Winter King

Winter King

The Dawn of Tudor England

Audiobook CD - 2012
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Thomas Penn re-creates an England that is both familiar and very strange, a country medieval yet modern, in which honor and chivalry mingle with espionage, realpolitik, high finance, and corruption. It is the story of the transformation of a young, vulnerable boy, Prince Henry, into the aggressive teenager who would become Henry VIII, and of Catherine of Aragon, his future queen, as well as of Henry VII, controlling, avaricious, paranoid, with Machiavellian charm and will to power.
Publisher: [Ashland, OR] : Blackstone Audio, p2012.
Edition: Unabridged ed.
ISBN: 9781455134441
Characteristics: 12 sound discs (ca. 14 1/2 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Additional Contributors: Vance, Simon


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Mar 11, 2016

This review refers to the audiobook version of the novel.

Thomas Penn notes in his introduction that Shakespeare opted not to include Henry VII in his “sequence of history plays—and not for want of material but, one suspects, because the reign was simply too uncomfortable to deal with.” Henry was able to bring about some order of stability, ending the War of the Roses and setting up a secure succession to the throne (for the first time in about a century) but these pluses came at a cost. The stability proved to be illusory at times as contenders and pretenders to his throne threatened Henry for much of his reign. The appearance of stability came at a high price as a reign of terror, mostly financial in nature, was instituted to keep key subjects in line. Henry rarely dirtied his hands directly in these matters, giving close advisers free reign to impound, tax, and arrest to add to the state’s coffers (and to their own pockets) at an outrageous rate.

The secure succession also proved troublesome, the death of his oldest son Arthur just one obstacle to overcome. Henry had set in place the machinations for Prince Henry (Henry VIII) to assume the throne upon his death but much depended on the assistance of his close advisers. Whether intended or not, by linking their wealth and safety to a smooth transition he increased its likelihood.

My biggest wish would be to have the same focus on Henry’s early life up to the defeat of Richard III at Bosworth as his later life receives. It’s not that Penn slights this area but, in comparison to the thoroughness spent on the topics of his reign, the early years feels a little vague. Even with that minor wish, I highly recommend it.

Apr 13, 2014

Read by Simon Vance, always great voice, but this is more of a history lesson about Tudor family & he speaks rather rapidly. I'd say if one is not the least bit familiar with English history, one could easily get bored & lost.


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