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Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England Hardcover – 29 Sep 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 229 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (29 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142024
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142024
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (229 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A brilliant debut ... this impressive book will certainly become the definitive study of our strangest, most mysterious, king (Desmond Seward BBC History Magazine )

Stunning ... effortlessly vivid prose ... a revelation. [Penn's] focus is on the last, fear-filled decade of [Henry VII's] reign, but his sinuously coiling chapters seamlessly unfold the past as well as the present of his protagonists ... [He] has pulled off a rare feat: a brilliant and haunting evocation of the Tudor world, with irresistible echoes of the age of fear in which we now live (Helen Castor Telegraph )

[A] brilliant mash-up of gothic horror and political biography ... a tour de force: both scholarly and a pleasure to read, covering the breadth of the European political scene, while providing the details that allow us to feel intimately the terror at home (Spectator )

Remarkable ... Penn brilliantly recreates the sterile atmosphere suffocating Henry's England. His eye for time, circumstance and the telling anecdote is keen. Winter King offers us the fullest, deepest, most compelling insight into the warped psychology of the Tudor dynasty's founder to have appeared since Bacon wrote (Financial Times )

[Thomas Penn] is a superb teller of a tale, a reveller in dodgy deeds, a keen observer of the febrile, dissimulating characters of court and embassy, and a splendid limner of the great jousts and entertainments of the age ... with a sharp eye for detail and adroit use of a gifted historical imagination, ... he lets us hear the creak of oars and the scratch of pens, as well as the tubercular king fighting for every breath ... Vigorous and thoroughly enjoyable (Economist )

I feel like I've been waiting to read this book a long time ... a fluent and compelling account ... The level of detail is fascinating and beautifully judged ... I think that, for the first time, a writer has made me feel what contemporaries felt as Henry VII's reign drew to an end; the relief, the hope, the sudden buoyancy (Hilary Mantel, Author Of 'wolf Hall' )

Succeeds brilliantly ... [a] finely drawn portrait ... Penn's deft turn of phrase superbly re-creates the drama and personalities of the court (Tracy Borman Sunday Times )

An exceptionally stylish literary debut. Henry VII may be the most unlikely person ever to have occupied the throne of England, and his biographers have rarely conveyed just what a weird man he was. Thomas Penn does this triumphantly, and in the process manages to place his subject in a vividly realised landscape. His book should be the first port of call for anyone trying to understand England's most flagrant usurper since William the Conqueror (Diarmaid Macculloch )

A definitive and accessible account of the reign of Henry VII that will alter our view not just of Henry, but of the country he dominated and corrupted, and of the dynasty he founded ... [Penn's] point is to show that this is not the "merrie England" of the Tudor myth, but a country forced under the rule of a new king, spied on and policed for any sign of disloyalty, and tyrannised by the use of ancient half-forgotten fines and taxes (Philippa Gregory Observer )

[Penn] achieves the remarkable feat of making the reign of Henry VII seem more interesting than that of his son. Winter King is well titled: the fingers of the first Tudor king, in Penn's account of his final years, are icy to the touch, and probe into every nook and cranny of the kingdom ... gripping and unexpected (Tom Holland Guardian )

About the Author

Thomas Penn was born in 1974. He has a PhD in early Tudor history from Clare College, Cambridge. Winter King is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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