The Untold Story
The inside story of Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
Divorce. Deceit. Diplomacy.
1527. Gregorio ‘The Cavalier’ Casali is Henry VIII’s man in Rome. An Italian freelance diplomat, he charmed his way into the English service before he was twenty. But now he faces an almighty challenge. Henry wants a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and Casali must persuade Pope Clement VII of his master’s case.
Set against the backdrop of war-torn Renaissance Italy, Our Man in Rome weaves together tales from the grubby underbelly of Tudor politics with a gripping family saga to reveal the extraordinary true story behind history’s most infamous divorce.
Through six years of cajoling, threats and bribery, Casali lives by his wits. He manoeuvres his brothers into lucrative diplomatic postings, plays off one master against another, dodges spies, bandits and noblemen alike. But as the years pass and Henry’s case drags on, his loyalties are increasingly suspected. What will be Casali’s fate?
Drawing on hundreds of unknown archive documents, Our Man in Rome reconstructs his tumultuous life among the great and powerful at this turning point for European history. From the besieged Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome to the splendours of Greenwich Palace, we follow his trail in the service of Henry VIII. Lavish ceremony and glamorous parties stand in contrast to the daily strains of embassy life, as Casali pawns family silver to pay the bills, fights off rapacious in-laws and defends himself in the face of Anne Boleyn’s wrath.
This stunning book will make you think anew about Tudor history.
“An eye-opening book, an intricate and fascinating story of an elusive man with an impossible job. A brilliant and impressive feat of original research, and necessary reading for anyone fascinated by the story of Henry’s divorce... Catherine Fletcher has allowed the story to tell itself, except that she’s been so clever in the telling of it, cutting through to what matters without over-simplifying”
Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
“A glittering debut...drawing on the unexplored riches of Italian Renaissance archives, enlarges the well known story, and to magnificent effect”
Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times
“A marvel of close-up detective work”
Duncan Fallowell, Daily Express
“Fletcher does her subject great credit. She makes no attempt to either embellish or simplify. She simply tells a cracking story well, in plenty of detail with clarity and insight. Above all she resists the temptation to overlay past events with modern cultural and emotional responses. Her protagonists are never anything but true to their selves and Fletcher richly deserves the title of historian. Jonathan Rhys Meyers need not apply.”
Sarah Vine, The Times
“The greatest joy of this splendid book is that it dwells on context. You'll emerge with a keener sense of why the dynastic priorities of Henry VIII ("a mid-ranking northern monarch, a player on the European stage but far from the star of the show") managed to cause such a fuss”
Jonathan Wright, The Herald
“An absorbing book”
Julian Fleming, Sunday Business Post
“A masterly retelling of an event that changed British history and set the Tudors against the Vatican”