Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,434 ratings  ·  262 reviews
IN 1501, ENGLAND HAD BEEN RAVAGED FOR DECADES by conspiracy, coups, and violence. Through luck, guile, and ruthlessness, Henry VII, the first of the Tudor kings, emerged as ruler—but as a fugitive with a flimsy claim to England’s throne, he remained a usurper and false king to many, and his hold on power was precarious.

But Henry had a crucial asset: hi...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 29th 2011)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Winter King, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Winter King

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Margaret Sankey
Henry VII is usually treated as a charmless and thrifty prelude to the big reign of Henry VIII, with the inevitable marriage of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, and the reversal of his father's bully policies for a golden age of chivalry and, you know, all the crazy shit Henry VIII was about to do. For inheriting an unstable throne, holding it for 25 year and leaving England relatively stable, Henry VII deserves his own biography and a lot more credit. Much of the ruthless machinery of control was...more
Quite ambitious in nature, Thomas Penn attempts to write a portrait of Henry VII and his reign. Why is this ambitious? 1) The number of books on Henry VII can basically be counted on one hand 2) This is Penn’s first book. To say the least, “Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England” is quite an interesting read…

Initially, Penn’s writing is slightly disorganized, disjointed, and lacking a strong cohesive bond. “Winter King” doesn’t follow the traditional (centralized) historical theme...more
Leanda Lisle
Thomas Penn’s Winter King in a brilliant mash-up of gothic horror and political biography.

David Starkey once declared Henry VII ‘boring’. But in writing his magnus opus on the supposedly more interesting Henry VIII he got so caught up in the drama of Henry VII’s court that Henry VIII is now largely being relegated to volume two of his own biography.

The first Tudor King had no legitimate English royal blood and no legal right to the throne. His father was the product of a scandalous marriage bet...more
I was disappointed by this – it was decent but I think it was somewhat overhyped. Having seen it pop up in a lot of papers' Books of the Year lists, I think I was expecting something altogether more gripping and dramatic, but in the end I thought the story of Henry VII and the Tudor succession was just not an especially thrilling tale. Henry himself was clearly a distant figure who governed through his ministers, but this means that it's quite hard to get much of a sense of his character from th...more
Marie Z. Johansen
I have to admit to being a history geek. For me, history is alive and energizing - not something static and remote. My obsession is European history from the 12th through 17th centuries - especially British history - so of course, when I was offered the chance to review this book, my interest was piqued immediately.

I had not read too terribly much about Henry VII in the past and, with this book, Thomas Penn, brings this most important of English monarch to life in a very enjoyable fashion. There...more
Claire M.
In my never-ending quest to read possibly every single published book on the Tudor monarchy, I spied this little gem a few weeks ago and picked it up. It's difficult to get a handle on Henry VII. Some of it is due to his personality--he played his cards close to the vest, unlike his son--and some of it is due to Tudor spin--they were, after all trying to bolster up the royal credentials for a man who didn't have that many. Overblown prose trumpeting his reign seemed to be the order of the day.

Claire Ridgway
Taken from my full review at

Winter King by Thomas Penn is a book on Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, but it is not a full biography. I just wanted to clear that up before I launch into my review. Henry VII was born in 1457 and ruled England from 1485 to 1509, but this book opens in autumn 1497 and so does not give you all the details of Henry's early life, his rise, his claim to the throne etc. and the Battle of Bosworth is only mentioned in the p...more
There are an awful lot of books written about the Tudor era, both fiction and non-fiction, so you have to ask whether this book adds anything new. I am glad to say that I think it does, for it concentrates on the reign, and court, of Henry VII, giving a different slant to the well known story. Henry VII ruled from 1485-1509 and had a dubious claim on the throne, spending most of his time before the famous Battle of Bosworth Field in exile and gaining credibility from his marriage to Elizabeth of...more
Interesting look at the founder of the Tudor dynesty. I thought the book was well written, even though a bit dry is spots. Henry was a remarkable man. I thought the way he controled the nobility was fascinating - keeping them in check as well a raising vast sums of money at the same time.

The book brings out his successful diplomacy - keeping England out of the various wars in Europe and managing to marry his son to the daughter of one of leading houses in Europe.

I thought the look at his relatio...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Thomas Penn's Winter King is not really a biography of Henry VII, and more a study of what he was directing his government to do in his name. (We certainly can, and do, decide what sort of king Henry was based on what he had his government get up to, however.)

For a further review: .
While most of us are familiar with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and we probably have a sense of the Wars of the Roses in England, but how many of us are familiar with Henry VII. He was the founder of the Tudor dynasty, and his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville brought together the too sides that were facing off during the Wars of the Roses (the Lancasters and the Yorks) basically uniting the two houses into a single family.

This book takes the opportunity to look at the final 10 years of Henry VII's...more
Matt Brady
Reasonably interesting overview of the reign of Henry VII of England. There's a (relatively) brief explanation of Henry's rather tumultuous childhood and his rise to the throne, before Penn really gets into the nitty gritty details during the second half of Henry's reign, focusing on his intricate foreign policy, his increasing use of finance as a means of control over his subjects and, most entertaining to me, the various plots and conspiracies of Henry's enemies. There's a lot of cloak-and-dag...more
I don't read a lot of NF because I usually find it to be tedious, but The Winter King certainly wasn't that. There were some sections I had to skim because I didn't feel they were relevant to the storyline, but mostly I was hooked into this very complex King. I'm beginning to wonder if all of the kings beginning with the conquest weren't a little off their rocker in some way. If you are new the era, this wouldn't the first book I would pick up because it does flip flop around a bit in the beginn...more
Robert Hall
The author makes too many judgements which made me ask "How does he know that"; on one occasion he claims to know what Henry 7th "thought". these unproveable assertions put me right off.
C2011: I now understand some of the quirks and quiddities relating to the English psyche. Having read this, the horrors of living under a system ruled by one man solely is brought to life. As The Guardian stated “Two themes of his book preside: the permanent vulnerability of Henry's regime, and his ruthless methods of rule.” It also highlights the saying “What goes around, comes around”. Whilst factual in content, this book manages to break down the various political intrigues, personalities and...more
An inticing peek into medieval England. Thomas Penn brings the reign of Henry VII to life in this well-researched book full of suspense and intrigue.

Not only do we meet the paranoid king and his complex acquaintances - from calculating monarchs to conniving pretenders - but we relive the crises of the times. Plague, war, and political deception are made real from page to page.

Amid the evolving political ideas of the time, we also find remnants of superstition and legend: celebrations of both K...more
Underestimating Henry VII is almost always a mistake--and not just if you're Richard III. He may have had even less charisma than he did royal blood, but, historian Penn argues, the man known as Henry Tudor ended not only the reign of Richard III and the Wars of the Roses, but also England's Medieval period--inventing modern systems of financing and government. At the same time, Tudor was controlling, paranoid (with good reason, Penn asserts) and unscrupulous. In fact, the author writes, Tudor's...more
* I received a free copy of this title through First Reads thank you to Goodreads*

Totally fascinating book about that forgotten father of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII. My only problem with the book is that it bounced around a bit chronologically . The in depth information you obtained through this volume is so fascinating and interesting.
I find Henry VII a much more interesting historical figure than his overrated and overindulged son Henry VIII. When one compares the two reigns, there is no qu...more
This was a very detailed book into the life of Henry VII. And not just him but his councilors such as Dudley and Empson in which the full extent of their actions during Henry VII's reign were revealed. A fascinating and entertaining read, the only problem with this book would be the age of Mary, from what Penn writes, it seems like she as born in 1494, for Mary at the time of her father's death was only 13, yet at times Penn mentions her being fourteen. I also enjoyed the parts with Catherine of...more
There's an old Chinese curse that runs "may you live in interesting times". Penn throws some new light on an era that certainly can be described as 'interesting' and somewhere I'm sure I wouldn't want to be living!

The Winter King of the title is Henry Tudor. Although more a history of the reign than biography (his early life is described only in brief), Henry doesn't come across as particularly likeably - not someone you'd like to sit down to dinner with! His whole style of kingship seems to be...more
Not a history of the reign, nor a biography of Henry--rather as the title suggests a study of the last years of Henry's life and rule. It considers his (justifiable) paranoia and the methods he used to enhance his security; his efforts to be a player in European diplomacy and power politics, the extra-legal methods to enhance his coffers and terrorize potential opponents through his strategy to put the wealthy and powerful of England "in trouble at the King's pleasure;" his negotiations with Spa...more
Susan Paxton
I really have mixed feelings about this. The first half of the book was badly organized and choppy - Penn had a lot of material and didn't seem to know how to organize it. He wasn't helped by the fact that it seems as if half the men in England at the time were apparently named "Henry" or "Richard," so you have to read very closely and sometimes go back and check to make sure you know who he's talking about. His use of neologisms is startling too ("hoovering", "mini-mes"). Rather suddenly, the s...more
Campbell Mcaulay
Readable and informative

Winter King really isn't my choice of book, but my wife avidly reads anything she can get on English history and our bookshelves are overflowing with this sort of thing. So it seemed sensible to pass it on to her, so this review was written by me on the basis of my wife Suzanne's thoughts on the book.

Thomas Penn's book is extremely well written for a debut and Suzanne thoroughly enjoyed it. It was not a difficult read at all, especially for a reader who may be used to thi...more
A remarkable book about the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty. The book reflects the wealth of research undertaken by the author, but It is never boring or turgid. As you read through the chapters you begin to feel and smell the oppressive court of Henry VII. In reality, At the root of all the oppression was the real problem that Henry VIi had no right to the throne and he knew it, he was the usurper. Henry VII lived his whole reign living in fear of other legitimate and non-legitimate claims to th...more
Ray Campbell
"Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England" was a revelation. I've read three histories that cover the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII which explain that Henry VII was a virtuous king under whose watch England enjoyed peace. The emphasis is always on the stage being set for Henry VIII to change the world forever. While this was the case to a certain extent, it sells short the 25 year of work Henry VII did to establish the legitimacy of the House of Tudor by not only ruling well,...more
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I entered because I have been reading books about the Tudors for decades, but have encountered few about Henry VII, so he was a rather shadowy figure to me.

I enjoyed the book and found it very readable. One of the things I appreciated was that the notes at the back were source references only, so there was no need to keep flipping back and forth every time I saw a footnote.

I feel I have a much better understanding of Henry VII now, and his paranoia, which...more
I was just notified that I won this book on Goodreads! I am very excited and can't wait to read it. I looked on both goodreads and the web and it has received great reviews. I already have had three people ask to read it. People, stand in line!

I just received this book and paging through it am anxious to get started--assuming of course that I can wrest it out of my mother's hands!

I am about halfway through Winter King and enjoying it immensely. I am reading slowly as every little way I find myse...more
The hybrid rose...

Like many people, I have always had an interest in perhaps the most famous of all the Kings, Henry VIII. However, prior to reading this book, I really knew nothing about the reign of his father, Henry VII, or indeed of Henry VIII’s early years. This book has helped fill much of that gap in my knowledge. As a non-historian, I wouldn’t pretend to be able to comment on the historical accuracy, but I found the book very well written, the arguments convincing and the whole a very i...more
It turns out living in early Tudor England was a bit like an extended episode of the Sopranos except without the cannolis. Gangs of thugs roamed the kingdom enforcing the law (or rather the law as it served their interests) and at the head sat a silent Don determined to hold power and establish his family in charge.

So much has been written about Henry VIII and Elizabeth that the founder of the Tudor and Stuart dynasties often doesn't get much airtime. This is a fascinating look at a (probably)...more
Winter King by Thomas Penn has one bit of greatness. It is the only extant biography of Henry VII. This is also its greatest drawback as due to the lack of other books on the first of the Tudor monarchs, Winter King tries to cover everything in minute detail. However, it fails miserably at this endeavor. Covering politics, personal moments, internal court maneuvering, and just about everything else you could possibly thing of the narrative of the book is disjointed and a bit cluttered as we go f...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty
  • House Of Treason: The Rise And Fall Of A Tudor Dynasty
  • Blood Sisters:  The Women Behind The War Of The Roses
  • After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England
  • Henry: Virtuous Prince
  • Blood & Roses
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England
  • The Last White Rose: Dynasty, Rebellion And Treason   The Secret Wars Against The Tudors
  • A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
  • Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
  • Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor
  • Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
  • Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr
  • The Children of Henry VIII
  • Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England
  • Henry VIII: Man and Monarch
  • Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy
The Breviate in the boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland Richard III: England's Black Legend

Share This Book