Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England

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Henry VII, grown rich from Morton's Fork and other squeezes, was far from a bumpkin trying to break into the royal circles of western Europe--he was being courted, and he knew very well to play Castile Hapsburg and Aragon off against one another after Isabella died and Catherine might very well have been packed off home to marry someone else, it was common. Raised in France, admiring of Italian-trained lawyers and reaping the reward of the return of a whole generation of educated English commoners who sat out the War of the Roses abroad , with good taste in Renaissance art and advised by his gracious wife and steely mother, Henry VII is a major figure, not a prequel.

In many ways, it highlights that Henry VIII was a feckless inheritor of the tools of Machiavellian power, but had no idea to what productive end to put them. View 2 comments. I was disappointed by this — it was decent but I think it was somewhat overhyped. Having seen it pop up in a lot of papers' Books of the Year lists, I think I was expecting something altogether more gripping and dramatic, but in the end I thought the story of Henry VII and the Tudor succession was just not an especially thrilling tale.

Henry himself was clearly a distant figure who governed through his ministers, but this means that it's quite hard to get much of a sense of his character from th I was disappointed by this — it was decent but I think it was somewhat overhyped. Henry himself was clearly a distant figure who governed through his ministers, but this means that it's quite hard to get much of a sense of his character from the few sources available.

The prose is workmanlike. Penn sometimes overplays his material, ominously building up events which turn out not to be that dramatic after all. That's obviously fine in speech, but it meant I had to reread a few of the sentences in here to work out what was exactly was happening. Penn is strong on writing paragraph-sketches of key figures in the regime, but he has an annoying habit of including so many of them that it becomes a demanding job to keep track of them all.

Names are scattered around like confetti. The Say family, indeed, joined all the dots: Sir William was half-brother to Elizabeth countess of Surrey, and among the queen's gentlewomen was his sister, Anne. This is fine at the start of a book, but when he was still introducing dozens of characters by page I started to get a bit annoyed with it. Most are introduced and then dropped two pages later, never to reappear. The most fascinating parts for me turned out to be the sidebars on 16th-century Europe — the international trade in alum, monopolised by the Pope, smuggled across the continent by Henry, was something I knew nothing about.

England's enclave in Calais is also something I'd like to read more on. Financial affairs in particular are very well handled here, and in Penn's retelling at least they were one of Henry's central preoccupations. But overall and clearly I'm in a minority, since most people seem to have loved this book I just felt there was a lack of narrative coherence. View all 4 comments. Shakespeare Lied 1 August Everywhere where this book is concerned there are statements about how it won all these awards, and how wonderful it is as a history book, yet I found it on the clearance table at a bookshop I was exploring in inner city Sydney.

Normally I wouldn't have purchased it, but it grabbed my attention, and a part of me actually thought it was about Richard III. Actually, maybe I bought it because it was about Henry VII and then promptly forgot, but I do know that I didn't Shakespeare Lied 1 August Everywhere where this book is concerned there are statements about how it won all these awards, and how wonderful it is as a history book, yet I found it on the clearance table at a bookshop I was exploring in inner city Sydney. Actually, maybe I bought it because it was about Henry VII and then promptly forgot, but I do know that I didn't buy it because it won all these awards namely because I generally don't buy books simply because they have won awards and I certainly don't vote in the Goodreads choice awards, namely because I rarely, if ever, read contemporary literature.

Penn suggests that this has something to do with his character, but seriously, how could you consider Henry's character to be quite bad when you put him up against Shakespeare's version of Richard III — seriously, if there was one king that should have been forgotten it should have been Richard, expect we have a play, and quite a famous saying attributed to him which no doubt he never actually said.

This is the thing with Shakespeare, the first thing that I picked up when I was reading this book was how propaganderous Richard III actually is — when we read the play, or even watch it, we get the impression that Richard was a thug that had a very tenuous grip on power, and by the time Bodsworth Field came about it was an open and shut battle that Henry easily won. Well, nothing could be further from the truth, and the fact that Henry actually won had more to do with luck as opposed to any failing on Richard's part. As for being a tyrant, well, Henry was actually no better than Richard, though since he was the victor, Shakespeare obviously was influenced by the fact that the Tudor's won the battle.

The period of Henry VII was a period where England was in transition — going from a medieval past into a modern future. In one sense he brought stability to the kingdom, which was a kingdom that had been torn apart by wars ever since the English were kicked out of France. Yet under Richard England was also going through a period of stability, and Henry simply was able to marshal the troops, with French backing, to remove Richard and install himself as an usurper.

One interesting thing that I learnt was that one of the two boys that were allegedly murdered in the tower was said to have actually been living in Scotland, and every so often somebody would claim to be the prince and seek to take the throne off of Henry for himself. However, one of the first things that Henry did was make sure that people considered him to be a legitimate heir his claim was actually quite tenuous , and having some guy appear and claim to be the lost prince had the potential to undermine his authority.

In fact, for the first few years of his reign he found himself having to fight off other claimant's to the throne, or simply those who were still bitter than he had ousted Richard. In a way what we have here is the beginnings of Renaissance England. At the start of Henry's reign there was still quite a large belief in the existence of King Arthur — in fact in this period and earlier the kings would claim their legitimacy by claiming to be descendant's of Arthur well, not William the Conqueror, but you get the picture. Henry even went as far as naming his first born son Arthur, though his son ended up dying before he could take the crown, which meant that so far there hasn't actually been an actual 'King Arthur' on the throne ignoring, of course, the wonderful story that appears in Monmoth, though it also seems that the search for Arthur is almost as futile as the search for the mythical holy grail.

Yet, by the end of this period we discover that the whole King Arthur story has been put to bed, with the publication of the Anglica Historia though not without some controversy. Another thing we find out is that Henry wasn't actually a good king — he was an extravagant one, and in many cases was like that person that goes out to make a heap of money to basically live an outrageous and extravagant lifestyle, and spending all the money that goes with such a lifestyle. As such Henry was always looking for new and inventive ways of attempting to extort money of out his subjects.

In fact, confiscating property, and titles, was one of his favourite ways of deal with enemies. However, his properties, his lavish weddings, and the fact that he lived extravagantly, demonstrated that he wasn't a king that was interested in the people, but just another tyrant wanting to live in luxury though he was also an expert at hiding his wealth, but like a lot of people that we know about today. I probably should finish off by saying a few things about the book. Basically it is one of those books that you would probably use if you happened to be writing a history essay on the period, or that you are really, really interested in the intricate historical details of a time period, or a person.

There is actually quite a lot of interesting things in here, but it is really only something for the avid reader. Okay, I love my history, and I love reading history books, but sometime the details does cause me to bog down a bit, or to skim and scan. This book didn't really grab my attention as some have managed to do.

The other thing is that it made me realise how difficult going through the sources would have been. Penn suggests that one of the reasons that we have the sources is that one of Henry's enemies escaped to France with them before they could be destroyed. When I studied history we were expected to go to primary sources, such as diaries and such — simply going to secondary sources, such as this book, really wasn't all that acceptable. Hey, even using Shakespeare as a source for Henry V wasn't acceptable, at least to my history lecturer. Sep 02, GoldGato rated it really liked it Shelves: royalty , biography , winter , history.

It is a word that aptly describes Henry VII, the first Tudor king and one of the most wily leaders of the royal line. That familial connection wasn't as strong as other lineages, but the Winter King moved quickly to extinguish Richard III's life and to grab the throne. He effectively ended the Wars of the Roses, but many learned to never turn their back on him. Henry's government, too, appeared strange. It was neither one thing nor the other, a kind of halfway house. Henry VII always did his best to assume the moral high ground. His reign brought some relief from decades of lawlessness throughout England, but in doing so, many sacrificed their souls to ensure they didn't get on his wrong side.

He could have been a twin of France's Louis XI, always planning to snare some poor unfortunate fly in an ever-widening web. His years spent on the run and in hiding meant he valued each golden coin that he could find, so his treasury was a healthy one that was built over time. He allowed his advisors to exploit men who had land and plenty of everything, until said men were so squeezed, they ran to the Winter King for help. By appearing to offer his assistance, he simply destroyed their last remaining wealth. It was said that Henry VII's favorite method of punishment was death by a thousand financial cuts.

Being a Ricardian, I have always despised the Tudor usurper. A book was needed to help dispel my bias, although I knew I would be on guard while reading Thomas Penn's nicely done biographical volume. This isn't a book where you will walk away with a love of the subject. Henry was not that type of man. But I did finish the book with a greater respect for the Winter King, just not any trust. In fact, I thought of Putin while reading. Peas in a pod.

Jun 03, Bettie rated it liked it Recommended to Bettie by: spotted on Susanna's updates.

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Shelves: biography , fraudio , tudor , published , nonfiction , history , summer , underratings. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. View all 11 comments. Apr 07, Marie Z. Johansen rated it it was amazing. I have to admit to being a history geek.

For me, history is alive and energizing - not something static and remote. My obsession is European history from the 12th through 17th centuries - especially British history - so of course, when I was offered the chance to review this book, my interest was piqued immediately. I had not read too terribly much about Henry VII in the past and, with this book, Thomas Penn, brings this most important of English monarch to life in a very enjoyable fashion. There I have to admit to being a history geek. There is nothing pedantry about this book. It is detailed to be sure but the details add to the read - they don't detract from the flow of the book as can become an issue with some dry historical missives.

This book is lively, enthralling, detailed and enjoyable! Mentally agile, intelligent, ruthless, thoughtful and canny, Henry VII is an engrossing historical character and this book is a winner! I heartily recommend it for other history obsessives or Tudor fans. Well done! May 08, Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it really liked it Shelves: british-history , tudor , renaissance , history. Thomas Penn's Winter King is not really a biography of Henry VII, and more a study of what he was directing his government to do in his name. We certainly can, and do, decide what sort of king Henry was based on what he had his government get up to, however.

View all 9 comments. There are an awful lot of books written about the Tudor era, both fiction and non-fiction, so you have to ask whether this book adds anything new. I am glad to say that I think it does, for it concentrates on the reign, and court, of Henry VII, giving a different slant to the well known story. Henry VII ruled from and had a dubious claim on the throne, spending most of his time before the famous Battle of Bosworth Field in exile and gaining credibility from his marriage to Elizabeth of There are an awful lot of books written about the Tudor era, both fiction and non-fiction, so you have to ask whether this book adds anything new.

Henry VII ruled from and had a dubious claim on the throne, spending most of his time before the famous Battle of Bosworth Field in exile and gaining credibility from his marriage to Elizabeth of York. His early reign was plagued by pretenders to the throne, giving the new Tudor dynasty a rocky start and a fear of conspiracy which dogged Henry VII throughout his life. Of course, we all know the history.

Catherine's subsequent loss of status, the arguments with Ferdinand over her dowry, her uncertainty over her future and the papal dispensation over whether she remained a virgin and could marry Prince Henry worded in a rather vague way to please both parties, a fact which would come back to haunt Catherine in later years.

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The emergence of Henry, no longer the second son in terms of the 'heir and the spare', he was most certainly the 'spare' suddenly having to be given training in being a future king, when it was Arthur who had been initially given his own household while Henry had been brought up with his mother and siblings.

However, despite there being such a wealth of knowledge about this period, the author does a great job of bringing the court of Henry VII back to life. He explains who had control of the finances and how their power was mis-used, the emergence of characters who assumed greater importance when Prince Henry became King and how the death of Henry VII and the transfer of power was managed. Henry VII was a wily ruler, who often mis-used power but was determined to create a new dynasty. When his death was not announced at first, so his ministers could manage the transfer of power to his son, Henry VIII, you feel he would have approved.

I really enjoyed this book, especially detail about lesser known members of the court. It was a very interesting read and I recommend it highly. View all 7 comments. Jan 15, K. Charles added it Shelves: non-fiction. This was excellent. Well written and really interesting about an often ignored king.

I had an idea Henry VII was a force for stability; in fact he was a terrifying kleptocrat, abusing the law with arbitrary fines and imprisonment, scheming to effectively steal entire estates and wring every penny out of subjects as well as impose political control through financial means. The parts on how he abused his position and the law to enrich himself while an entire nation watched helplessly are, frankly, This was excellent.

Richard III Documentary - Biography of King Richard III & the History of the Wars of the Roses

The parts on how he abused his position and the law to enrich himself while an entire nation watched helplessly are, frankly, pretty relevant to now. Once people had been informed against to the king and his counsellors, they had stepped outside a world governed by recognised judicial processes into one of nightmarish contingency, from which there was no escape: where the law was the king's will, expressed by mutable committees that coalesced and fragmented, and in which paper trails vanished into thin air.

Sep 16, Claire M. In my never-ending quest to read possibly every single published book on the Tudor monarchy, I spied this little gem a few weeks ago and picked it up. It's difficult to get a handle on Henry VII. Some of it is due to his personality--he played his cards close to the vest, unlike his son--and some of it is due to Tudor spin--they were, after all trying to bolster up the royal credentials for a man who didn't have that many. Overblown prose trumpeting his reign seemed to be the order of the day. Al In my never-ending quest to read possibly every single published book on the Tudor monarchy, I spied this little gem a few weeks ago and picked it up.

Although the first quarter of this book is a little dry, at around the twenty-five percent mark Penn all of a sudden takes off and finds his voice. What a beautifully written book. In a sure voice, Penn captures without so much as a hiccup the tenor of these men, an era of the fantastically ambitious and avaricious.

Add several whose claims to the throne were considerably more legitimate than Henry Tudor's, and you have an age where the royal fortune is so fragile that success and failure seem to turn on the seemingly most trivial events, like a storm at the right place at the right time. Although these events are dramatic enough in themselves, Penn takes this up several notches by deftly marshalling these events into a coherent, fascinating narrative.

The chapters dealing with the alum trade are alone worth buying this book. The personalities of them men are large and Penn draws these men with the drollest of pens. From the enclave of rapacious Italians to the poets and humanists vying for royal favor, from Henry VII's financial henchmen Dudley and Empson to the emerging players that will play such a huge role in his son's reign Wolsey, Cromwell, More, and Warham , Penn adroitly weaves in all their stories as the background to what is a monarchy that is obsessed with its legitimacy. Henry VII's solution to his less-than-stellar credentials was to amass so much money that he was able to buy stability, even if it meant terrorizing his people.

His son would be no less obsessed and equally adept at terrorizing the populace. A delightful read, I highly recommend it. Sep 14, happy rated it really liked it Shelves: history-general , history-english. Interesting look at the founder of the Tudor dynesty. I thought the book was well written, even though a bit dry is spots. Henry was a remarkable man. I thought the way he controled the nobility was fascinating - keeping them in check as well a raising vast sums of money at the same time.

The book brings out his successful diplomacy - keeping England out of the various wars in Europe and managing to marry his son to the daughter of one of leading houses in Europe. I thought the look at his relatio Interesting look at the founder of the Tudor dynesty. I thought the look at his relationship with his queen was interesting.

He obviously married her for political reasons, but there seems to have been a deep emotional attachment to her. After her death he was devestated.


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Penn theorizes she was the main person who brought him out of his grief after the death of his heir. If Penn's portrayal of Henry is anywhere close to accurate, he was a much, much better king than his son and a much better human being. Well worth the read. Aug 18, John Wiltshire added it Shelves: given-up-on.

I'm not giving this a star rating because I suspect it's me at fault not the book. I couldn't even stay awake reading this. Seriously, got nudged by my partner when I'd nodded off. Wolf Hall this is not.

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Wow, it was like being battered by facts without remission for good intentions. The author makes too many judgements which made me ask "How does he know that"; on one occasion he claims to know what Henry 7th "thought". Feb 21, Claire Ridgway rated it it was amazing. I just wanted to clear that up before I launch into my review. Henry VII was born in and ruled England from to , but this book opens in autumn and so does not give you all the details of Henry's early life, his rise, his claim to the throne etc.

That surprised me and actually disappointed me because I wanted the whole caboodle, Henry's whole life in detail. However, I wasn't disappointed when I started reading because Penn's book is, as historian Helen Castor described, "a masterpiece". I would describe it as a narrative, rather than a biography. I came away thinking what a miserly and boring king he was and that stuck with me. Thomas Penn's book changed that perception though. The Henry VII of Winter King is far from boring and it's easy to see where Henry VIII got his ruthless streak from when you meet Penn's paranoid Machiavellian ruler who seemed to rule with a rod of iron and wanted to be feared, rather than loved, by his subjects.

You can hardly blame the man when he was seen as a usurper and had to deal with so many challenges to his authority. My full review gives details on what is covered is Penn's book but it really does focus on the latter years of Henry's reign and it does jump around. For example, Elizabeth of York's funeral is followed by details of her life and role as consort, but I found this easy to follow and it doesn't happen as much later in the book.

It is hard to believe that this is Penn's debut and he should be congratulated on his writing and research. It must have been an immense task to put this book together and the huge bibliography shows how much research was done. A must-read for Tudor history lovers. View all 5 comments. Sep 09, Aaron rated it really liked it. He was the founder of the Tudor dynasty, and his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville brought together the too sides that were facing off during the Wars of the Roses the Lancasters and the Yorks basically uniting the two houses into a single family.

This book takes the opportunity to look at the final 10 years of Henry VII's reign, which nicely highlights the transition period between the Wars of the Roses and the newfound "stability" of the Tudor line once Henry VIII took over. Henry VII was not totally without competitive claimants to the throne, but he was able to beat back the claims through various means. Henry VII himself was a fairly capable leader, though he suffered greatly from a sense of paranoia.

To some degree, he often did not trust those around him. This caused him to build a large network of spies, which was not uncommon for the Tudor rulers who would follow him. Readers get a great deal of detail about the way people lived during this time period. While the title would seem to indicate the book is a biography of him, it is definitely not solely about him.


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Other famous people from the period such as Erasmus and Thomas More are also covered with great detail. The events are set during a time of transition. This includes information about the long-standing betrothal marriages of Katherine of Aragon to both Princes Arthur and Henry, the competition between the English Crown and the papacies of Alexander VI the Borgia pope and Justinian II, and the full establishment of the role of the crown in England.

This is definitely not a book for the casual reader. It is filled with fine details, such as household records, that would be familiar to those who are fans of Alison Weir's biographies. I know that I really liked it! The front cover displays a short review by Hilary Mantel, part of which states, "I feel I've been waiting to read this book a long time. There are no shortage of history books that cover the Tudor dynasty. The detail that Thomas Penn has brought together in this account is commendable. Certainly the chronology goes up, down and sideways at times, as Penn digresses into explaining associated particulars, but in the main, I found this a quite enjoyable read.

It is amusing to have Richard III referred to as 'the usurper', when Henry Tudor held a very slender qualification for the crown, but as it is said, it is written by the victors. Jul 24, Samantha rated it really liked it Shelves: own-it , british-history , plantagenets , tudors , nonfiction. I found this to be a valuable and well-written resource. It took me a while to get through it because it is so packed with information.

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It is a book that I will go back to many times. I was at times confused by the author's tendency to organize by topic rather than chronology. He would state that something happened on a day and I wouldn't be sure what year he was referring to. This is a relatively minor complaint, but with as much as was covered in this book full dates would have been appreciated. See all free Kindle reading apps. Don't have a Kindle? Customer reviews. Share your thoughts with other customers.

Write a customer review. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Format: Paperback Verified Purchase. Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase. A great look into the life of Henry IV, well written and engaging. The hardcover edition comes beautifully bound and is a lovely edition to my library. Format: Hardcover. Roughly years were spanned in the Tudor monarchy - to , but they were some of the most eventful years in British history. Penn looks at how the Tudor monarchy began and how Henry VII - the victor at Bosworth Field in - had the intelligence and drive to govern England, passing on a fairly stable country to his heirs.

The Plantagenets were gone - now reigned the Tudors. Henry, however, governed for the first few years in an air of uncertainty as to his legitimacy. He made an advantageous marriage - for both love and expediency - to Elizabeth Woodville, daughter of Edward IV. Together they had five children - another had died at birth - including two sons, Arthur and Henry.

Arthur was being groomed to succeed his father and was married off to Catherine of Aragon, daughter of those "Catholic Monarchs", Ferdinand and Isabella. Arthur died soon after the wedding - and questions of the consummation of the marriage began - and Elizabeth died soon after in childbirth. Henry was a widower with four youngish children to raise - and to marry off in advantageous fashion. One of Thomas Penn's strong points in the biography of Henry is his writing about Henry and England's context in the larger world. Relationships between England and Spain, France, the Hapsburg lands, and the Papacy are examined in detail.

Penn also included a handy, dandy set of maps in the front of the book, which make the reader's processing of the subject material that much easier. Penn writes in a lively style, too. The book is detailed enough for the advanced reader, but is interesting enough for the casual one. One person found this helpful. See all 3 customer reviews. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Perhaps it's because I recently finished a fascinating biography on Edward I by Marc Morris, but I found this book to be an exhaustively boring read.

First off, the author's writing style is somewhat difficult to follow; especially if English is not your native tongue. Beginning 12 years into the reign of Henry VII, the author uses comma after comma in these long-winded sentences to describe the most trivial of things. I'm no grammar expert and I'm sure that an editor deemed this to be the best style of writing for the topic at hand, but I often found myself having to reread sections in order to follow Penn's train of thought.

Additionally, the book time jumps a lot. Some people probably won't mind this, but it's just my preference for historical biographies to be written chronologically. For me, chronological order makes it easier to understand and retain information. Unfortunately, this book is just all over the place. I also found it disappointing that this book began so late in Henry VII's reign as opposed to the days after the Battle of Bosworth.

This was probably the most pivotal battle in English medieval history so it would be interesting to know what happened in the days after that. Did he just call a Parliament and get to work? Why wouldn't this be included? I cannot say enough good about this book about Henry VII. Penn did a fabulous job peeling away the layers of Henry VII. I have not found any other book that compares when it comes to looking at Henry's life and times.

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I enjoyed the fact that Mr. Penn gave Henry his due and didn't just scorn him based on today's standards and moral code. Henry was obviously not an easy going King but he did help bring England together and let it heal from the War of the Roses. He was a very smart and shrewd man. By today's standards he may seem cruel and cold but he was a product of his time and of the life he was forced to lead as a possible claimant to the throne. I would highly recommend, and often do, this book to anyone interested in the life of Henry VII! Thomas Penn is the author of the Winter King which is his first published book.

Penn is an Englishman and lives in London. Henry's oldest son Arthur married the Spanish Princess Catherine of Aragon but he died young in Later he would claim the marriage was void of intercourse. He did this so he could divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn with whom he had fallen in love. Later he would execute her and go on to marry four more times.