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Windsor Castle

William Harrison Ainsworth

Book Overview: 

The focus of the novels is on the events surrounding Henry VIII's replacing Catherine of Aragon with Anne Boleyn as his wife. During Henry's pursuit of Boleyn, the novel describes other couples, including the Earl of Surrey and Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, a match Henry does not support. However, some of the individuals oppose Henry and his desires for Boleyn, including Thomas Wyat who wants her for himself and Cardinal Wolsey, who uses a maiden of mysterious birth, Mabel Lyndwood, to lure Henry away from Boleyn. [...] Intertwined with the Court is the story of Herne the Hunter, a spirit of Windsor Forest. He is an evil force that seeks to take the souls of various individuals, and Henry tries to stop him, but is never able to do so. (Summary adapted from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .e hunted by the king, was styled a "hart royal," and this noble animal would certainly have effected his escape if he had not been attacked and driven back by Morgan Fenwolf, who throughout the morning's proceedings displayed great energy and skill. The compliments bestowed on Fenwolf for his address by the chief verderer excited the jealousy of some of his comrades, and more than one asserted that he had been assisted in his task by some evil being, and that Bawsey herself was no better than a familiar spirit in the form of a hound.

Morgan Fenwolf scouted these remarks; and he was supported by some others among the keepers, who declared that it required no supernatural aid to accomplish what he had done—that he was nothing more than a good huntsman, who could ride fast and boldly—that he was skilled in all the exercises of the chase, and possessed a stanch and well-trained hound.

The party then sat down to breakfast beneath the trees, and. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A classic historical novel about events in and around Windsor Castle during the time of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The historic events are heightened dramatically by appearances of a forest demon, Herne the Hunter. The novel closes with the death of Boleyn. Interspersed between the novel's chapt...more

Apparently, Ainsworth was quite the popular author back in his day, and after having read Windsor Castle, I can see both why he was popular and also why he has completely fallen out of favor.
The book is filled with hallmarks of Romanticism. There are luscious descriptions of clothes, the castle i...more

Unintentionally hilarious.

Ainsworth is one of those once-famous writers who, so they say, 'nobody reads any more'. Out of curiosity and contrariness, I thought I'd give him a try, but I really wasn't expecting very much.

Happily, 'Windsor Castle' isn't nearly as bad as I feared it might be. It's a very odd amalgam of melod...more

Well, this was an odd book. I ran across it because I was reading a blog about some of the background characters in British mythology relating to the Green Man, and one of them was Herne the Hunter. This book is on the one hand a historical story covering the period of Henry VIII's courtship of A...more

It would be unfair to give this fewer than three stars, since I did quite enjoy it, but my word Ainsworth didn't know when to stop. There's a good story in here, but he just goes on and on, as if he had a word count to meet -oh, I know, I'll put in a bit more about Herne - and then there's the ce...more

[These notes were made in 1987:]. Had he heard of Dorothy Sayers, Ainsworth might have learned a trick from her and called this "A Romance with historical interruptions." There is, more precisely, one long historical interruption - a centre section which details (à la Tower of London) the history...more