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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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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 13 April 2009
This book is a real disappointment. Although it has apparently been highly praised by professional reviewers, it seems to me a carelessly written and patchy book which displays little historical judgement in relation to certain aspects of the story.

First, Starkey is not as helpful to the reader as a biographer should be. To keep track of the main characters and how old they are, it is necessary to do the slog yourself, going backwards and forwards in the text to check.

This carelessness is at its worst in the treatment of Catherine of Aragon, whose age is never mentioned at any stage. Starkey does not even note how much older she was than Henry, though this seems to me interesting. Nor does he note how well educated she was, though again this is probably important for understanding how well she got on with Henry in the early stages of their relationship.

Starkey's treatment of the setting is patchy too. He tells us about Elizabeth of York, Henry's mother, in quite a lot of detail but the book never tells us that her uncle, Richard III, had Elizabeth and her brothers and sisters declared illegitimate except in a picture caption. Nor is it even acknowledged that the `princes in the tower' may have been still alive when Henry VII succeeded to the throne. I do understand that Starkey probably didn't want to get caught up in this controversy, but the reader needs some background to understand the `Perkin Warbeck' episode a little later. Did Henry VII know that the real Richard Duke of York (one of the princes in the tower) was dead, so Perkin had to be a fraud? Or was he afraid that this Yorkist pretender was the real thing? Starkey never even acknowledges that this is an interesting question, even though the episode is given extensive coverage.

On the positive side, Starkey's persuasive argument that Henry behaved consciously as a `Yorkist' in the early years of his reign and was greatly influenced by his mother is the best thing about the book. Perhaps the worst thing about it is the way it just stops - no conclusion, summing up, nothing.
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on 10 September 2013
4 stars because I really enjoyed reading this book with all the insight and detailed information. Occasionally repeating or confusing ,I had on occasion to go back and reread some sections. Definitely worth reading if you wish to know more about this fascinating character.
A typically well written, deeply researched David Starkey piece.
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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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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2010
David Starkey is a well known English historian of the Tudor Period of government whose views reached a wide public audience through television. By his own admission Starkey has "a tendency towards showmanship. Towards self-indulgence and explosion and repartee and occasional silliness and going over the top." Of the above characteristics it is the first mentioned which is leaves the most lasting impression. This may be because it often reads like a treatment for a television show than a work of serious scholarship.

The book is written in a hectoring manner with Starkey's research appearing as reworks of the same tired old subject. Unlike his mentor, Professor G R Elton, who made a substantial contribution to an understanding of Tudor history in a well thought out tome, Starkey gives the impression of nibbling at the edges with multiple repetitious volumes. If the Six Wives of Henry V111 can be dealt with in a single volume what need is there of a volume dealing only with Henry's formative years? Would it be too cynical to suggest television and money?

This volume has all the pretentions of history but little of the substance. Themes are glossed over with snippets about individuals, interpretation presented as fact and speculation based on opinion. For anyone with knowledge of the subject it adds too little to what is already known while for those with no knowledge it provides little incentive to find out more. It lacks depth and is strung together in an almost haphazard manner. Which is a pity for there is a good story to be told and avenues to be followed, only some of which are referred to in the book. While Starkey provides historical context and some overlooked facts he left this reader neither satisfied nor wanting more.

The book is easy to read and there are a number of obscure points of etiquette and practice which are explained but everything comes to a sudden halt with the arrival of Wolsey who, it is indicated, is used by Henry for manipulative ends and who, in turn, uses Henry for his own purposes. The book is more of a statement of Starkey's claim to be called a well liked historian than one meant to be helpful to the reader. Showmanship rather than showing. Repetition rather than repartee. There appears to be no compelling reason why any historian should choose to have this book on the shelf, either for reference or pleasure.

On the other hand a newcomer to the subject will find Starkey readable, not least because of his anecdotal style. It reads like a television script rather than a work of literature. The work could have been condensed and set in smaller print without significant loss. In an age when packaging is under scrutiny Starkey's extensive padding deserves to be criticised. Rating the book has been difficult. As a historian I was very disappointed and inclined towards minimum stars. As a general reader I tend towards a more generous rating. In the final analysis three seems about right but don't just take my word for it. Read it for yourselves and make up your own mind.
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on 12 March 2012
I cannot understand why so many didn't seem to understand the importance of this work. It is fascinating to me reading the 'what came before' part of the man we all feel we know so much of. Well done Mr. Starkey for adding to our better understanding of this very interesting character, and for allowing us to enjoy the experience with you. Looking forward to reading your take on part 2.
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on 15 January 2009
Henry: Virtuous Prince
I ordered this with eager anticipation.Really rated Starkey's work.What happened??A stringing together of a few interesting facts,with lists and lists of dull and generally pointless facts .The writer always shows his ego,but this time he went for broke.Such huge assumptions on such little evidence.Dull,disappointing-though of course I'll have to get the next volume,though I will now be able to wait for the cheap paperback!
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on 11 February 2010
As the first book of Starkey's I've ever read I didn't really have any expectations beforehand, thus my review can claim to be, relatively, unbiased.

I liked the book and discovered many little nuances about Henry VIII that I didn't know before. Starkey writes as he appears on television: leading/rhetorical questions, punchy sentences, a historian with a personality. Is this good for a book? (see what I did there?) Well yes, and no.

As mentioned in a previous review, Starkey is terribly lazy with detail, forcing you to flip backwards and forwards to find if the Suffolk he is suddenly mentioning is indeed the Charles Brandon he spake about earlier, etc.

Yet the book is still interesting and easy to read, if you don't mind not knowing the minor characters that Starkey picks up and drops in the blink of an eye.

The biggest anti-climax, however, is saved for the end. The book abruptly ends without warning, and you're left wondering what happened. I can only presume that there is a follow up book?

With all of that in mind, I enjoyed it enough to read it twice and there with undoubtedly be a third. But is it ground-breaking piece of literary work about Henry VIII that no historian could do without? Not really, but it's worth a read if you have the time.
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on 15 December 2012
This was got for 1p plus p and p. It is a beautiful book and will be an excellent read. its in such good condition that I have wrapped it up for a present for Christmas. It was delivered in excellent time. Most impressed with the seller.
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on 28 October 2009
This is an informative and intriguing book written in a typical David Starkey style. Amusing at times, the information in this book is very accessible for the amateur historian interested in this subject area.

The book follows the latter part of King Henry VII's reign and the early part of King Henry VIII's reign (up to his initial association with Thomas More in his early twenties). All aspects of family and court life are covered which helped to shape the young prince. A lot of information is given about Henry VII which I particularly found useful as I was previously unfamiliar with the Monarch.

There was perhaps a little too much emphasis on the various financial bonds which tied nobleman to monarch for my liking and the intricately linked family connections at the beginning of the book was difficult to get the head round.

However, I am glad I have read this book and would recommend it to others interested in this period who know little about it! I certainly want to learn more about Henry VII and his struggles as he battled for the English Crown.
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