Winter King by Thomas Penn


In English history the Tudors are seen as the bridge between the medieval world and the early modern one. They certainly helped to shape a lot of what we think about the nation state, the relationship with church and our understanding of monarchy among other things. Henry VII was the founder of that dynasty although his story has often been overshadowed by those of his more famous son and granddaughter. Penn’s portrait of Henry is of a scheming and distrustful man who ruthlessly exploited the wealth of his kingdom and his subjects (often in highly illegal ways) for the glory of himself and the furthering of his political ambitions. The narrative mimics Henry’s own kingship – as he withdraws from public life so he moves in to the background of his own story, the details fleshed out with tales of intriguing among his ministers. And even here, in this biography of Henry VII, his son and future daughter-in-law bestride everything, colouring every mention with thoughts of what will happen decades later. Henry may have been the founder of the Tudors and Penn may have done a great job of recording his life but in reality he is merely the prologue of the real story to come.

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