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Henry: Virtuous Prince Hardcover – 1 Oct 2008
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‘This book is Starkey’s masterpiece. It combines the populist touch with deep insights of scholarship.’ John Guy, Sunday Times
‘Excellent…the really crucial events in the history of the British Monarchy since the Middle Ages are assessed with authority, wisdom and wit…This is Starkey at his fluent and entertaining best.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘It is brilliant, beady-eyed history, and every page of it has an intimate fascination…Starkey has eschewed the easy wisdom of hindsight…his strength is that he questions everything…he seeks fresh evidence…his writing is uncluttered and conversational, and he cuts through the back-story…with grace, clarity and wit…accessible and entertaining’ Guardian
‘Starkey has the mind of an historian but the eye of a court painter.’ Peter Ackroyd, The Times
‘It has an immense amount to offer the general reader…there are several little gems of brand new information…David Starkey has produced the most careful as well as the most colourful study of the young Henry for a long time, and perhaps of all time’ Independent on Sunday
‘What Starkey has produced, considering his own unrivalled command of the subject, and its vast literature, is a miracle of condensation’ Sunday Telegraph
‘This book…demonstrates his scholarship, supremely confident grasp of the period and authorial panache…fascinating’ Daily Mail
‘Starkey is a master of his trade…The best short history of England written since J. R. Green in the 1870s…the artistry of the writing conceals the efforts that have been made to ensure that this is both highly entertaining and remarkably accurate…an enterprise of surpassing excellence.’ TLS
‘This book…is vivid, lucid and engaging…his judgements delivered with quasi-Pontifical assurance are often acute…a very enjoyable book.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Starkey is a wonderfully lucid writer.’ Independent
‘Starkey is as eloquent and lucid as ever.’ The Times
‘The book is full of delicious detail’ Evening Standard
‘Assessed with authority, wisdom and wit…This is Starkey at his fluent and entertaining best.’ Sunday Telegraph
Praise for ‘Monarchy’:
‘Vivid, lucid and engaging…a very enjoyable book.’ Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
‘Starkey tours England’s monarchical horizon with gusto.’ Simon Jenkins, Sunday Times
'Starkey has the mind of an historian but the eye of a court painter.'See all Product description
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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.
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.
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.
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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