays Anne Boleyn, my favourite of the wives, very differently than in her novel ‘Brief Gaudy Hour’, which focuses solely on Anne’s rise and fall. The novel mixes romance, humour, drama and politics easily with historical fact, making for a read that is both entertaining and backed up by truth. Somers’ commentary is witty and insightful, and he is a good, honest character that the reader both likes and trusts. This, in turn, allows the reader to rejoice with his successes and sympathise in his failures. The only issue I have with this novel is that I feel Barnes could have made more of it – the novel could have been at least 100 pages longer, which would have allowed for more detail to be given to certain major events – for example, the executions of More, Anne Boleyn and Cromwell, all of which seemed to be somewhat skimmed over. However, Barnes captures the atmosphere of the Tudor court in a way that makes this novel easily accessible for any Tudor historian.

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