Near the turn of the sixteenth century, England had been ravaged for decades by conspiracy and civil war. Henry Tudor clambered to the top of the heap, a fugitive with a flimsy claim to England’s crown who managed to win the throne and stay on it for 24 years. Although he built palaces, hosted magnificent jousts, and sent ambassadors across Europe, for many Henry VII remained a false king. But he had a crucial asset: his family - the queen and their children, the living embodiment of his hoped-for dynasty. Now, in what would be the crowning glory of his reign, his elder son would marry a great Spanish princess.
Thomas Penn re-creates an England that is both familiar and very strange - a country medieval yet modern, in which honor and chivalry mingle with espionage, realpolitik, high finance, and corruption. It is the story of the transformation of a young, vulnerable boy, Prince Henry, into the aggressive teenager who would become Henry VIII, and of Catherine of Aragon, his future queen, as well as of Henry VII - controlling, avaricious, paranoid, with Machiavellian charm and will to power.
Rich with incident and drama, filled with wonderfully drawn characters, Winter King is an unforgettable account of pageantry, intrigue, the thirst for glory, and the fraught, unstable birth of Tudor England.
Thomas Penn has a PhD in early Tudor history from Clare College, Cambridge. Winter King is his first book.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Marcus on 12-04-12
Classy reconstruction of the period
Fascinating but selective. A very enjoyable history of Henry VII and how he managed to size the English throne, and keep it, in very unsure times. The Battle of Bosworth is skated over very quickly, as is how Henry secured the throne. But longer passages are devoted to more obscure persons such as the poet Skelton who became Henry VIII tutor. It gives a good back ground to the early lives of Henry VIII and Catherine, and all the machinations around their eventually marriage. The final passages on the the death of Henry VII are some of the best, in showing what it was like to be around a dying king. In the end Henry VII still remains an elusive character. A knowledge of the ins and outs of the period is useful, Wikipedia was very helpful.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
By Olivier on 23-09-12
A Lesser-Known But Fascinating King
Not having been to school in the UK, I had never heard of Henry VII, and purchased this title on a whim, based on other reviewers' praise for this audiobook. I do not regret it.
On the one hand it is a perfect "prequel" to the life of Henry VIII and sheds much light into the context in which Henry VIII became king (in particular his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the immense wealth he found when acceding to the throne, and the wild popularity he enjoyed at the beginning of his reign).
On the other hand it depicts Henry VII, an immensely interesting king in his own right. At a time when all European monarchs were cash-strapped due to their incessant wars, Henry VII studiously avoided wars and became the only cash-rich king of Europe. His attention to details (micromanagement) was probably also a plus as compared to other kings who let councilors run amok.
The book is a bit frustrating at times as it often doubles-back to tell the story of a new protagonist, just at the time when we are getting to a crucial point (such as the wedding of Arthur to Catherine of Aragon).
One point I liked about the book is that it did not end abruptly with the death of Henry VII, and goes on for about 30 minutes with the aftermath of his reign. Having had other biographies (Jean Edward Smith's FDR and Eisenhower come to mind) stop within half a page of the death of the biography's subject, it was nice to have the author's take on the transition to come.
The reader is excellent and nicely emphasizes the quoted, old English, parts of the text, so that one always knows what is a quote and what is the author's text.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By E. Stein on 09-06-12
Excellent portrayal of a man and his time
This is the first modern biography of Henry VII, and it is long overdue. Penn does an excellent job of pulling together the complicated story of Henry's reign, its improbable and contested beginning, and its tragedies and betrayals. Henry is a difficult man to sympathize with, which perhaps explains the dearth of biographers, but the strains and disappointments of his reign explain a good deal about the subsequent Tudor preoccupations with legitimacy, continental standing, and continuity. This should satisfy both serious history students and those wishing for a general introduction to Tudor England. The narrator is quite good, as well.
26 of 26 people found this review helpful
By Joel Mayer on 29-07-12
Must read of English Monarchical Succession
This is a very solid and well researched book. I will probably listen to it again because my main problem was that I lost track of some of the characters of Henry VII advisors and they switched from help to hindrance so many times I had trouble keeping track of them, but this is as likely a problem with my memory as with the book. It does a really good job of describing not only Henry VII and his personality but how it came to influence his famous son, Henry VIII. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in English Monarchical history.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful