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Henry: Virtuous Prince Paperback – 19 Mar 2009
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‘This book is Starkey’s masterpiece.’ Sunday Times
‘Brilliant. Every page has an intimate fascination. An accessible and entertaining book.’ Hilary Mantel, Guardian
‘Demonstrates Starkey’s scholarship and authorial panache.’ Daily Mail
'Writing with a mixture of tabloid verve and original scholarship, peppering every page with pungent wit and yet never skimping on the detail…the best political history of the reign of Henry VIII so far…an outstanding overture.' John Guy, Sunday Times
‘If you like Henry VIII, this is what you'll like.’ Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
‘Starkey gives us an unexpectedly fresh-faced Henry VIII in his breezy biography.’ Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
‘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
The first instalment of the highly anticipated biography of Henry VIII, written by one of the UK's most popular, established and exciting historians. 'Henry: Virtuous Prince' is a radical re-evaluation of the monarchy's most enduring icon. Henry VIII was Britain's most powerful monarch, yet he was not born to rule. Thrust into the limelight after the sudden death of his elder brother, Prince Arthur, Henry ascended the throne in 1509, marking the beginning of a reign that altered the course of English history. In his youth Henry was highly intelligent, athletic and musically talented. He excelled in Latin and Mathematics and was an accomplished musician. On his accession to the throne, aged just seventeen, after the tumultuous rule of his father, he provided England with hope of a new beginning. Nobody could have foreseen how radical Henry's rule would prove to be. Often overshadowed by the bloody saga of his six marriages, his reign has left a lasting legacy. An absolute monarch, Henry's quest for fame was as obsessive as any modern celebrity. His fierce battles against Papal authority mark one of the most dramatic and defining moments in the history of Britain.Yet his early life was insecure.The Tudor regime was viewed by many as rule by usurpers and the dark shadows of the Wars of the Roses often threatened to tear England apart once more. The culmination of a lifetime's research, David Starkey gives a radical and unforgettable portrait of the man behind the icon; the Renaissance prince turned tyrant, who continues to tower over history. 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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