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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The personality and reign of Henry VII
Penn does a good job here of re-telling the foundation of the Tudor dynasty and the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). Strictly speaking, nothing here is new but if your knowledge of the Tudors is based around Henry VIII and Elizabeth then this is likely to be an interesting and informative read.

Penn excels at re-imagining the pageantry and rituals of the court,...
Published on 23 Mar 2012 by Roman Clodia

versus
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skewed according to research materials.....
As far as this reader is concerned: any work of history which connects the reader as closely as this book does, to original research documents and other sources, is a book worth reading.
This is not a chronologically-balanced account of the reign, in the sense that approximately two-thirds of the book concentrates on the second half of the period, with a virtual...
Published on 26 Feb 2012 by Stephen Kershaw


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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The personality and reign of Henry VII, 23 Mar 2012
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Penn does a good job here of re-telling the foundation of the Tudor dynasty and the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). Strictly speaking, nothing here is new but if your knowledge of the Tudors is based around Henry VIII and Elizabeth then this is likely to be an interesting and informative read.

Penn excels at re-imagining the pageantry and rituals of the court, and his descriptions of the triumphs, state entrances, coronations etc. are superb. He doesn't just quote from the sources but succeeds in placing himself there, giving us a front-row seat alongside him. He's also very good at replacing Henry within his European context: not just the marriage negotiations but also his trade alliances (e.g. the manoeuvrings to circumvent the papal alum monopoly) and his desire to establish European humanism (e.g. Erasmus, More) in his England, itself a legitimising strategy for the Tudor monarchy.

The book does a fine job of confirming why this is known as the `early modern' period with the growth of the international banking system and commodities trading. Less successful, however, for me, are some of the anti-Tudor political conspiracies: these are sometimes complicated and, inevitably, spread across time and there are points at which Penn doesn't quite succeed in making reading about them less than tortuous.

So this is thorough, detailed and precise with full sourcing and proper referencing. Penn writes elegantly and with a novelist's eye for detail at times - if you're interested in early Tudor history, the personality and reign of Henry VII, or the early life of Henry VIII then this is an excellent choice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Machiavellian monarch, 18 Dec 2012
By 
Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
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If you're looking for a book to change your view of Henry VII, two perhaps persuade you that this flinty eyed Welshman was a warm and compassionate human being, you'd better look elsewhere. What you do get from this elegant, excellent history is a sure-footed to re-evaluation by a bright young historian of a vital yet chronically overlooked historical figure. Penn is highly effective in describing the threat of the various pretenders, and the savage battles to establish Tudor authority that took place after Bosworth. He also does justice to the cynical and ruthless manipulation of the marriage market of European royalty that he manipulated with consummate skill and eye watering meanness. If your exposure to Tudor history is dominated by the looming figure of Henry VIII, you will find this an illuminating and wholly necessary read. I for one was struck by the parallels with his granddaughter Elizabeth.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A dark prince . . . infinitely suspicious" -- Francis Bacon, 2 April 2012
By 
takingadayoff "takingadayoff" (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
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Henry VII's reign has been a black hole in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors. At least it has been for me, along with the short reign of Edward VI. Thomas Penn's Winter King has filled in a quarter century of history, and in a readable and well-documented way.

I suppose I had thought that the period following The Wars of the Roses and preceding the drama that was Henry VIII's reign would be dull. Winter King does away with that notion. Consolidating his power and fending off pretenders made Henry VII a very busy monarch.

Penn's Henry Tudor is the sullen, skulking character we might have expected, but he is also three-dimensional, showing real grief when his wife died in childbirth, and when his son Arthur, Prince of Wales, died unexpectedly.

Winter King shows the importance of Henry's reign in establishing the validity of the Tudor line and how hard Henry had to fight to maintain its legitimacy. By the time his son, Henry VIII, took the throne, there was little question of his right to succeed.

But as interesting and important as the big picture is, I found the little details most intriguing. For instance, Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, wore reading glasses much of the time. I didn't know eyeglasses existed in 1500. But apparently only for reading, because Penn tells how Henry VII's eyesight was deteriorating and made him a menace when he indulged in his favorite pastime of hunting.

The image of Henry VII sitting in his castle counting his money like some Midas is also not far from the truth, according to Penn. Henry was deeply involved in the details of the royal finances, finding every possible way to wring more taxes from his subjects. He was also something of a commodities broker, dealing in potassium alum, a valuable mineral used to make dyes color-fast, very important to the textile trade across Europe and beyond.

Winter King also reveals again what many modern historians have shown - that the women of the age were as much a part of the political action as were the men. Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort was a real power behind the throne. So was Henry's wife, Elizabeth of York. Catherine of Aragon came to England as a bit of an innocent, but over her years as Arthur's widow, learned a fair bit of wheeling and dealing, and when she became Henry VIII's queen, was able to give him the benefit of her experience.

For all the popular history of the Tudors that are available, here is a book that doesn't rehash the same old stories and adds some new and original scholarship.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction into the Roots of the Tudor Dynasty, 27 Oct 2011
By 
Wobette (The Wild West) - See all my reviews
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Henry VII is one of my favourite characters in History, The product of an ambitious Mother and an equally ambitious Wife and Mother-in-Law, he became the last king of England to win the crown in battle and went on to sire one of the most famous royal dynasties we have seen.

He was born of Royal Descent but, like many at the time, his claim to the throne was tenuous, as his Mother came from John of Gaunt's disputed relationship with Kathrine Swyford. Although he enjoyed patronage in his early days, he was exiled to France as a young man. He famously went on to win the Crown at the Battle of Bosworth (after his Step-Father, Thomas Stanley, choose to support him and not Richard III) and then married Elizabeth of York, who after the death of her brothers in the Tower, could be conceivably be considered the legitimate heir to the throne.

He remained conscious of the threats to his throne and in turn countered this by building a legacy through his children, his Sons - Arthur and Henry.... And then arranged for his oldest child to marry a daughter of Spain... The tragic Catherine of Aragon... Setting into motion events that were to change the landscape of England for ever.

What Thomas Penn has done with this book is capture the feel of the times, the uncertainty that was in England as a result of the on-going War of the Roses and the desire for peace and stability. He captures the vulnerability of King Henry and his need to consolidate what he started at Bosworth. He has capture this very very well...

If nothing else this will give you an insight into the world that Henry VIII was born into and why he had the desire for male heirs and the impact that was to have.

Well written and easy to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting account of a little-known monarch, 18 Oct 2011
By 
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Penn's account of the life of Henry Tudor is a generally very readable and gripping story of a king sandwiched between rather better known, more glamourous, perhaps 'notorious' monarchs, Richard III whom he replaced with dubious legitimacy and his own son Henry, who became heir after the death of Arthur, his elder brother.

The early pages can be a demanding read, largely because of the large cast of characters referred to. However, it is worth persisting to access Penn's view of Henry's realm: this is not a country liberated by the righteousness and justice of the nascent Tudor 'Golden Age', but one in the grip of a near-paranoid, endlessly suspicious monarch. As support at court seems increasingly to wither away, he finds his advisers amongst the ranks of those who owe him everything and are dependent on his patronage. His preoccupation with inventive ways to raise money are well-documented and contribute to the reader's sense of a deeply unattractive figure. This could be a great tragic tale: a great figure corrupted by fears for the crown, the realm and his own survival, but somehow, Henry never seems to me to approach that sense of greatness at any stage and so I found it hard to feel much empathy for him, except perhaps in terms of his relationship with his wife which seems to move from political opportunism to some degree of affection and a shared sense of great loss following the death of Arthur. Though we may like our Tudor myths, this is in many ways much more interesting.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skewed according to research materials....., 26 Feb 2012
As far as this reader is concerned: any work of history which connects the reader as closely as this book does, to original research documents and other sources, is a book worth reading.
This is not a chronologically-balanced account of the reign, in the sense that approximately two-thirds of the book concentrates on the second half of the period, with a virtual magnifying glass being applied to the end of the reign, from the death of the king's wife to the king's own demise (approximately ten years). It is interesting, because it portrays the administrative aspect of the first Tudor monarchy and gives an insight into how a ruler becomes an outright tyrant. It is interesting again, in that his son's reign followed a similar trajectory i.e. increasing paranoia, insecurity and obsessions with finance and the Tudor succession.
However, this biography does not provide answers to (what is for this writer) the most interesting question of the later 15th century: how did the English monarchy convert from being primarily a military institution, to primarily an administrative institution. Therefore: how was the English nobility disarmed and subdued? Why was there no significant aristocratic opposition to the Tudor monarchy within England? In other words: how and why did the Wars of the Roses end so decisively? This question is not addressed in this book.
Even though the last years are examined very, very closely, one is still struggling to form an idea of how a late-medieval monarchy transfers (peacefully) from father to son. Apart from any other consideration: how did the Tudor couret differ from a Plantagenet court?
So: a good and accurate history, but not one which will stand in terms of authority or revelation.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable and entertaining history, 29 Jan 2012
By 
marcoscu "marcoscu" (Chorley,UK) - See all my reviews
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Tremendously well-written and intricately researched, this history/biography of Henry VII, first of the Tudor kings, mainly concerns itself with the twenty four years of his reign, from victory at Bosworth to his death in 1509, with plenty of background on Henry's birth and young life, his exile to France and the familial plotting and scheming that eventually brought him to challenge Richard Plantagenet's claim to the throne. There's a wealth of detail about court politics and life, as well as domestic life and the lives of his young sons, Arthur and Henry (the future kind Henry VIII) and their mutual wife, Catherine of Aragon.
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Placing the whole against a detailed background of European power play and English social life at this time, there's much about the severe oppression of Henry's reign, punitive taxation and judicial extortion, the English people were subjected to, and... This could all add up to a rather dry tome, but Thomas Penn has a light touch with detail and a knack for turning historical fact into readable narrative, so that you find you've taken in a great deal of fact and barely even noticed. The character of Henry Tudor himself comes across with terrific vivacity and colour - dour, severe, untrustworthy; a paranoid and mercenary plotter. A thoroughly hideous character and a far from model king, Henry was a true survivor, determined to hang on to his crown, legitimise his tenuous claims to the throne and found a dynasty.

In short, this is a very well written and highly readable book about a largely ignored king and an important period of English history; a prologue to the reigns of the better-known Tudors, a vital introduction to times that were to change English life and her place in the world forever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uniting a country, 8 April 2012
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SACB (Middlesex) - See all my reviews
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England was divided following the War of the Roses and this is the story of Henry VII who united the country by dubious means and yet created the most famous dynasty of English kings. There are many cameo appearances by other characters in this book and Carey makes the point in his review that this book is all fact as compared to Mantel's Wolf Hall. What this book does do is explain so much of what comes later but the prequel to Henry VIII is fascinating in its own right. Henry VII's unique way of ruling England that made the country rich is very modern and marks the change from the Middle Ages to Renaissance and Reformation. I knew almost nothing about Henry VII before reading this book, it is a history book rather than a historical novel and I enjoyed the read- the silky feel of the cover is nice too
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for history fans!, 27 Jan 2012
By 
A. Aziz (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England (Kindle Edition)
This book held my interest to the very last page. It is the first book ive read on Tudors & has compelled me to take an interest in the history that shaped Britain as well as the goings on in Europe at that time.

Penn writes about Henry vii with such familiarity that he brings to life the personality of the king & nature and impact of his rule.
However, I read this on kindle & found the family trees & maps difficult to read which was frustrating, that was my only issue!
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Henry VII - A better biography is yet to come., 27 April 2012
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First the positives. The book does give a reasonable picture of the personality of Henry VII - suspicious, greedy, wily and increasingly paranoid; the book explains the reasons for this in his disfunctional upbringing amid the chaos and slaughter of the Wars of the Roses. The clear inference is that Henry VII's personality was close to and heavily influenced that of his more famous son. The dynastic instabilty caused by the death of Henry's first son, and shortly after that of his wife in child birth, is well-laid out.

However the book is a bit of a mish-mash. It is in places quite tricky to follow - it has a large cast of supporting actors, and the accounts of the various plots are quite detailed - sometimes in fact the detail gets in the way of the pace of the story. At other times there are various quite tedious and pointless digressions - ten pages on the marriage ceremony between the Prince of Wales and Catherine of Aragon, or descriptions of the scholars orbiting the court.

At the end I felt I never really got to know Henry. The characteristics outlined at the start of the review emerge very early, and the portrait doesn't seem to change. I thought that Henry would be a more interesting character, often forgotten sandwiched as he is between two of the most famous occupants of the English throne. I still feel that there is a fascinating character there, but if there is Thomas Penn doesn't manage to uncover it. On the other hand if this is as good as it gets, perhaps it is now easier to understand why Henry VII has been neglected; such was his success in staying in the shadows, that it is now impossible for the historian to dig out the real man.

At any rate the book is a partial success, but does not deserve the fulsome hype it has received in some quarters.
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