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3.9 out of 5 stars47
3.9 out of 5 stars
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If you know little about the War of the Roses and the emergence of the Tudors then this is a good place to start. Starkey writes here in an easy, conversational style as he takes us through the historical background and the reign of Henry VII.

However, if you have anything more than a passing acquaintance with the Tudors, this book adds hardly anything to the picture. The childhood and adolescence of Henry VIII which is promised by the book only happens at a fairly distant and undetailed way. Henry's marriage to Catherine gets little more than a brief chapter, and his male friendships not that much more.

One sexual liaison is referred to, Wolsey is introduced - and then the book ends.

I found Starkey's 'speak to the camera' style rather coy and irritating - he has a continual verbal tick where he ends a paragraph with a statement ("it looked like becoming a Howard family preserve"), leaves us hanging for a beat, then kicks off the next paragraph with a refutation of what he's just said ("Or it would have done if it had not been for Henry"). His alternative is to ask a question to which we all know the answer e.g. "But would he love her [Catherine of Aragon] always?" This tended, in my eyes, to give the narrative a rather amateur tone as the author tips us the nod and wink, and we all have a little snigger.

So if you're looking for a popular history which doesn't concern itself with scholarly arguments or too much detail, then this will probably suit admirably. But if you want something either more sophisticated in terms of history writing, or with precise detail, then this might well be a disappointment. Consider it a TV documentary in book form, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what it consists.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 April 2012
This is a very easily read book, written almost conversationally. As other reviewers have noted Starkey frequently asks rhetorical questions, particularly at the end of chapters, and finishes chapters with dramatic, almost cliff hanging, teasing statements. For example as the last line of a chapter Starkey writes rather dramatically ' Henry never saw his brother again' and later 'was Henry's boyish behaviour starting to become a strain for Catherine. or was it all part of the charm?'

So whilst this is light, enjoyable and easy reading, it does rather render Tudor History as soap opera. I was disappointed having read and hugely enjoyed Starkey's magnificent Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII. However, the book does give a flavour of the times and of Henry's early life and kingship, and the potential which was seen in him to be a great Prince and King.
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on 18 April 2009
I have the utmost respect for David Starkey. I really enjoy his TV shows and have read other of his books. I purchased this in hardback and was immediately shocked and felt slightly conned at the lack of text on each page. The font is set well in and is bigger than you would find than in a Weir or Gregory offering. I read this book on the back of a number of other Henry books namely 'The Six Wives of Henry viii' by Weir and also Frasers same offering. In my opinion Starkeys work does not come anywhere near the standard offered by these two. I honestly believe Mr Starkeys name alone got this book printed. Whislt it is informative, it is too short and it lacks alot of the depth I picked up from other similar works. Such a shame....
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VINE VOICEon 11 July 2009
I usually do enjoy Starkey's work, but the style and presentation here seems to be "history as written by tabloid journalist".
Short punchy paragraphs, sections and chapters which are occasionally scholarly, but often little more than a string of interesting anectodes which seem to add little to the sum of human knowledge about his subject, He does seem very concerned that the reader is incapable of sustaining concentration over anything more than two or three pages.
Most irritating of all though is the knowing question marks at the end of many sections:
"Would they fight together against the upstart Tudors?"

"Wisdom, love or hunting...Which would it be?"

Did Henry reflect a little wryly that he could not even initiate his coronation on his own authority?"

I found myself waiting for each "section question" and every time seeing the image of Dr Starkey leaning towards the camera, perhaps knowingly tapping the side of his nose and winking while I scream back..."That's not history its pure speculation!"

..and that's probably my problem with the book, its a telly script re-packaged as a book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 February 2015
At the height of my obsession with Tudors, I picked up the "Virtuous Prince" hungry for details of Henry VIII's early life. I read it a while ago and was just looking for more books on the subject, remembering that from this particular book I still recall the chapters on the War of Roses and establishment of the Tudors, yet very little about the young [spare] prince himself. Dynastic background, historical details and politics overshadowed Henry VIII as a real person. The book felt very stiff and a bit confusing. And lacking, simply lacking any emotional involvement.
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on 6 October 2012
I had never read anything by Starkey and, after finishing this, I won't be reading anymore. I found it lacking in detail, short (I finished it in a night - large font made it a bulky book) and, to be honest, boring, boring, boring. As another reviewer states,they feel this book was published owing to Starkey's name, and I have to agree with them. Starkey left out much that I thought to be important, eg the princes in the tower were sketched over very lightly and we were not told whether Henry VII knew that they were dead and so knew Perkin Warbeck to be an imposter. I was flipping back and forward to remind myself exactly which earl of this or lord of that he was talking about which made for a confusing and irritating read. And the book suddenly ended with no build up to it which I found very disconcerting.The same period in history is written about in 'Winter King' by Thomas Penn, and there is no comparison between these two books. Penn's scholarly and superb book is pacy, jampacked with research yet an easy read and you want to carry on until the last page - when you regret it's ended. I'm afraid that I cannot say the same for Starkey's book. Alison Weir and her Tudor biographies also give Starkey's a run for their money and leave his standing. Very disappointed indeed
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on 31 December 2011
Having not viewed the television series which more or less accompanied this book, my first impressions of this book was that it was a refreshing take on Henry VIII. Starkey rightly perceives that public imagination on the subject of Henry VIII associate him as the obese, tyrannical wife-killing monarch. The book ends before reaching Henry's middle age such as his troubles with the divorce of his first marriage and subsequent re-marriages but that is the whole point of this book.
As I understand it, this is not a complete biography of Henry's life but a biography of his early years which preceeded the strifes of his later years, and the contrast between Henry as a young man and the more conventional image of him could not be greater.

The book focuses on the precursors to the circumstances of Henry VIII's early life such as the War of the Roses, the Battle of Bosworth and the understandable insecurity and vulnerability which Henry VII felt as a ruler, his attachment to his mother and residual family, the advent of Perkin Warbeck and the death of his brother which would place him firmly within the grasp of power.

Starkey explores Henry's relationship with his family in fascinating depth and in a witty and humorous manner. For instance, his relationship with his father following the death of Arthur is particularly interesting, with Henry VII keeping a very closeted and close eye on him - literally, much in the same vein as a highly overprotective mother and it is little wonder therefore that Henry celebrated his new found freedom with such enthusiasm, finding expression most commonly, at the jousts.

All in all, a very interesting and illuminating portrayal of a young and idealistic Henry who would in the fullness of time prove to be a near contradiction to his later years. The depiction is both witty and humorous at times and gives us some insight as to how the events and precursors of his younger years shaped his ideas in later life regarding the succession and the supremacy of the monarch. There is no hint as to how or why Henry would become the tyrannical monster of later years however, the only possible explanations in having been a spoilt young man and having taken after an indulgent Grandfather, but even Edward IV stopped short of executing wives and showed some remorse and reluctance at having to execute members of his own family whereas Henry would go on to do so with characteristic impunity!

One can only imagine how events would have transpired had Arthur have lived and whether Henry would have presented himself as a challenging rival or whether he had lived out his life as an eminent cleric, a life which Henry VII proffered for him, lest he turn out to challenge Arthur. It is regrettable that there is no record (indeed if there ever was any) of Henry's reactions to having been bestowed the succession or as to how he might have felt about an alternative career in the clergy had Arthur prospered.

Whilst admittedly not as scholarly as his previous works, such as the magnificent Queens of Henry VIII, this work nevertheless portrays a refreshing image of a youthful Henry VIII and explores his relationships with his family and his council.
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on 20 January 2014
David Starkey is one of those characters that you either admire or loathe and it certainly comes through in his writing and particularly this book.
I have read a number of Starkey's books about the Tudor period and one cannot fault his masterly way of presenting one of the most bloody and fascinating periods in British history.
In this first part of his biography of Henry VIII, Starkey covers the ground with skill, detail and a speed which makes this history book a veritable page-turner - but for those who find his personal interjections annoying, this book may be difficult to appreciate. This book covers the period up to the premonition of Wolsey's downfall and it certainly is a worthy book on his favourite subject. BUT, 'Henry: Virtuous Prince' was published in 2008 and it is now 2014 and other books by Dr Starkey have been written and published - where is the second part of this biography!? It is long overdue.
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on 7 April 2015
Normally I find David Starkey intensely irritating. His grating voice and pretentiously supercilious delivery on TV make me reach for the "off" button. This is the first book I've actually read by him. It is much better than I expected. His research is meticulous, and his use of bibliography and referencing is good. I really hate the latest trend in history books (exemplified by Chris Skidmore) of not giving individual references.
His voice as a writer is less irritating than as a TV presenter, although you can definitely identify it as the same man. Use of "perhaps" as a complete sentence, and ending a chapter with a rhetorical question, are particular traits. However, it was better than I expected, and I did learn some new facts, which was what I was hoping for, in this intensely covered territory.
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on 27 August 2015
Contains an immense amount of research and is probably a spin-off of a wider project on Tudors generally. Nevertheless is of fairly limited interest as it deals mainly with Henry's early life and his introduction to monarchizing influences via the politics of the time. It goes into more detail than is needed to grasp the whole flow of sixteenth century public life. I get the impression of a bit of a pot-boiler from a usually engaging author: interesting but not gripping.
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