A fresh look at the endlessly fascinating Tudors - the dramatic and overlooked story of Henry VII and his founding of the Tudor Dynasty - filled with spies, plots, counter-plots, and an uneasy royal succession to Henry VIII.
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.
©2011 Thomas Penn (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"I feel I've been waiting to read this book a long time. It's a fluent and compelling account of the cost of founding the Tudor dynasty." (Hilary Mantel, Man Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall)
"An exceptionally stylish literary debut...[Penn's] book should be the first port of call for anyone trying to understand England's most flagrant usurper since William the Conqueror." (Diarmaid MacCulloch, New York Times best-selling author)
"A definitive and accessible account of the reign of Henry VII." (Guardian (UK))
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.
May the Force be with you
I am an avid reader of all aspects of history, I have studied Henry V11's reign at A Level and read other material to supplement my interest. This is a well researched, intelligent and easy to listen/read book. I found the narrative on the many colouful characters of the Tudor court particularly interesting and Mr Penn succeeds in humanising them for good or ill in a way that I have not experienced before. A refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable read which avoids the current trend of authors to follow practically every sentence with 'they probably attended', 'probably thought'. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in Tudor History. The audio version is one of the best i've listened to.
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.
Thomas Penn has done a very good job in not only investigating this period but peeling back the layers of history to make it an informative, enjoyable and accessible listen. As a Yorkist Wars of the Roses reenactor my interest has often ended after Bosworth but to hear the rest of the story once Henry VII is on the throne makes me see how much I was missing.
With all the intrigue and politics going on favourite is not the right word. The portrayal of Henry VII in relation to the continental kings with his supposedly bottomless pot of gold was certainly very interesting.
Keeping my attention held on the story and adapting his portrayal of the characters to more easily reflect who was who.
Usually films of historical events are done very badly so the tag line might well be:
"Don't watch this drivel where the director and production team has no knowledge or respect for history. Go listen to Simon Vance read the intrigue to you instead!"
Though that isn't very catchy.
A very enjoyable book indeed and I will certainly be looking for more by both author and reader.
Great stuff ... Illuminated Henry VII very well. Good style, easy and informative listen. Great narration. Finished it in a few days, just didnt want to stop.
Hard done by princess? Evil vizier tax-men? His ol' mum? His hero in the waiting son? The perfidious foreigners? Underrated outsider in rags to riches real-life story?
Got it all, really :)
Following on from the recent TV series on Elizabeth Woodville, the book filled a gap in my knowledge of the period between the Wars of the Roses and the mass of books written about Henry VIII and later Tudors. The author gives a convincing story of how Henry VII's complex personality, and obsession with hoarding money, was formed during his childhood exile. I really liked the way that meticulous research and contemporary quotes were woven into the story so that one could envisage the colour and spectacle of great Court occasions as well as feel the terror of loyal subjects who were baffled by the King's secretiveness. I found the most interesting elements concerned what was going on in England at the high point of the Renaissance in Italy. I knew that Henry VII was deeply engaged in European trade, but the book gives insights into his machinations, as well as to the squandering of huge sums to try to 'buy' security from Plantagenet rivals for the English throne.
I like the way solid research and contemporary quotes that were woven seamlessly into the storyline. If this author has written anything else about a little-known period of history, I would enjoy reading it.
Philip of Burgundy was shipwrecked on the English south coast when he was trying to get to Spain to claim the crown of Castile from Ferdinand (of Aragon) after Isabella's death. The book illustrates how the usually sombre Henry VII created a series of extravagant Court pageants to lock Philip into a 'gilded cage' until he agreed to give up the main Plantagenet 'pretender' to the English throne that he had protected for years. Henry was an incredibly astute politician.
Our first Renaissance King
This is difficult material concerning an important period, which has all but vanished under the mass of fluff and scholarship which attends the later Tudor era. It is however a very important period in the development of the power of the state, and deserves to be studied for this fact if no other. Thomas Penn has made a very good job of organising a wealth of information and detail, and if he falls into the trap of listing too many names of people and places from time to time, it's hardly surprising. These occasional longueurs and confusions do not really detract from an otherwise informative and stimulating work. Simon Vance's narration is absolutely first class, smooth, measured and fluent throughout. Five stars for the telling and four for the story; jolly good, all in all.
The reign of Henry VII is often seen as rather dull compared with the Wars of the Roses and the glories of the Tudor Court under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I but this book makes it very clear that the cautious Henry VII consolidated his victory at Bosworth by careful financial management as well as bringing together the houses of Lancaster and York by marrying the eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. This is history at its best: strategy and politics as well as human tragedy. The narration makes it a real 'audio page turner'
I didn't know much about Henry VII so this was an excellent introduction. It was really well read and filled in so many gaps in my historical knowledge. I'm not sure I liked Henry but I really do admire his ability to govern and bring a measure of peace and stability. Being about Henry VIII's father it also details Henry VIII's childhood and early life including his courtship of Catherine which is very sad when you know how it ends. What a sad lonely life Catherine had.
I would highly recommend this audio book which once started is quite addictive!
"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.
"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.
"An almost forgotten king brought to life"
Having just watched BBC's 1972 dramatic series "In the Shadow of the Tower" and then reading of the discovery of Richard III's body in the car park, I decided to go back a little further and learn more about the man who started the dynasty that has become so glamorized and popular, often at the expense of solid fact.
How easy it to overlook Henry VII, who is left in the shade by some of his larger-than-life children and grandchildren! I have been guilty of this myself, having read about the Tudors for a good thirty years now. But in this biography, Thomas Penn brings the story of a complex and unusual man to life.
I wouldn't say Henry Tudor was a man most of us would like --- we might even "love to hate" him. But I found him fascinating nonetheless. A highly intelligent, deeply suspicious and shrewd man, he sometimes reminds one of a spider weaving a web. Or a dark master of marionettes. But there is more to him than his reputation for parsimony and intrigue, as you will find.
One of the great joys of reading history is when you find a book that makes you want to learn even more about the "supporting" characters. I found "The Winter King" to be one of those books. I have a whole list of people I want to learn more about, which means I'll be going back in time to revisit the Wars of the Roses along with much else besides.
I would gladly read another book by Thomas Penn. Simon Vance's narration made this one especially splendid. Highly recommended for devotees of English history.
Also recommended: G.J. Meyer's "The Tudors," a veritable omnibus of the three generations that ruled England.
"Competent But Not Compelling"
Winter King is a detailed, clearly written and logical account of the life of Henry VII. I had previously read little about this English king, founder of the Tudor dynasty, so I appreciated the depth the author provided in this biography of the man. However, Henry wasn't a particularly admirable or charismatic person, so while learning this much about him was "good for my mind," it was not especially enjoyable or inspiring.
I recommend this book only for readers who are seriously interested in the Tudors and want a more complete understanding of the man who began their period of rule. The account explains much about the infamous Henry VIII who more than made up for his father's basic dullness with his own flamboyant, ostentatious reign. In many obvious ways he counter-scripted his father's style of kingship. However, both men were very aware of the tenuousness of their claim to the English throne and were therefore scrupulous in surrounding themselves and their court with a number of blatant outward symbols of royalty and wealth. They both could be extremely ruthless in holding onto power and obtaining what they wanted personally, showing little regard for the rights of their subjects or even those of their own family members.
Listening to Winter King was a worthwhile use of my time because the biography was well done, but mostly because I have a fascination with Elizabeth I and this book fills in an important piece of her family puzzle.
This book is incredibly in-depth and yet an easy listen.
This is the first Simon Vance performance I have heard, but I would definitely listen to another.
"Act One of the Tudor Dynasty"
This was a most interesting book - we all know about Henry 8 and Elizabeth 1 and probably know about Bloody Mary and the fact that Edward, H8's only son, reigned for a short time but the first in the Tudor dynasty is glossed over. After this book I don't understand why - Henry VII is a most interesting and complex man. He was also a most unfortunate and unlucky man loosing his son and heir and his wife in quick succession - he never full recovered from that despite the fact his second son was to go on to be the most famous King in English history.
There was lots of information and interesting facts and it has rewetted my appetite for all things Tudor. I enjoyed the book and recommend it for those interested in Tudor history and to those that want to know more about H8's father.
Simon Vance does an excellent job narrating Winter King. Note to big authors: hire him for all your audio books! The only reason this book does not get 5 stars on the story is because it is very in depth about what Henry VII did to keep the nobles in check, the financial blackmail, the use of obscure laws and crippling fines. For someone who is a casual history buff, it will probably be too much. For someone who is interested in the Tudors and especially how a man with very little claim to the throne gets it and manages to keep it, it is a great book.
"Very well written"
Everyone has heard and read about Henry VIII. But his father, Henry VII???
I certainly knew very little before listening to this book but know much more now. Thomas Penn's magnificently written biography is a magnificent, interesting all encompassing read. Simon Vance, once again, is an outstanding narrator.
This is a must if history interests you.
"King Henry VII Founder of the Tudors"
This was a great follow up book from the Plantagenets book I had just finished. Henry VII was an interesting man in his own right and I enjoyed learning about how he ruled.
His mother, Margaret was quite eccentric enough to enjoy seeing what she would do next.
No particular scene but I enjoyed the family of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York and how they really bonded and cared for each other.
When Arthur died and both parents took it very hard. All their hopes and dreams had been with him and it was all shattered. Then Elizabeth died and Henry was alone in his grief. Very sad.
I love historical novels and this book reads a good deal like one. It is a history though and not a novel and the facts are quite interesting.
"Excellent bio filled with fascinating stories..."
If you have an interest in the war of the roses or in the Tudor dynasty, this book is a must read!
In this book, all the characters who make such a stir in the Tudor history appear, even those who make history all on their own... The Dudley's first appearance, the Howard's and Boleyn's; then we read of the Borgia Pope, Alexandre and his famously evil son Cesare; even the Hapsburgs (Marie Antoinette's powerful family) make an appearance. The list goes on... Henry himself is a most unique and intriguing character, who lived a difficult life to bring stability to England in many ways. one of the most important to him was ending the civil wars! He eliminated any chance for a contested succession, among many other things he did, but is not remembered for.
On its own merit, it's very well written and doesn't feel like a textbook. It's fascinating, well-read, and I was sorry to finish the book if the little known but ultimately extremely important monarch: Henry VII!
Very impressive book!
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