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Winter King by Thomas Penn

Winter King (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Thomas Penn

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4032126,478 (3.81)28
Title:Winter King
Authors:Thomas Penn
Info:Simon & Schuster (2012), Kindle Edition, 482 pages
Collections:Your library

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Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn (2011)

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Despite the author's generally clear style of writing, and despite the wealth of detail so painstakingly researched, the more one reads this book, the more Henry VII recedes from view behind the mountain of money he spent his life amassing. If the author was trying to give a rounded portrait of Henry VII then he failed, but it is an honourable failure because Henry VII gave him absolutely no help at all. ( )
1 vote comsat38 | Dec 13, 2013 |
I listened to this book as an audiobook. I've been fascinated by the Tudors ever since I took English history in school. Recently the books by Philippa Gregory about the War of the Roses have caught my interest and when I saw this book was narrated by Simon Vance, one of the preeminent narrators of audio books, I knew I had to listen to it.

This book didn't spend much time on the years before Henry VII took the throne and that was okay with me because of Philippa Gregory's books that have explored that time quite well. However, there is some and probably enough to give the background for the meat of the book which concerned Henry VII's reign. It seems that Henry was a very religious man but he certainly didn't let that stop him from accumulating great wealth by taxing and fining the citizens of England. He was helped in this by various men but he micromanaged all aspects of accruing money. So he was certainly aware that he was not popular. His son and heir, Henry VIII, appeared to be his exact opposite when he came to the throne and the populace responded to him with enthusiasm. However, many of the father's advisors were kept on by Henry VIII. Everyone knows the story of Henry the VIII's numerous marriages and break with the Catholic church. A king who was brought up in the belief that the sovereign could do anything he wished would easily accept the doctrine of the divine right of kings.

Very interesting material and well read by Simon Vance. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Dec 9, 2013 |
Henry Tudor: Henry VII, perhaps best known as father of Henry VIII, but Thomas Penn's compelling biography places him not only as the founder of the Tudor dynasty, but of laying the ground rules for those that would follow him. Fear, manipulation and control were the watch words and if this sounds like a model for Machiavelli's [The Prince] published in 1513 just four years after Henry's death then it would not be very wide of the mark.

When Henry Tudor by good fortune emerged victorious at the battle of Bosworth field, he grasped the opportunity on behalf of the house of Lancaster to crown himself king. The Yorkist king Richard III had been killed as had the Duke of Norfolk, while his Lancastrian supporter the Duke of Northumberland had fled. Bosworth Field was the final pitched battle of the long running feud between the noble hoses for the crown, but this was by no means a certainty when Henry was crowned king. He had the opportunity to consolidate his reign following the deaths of the leading Yorkists, but he had to come up with different modus operandi to previous rulers. The problem facing him was how to maintain his authority when other nobles still craved to be king. Traditionally a king would buy his support by rewarding his supporters with land and wealth, usually from the spoils of war and when this wasn't enough crack down harshly on any opposition. Henry VII followed this well trod path, but he added another essential ingredient, he hit both friends and enemies where it really hurt, he hit them in their pocket. Gradually he instigated a system of fines and bonds for misdemeanours against the crown: past as well as present, backing this up with intelligence gathering machinery through informants and spies that was unprecedented. He rapidly became very rich, no longer needing parliaments agreement to raise taxes and his opponents became relatively poor, eventually reduced in circumstances to an extent where putting an army in the field against the king would have been extremely difficult. Fifteenth century knights and aristocrats were well used to living in fear of death, but living in fear of not being able to live in the proper style was an added incentive not to cause trouble.

Thomas Penn's well researched biography is written in a style that would be accessible to the more general reader. He has done for the first Tudor King what [[Ian Mortimer]] has done for the Plantagenet's, made a story of their lives that is both exciting to read yet still heaped in period detail and not straying too far from accepted facts. Other historical characters come alive; Catherine of Aragon and the Kings mother Lady Margaret and his wife Elizabeth and the Kings advisers and money men, but also the artists and men of letters that hovered around the periphery of the Kings court; for example Erasmus, Stephen Hawes and John Skelton. Prince Henry who became Henry VIII threatens to take over the biography in the latter chapters, but this provides the incentive that will keep the more general readers interested until the end. I felt entertained and informed while reading and would rate this a four star read. ( )
2 vote baswood | Dec 3, 2013 |
I had just finished reading Wolf Hall when I came across this book on a remainder table in front of a Stratford bookstore. It occurred to me that I really didn't know very much about Henry VII other than that he had defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field and had sired Henry VIII, so I picked it up.

I have to agree with Hillary Mantel's blurb on the front of the book: "Compelling...Fascinating...I feel I've been waiting to read this book a long time."

Winter King actually has much in common with Wolf Hall in its depictions of the machinations of Henry VII's court and counselors. The first part of his 24-year (1485-1509) reign was absorbed by neutralizing threats against his claim to the throne by a variety Plantagenet claimants who were much more clearly in line to the throne and by the flamboyant Pretender, Perkin Warbeck. During the latter part of his reign, he was obsessed with gaining wealth using nefarious claims against and fines of the aristocrats and merchant princes of London, so that when he died, the English royal treasury was the wealthiest in all of Europe. Winter King as history is not as character-driven as Mantel's novels, but there are some touching portraits of Elizabeth of York, Henry's beloved queen, and the young Catherine of Aragon, ensnared in the web of diplomacy between her father, Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry.

Although it's meticulously researched and documented, the book does not read as dry history. Penn is an excellent stylist who makes the period come alive and offers another, earlier perspective into the Tudor Court. Highly recommended. ( )
4 vote janeajones | Sep 8, 2013 |
Excellent profile of the first Tudor and his machiavellian methods of ensuring the establishment and continuance of the Tudor dynasty. ( )
  Waltersgn | Apr 18, 2013 |
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'I love the rose both red and white,
Is that your pure, perfect appetite?'

Thomas Phelyppes,
'I love, I love and whom love ye?' c.1486
'Since men love at their own pleasure and fear at the pleasure of the prince, the wise prince should build his foundation upon which is his own, not upon that which belongs to others: only he must seek to avoid being hated.'

Machiavelli, The Prince
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A biography
Of Henry VII, founder
Of the Tudor line.

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Profiles Henry VII as an enigmatic and ruthless king of a country ravaged by decades of conspiracy and civil war, discussing the costs of establishing a Tudor monarchy and the ways he set the stage for Henry VIII's reign.

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