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Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,110 Ratings  ·  311 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: his queen and their ch
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 29th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 26, 2015 Mara rated it really liked it
After reading Thomas Penn's Tudor England oeuvre (aka this book), I am now substantially less impressed by the imagination of George R.R. Martin because *Holy Toledo Batman* this stuff like really happened!

Having been MIA from the Land of Reads and Reviews for a while, I'm admittedly not writing this book the review it deserves (a theme which, alas, will likely become the chorus of my next few updates). That being said, I really think you should read it because this sh*t be crazy!

4.5/5 stars
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
Margaret Sankey
May 04, 2012 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Leanda Lisle
Jun 27, 2013 Leanda Lisle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2012 Warwick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, tudor
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
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: .
Sep 20, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 25, 2012 happy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Wiltshire
I'm not giving this a star rating because I suspect it's me at fault not the book. I couldn't even stay awake reading this. Seriously, got nudged by my partner when I'd nodded off. Wolf Hall this is not. Wow, it was like being battered by facts without remission for good intentions.
Claire M.
Sep 16, 2012 Claire M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2012 Claire Ridgway rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pete daPixie
Nov 11, 2015 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-tudor
The front cover displays a short review by Hilary Mantel, part of which states, "I feel I've been waiting to read this book a long time." My thoughts exactly. There are no shortage of history books that cover the Tudor dynasty. Elizabeth I and Henry VIII have been done to death, whereas the twenty four year reign of Henry VII has remained in the shadows of his son and grand-daughter.
'Winter King' shines a bright light on this monarch's government, his ministers, the various threats to the realm
Sep 09, 2012 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this audiobook up because it was narrated by Simon Vance. I wasn't disappointed because, as usual, he did a great job with the narration. This book is a nonfiction look at King Henry the VII. The research was thorough and it was presented well and kept me engaged. I really enjoyed it. I would read more by this author. Sometimes when reading nonfiction of this type, I never know if it is going to be dry and dull or not. This definitely was not that. So 4 stars.

Winter King is an in-depth biography of Henry VII. I found this to be a valuable and well-written resource. It took me a while to get through it because it is so packed with information. It is a book that I will go back to many times.

This was not a regurgitation of rumors and myths about Henry VII and Richard III, but a thoughtful and unbiased look at who Henry really was.

I was at times confused by the author's tendency to organize by topic rather than chronology. He would state that something h
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
May 07, 2012 Robert Hall rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crap
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.
Mar 31, 2012 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 09, 2016 Dorothy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Hot damn. This was superb. For anyone interested in Henry VIII and his legacy this is a must-read. Simply, "The counselors on whom Henry VIII relied to push through his megalomaniac schemes in the following decades were formed in his father's reign."

Much of what we think we know of this English history has been filtered through Shakespeare, the Tudor's great PR guru and apologist. Starting with humpbacked and evil Richard III we see Henry VII as the restorer of peace and pater famila of the gre
Feb 29, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, tudor
* 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
Jan 24, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By golly, this was a good read. Ideal for Goodread. There's always a problem with history books, of making the reality of the period come to life. I've read a few books which dealt with Henry VII, and I've come away with this general impression of a bloke who, sure enough, didn't have many laughs on him, was a bit severe, but hey that was what England needed after the wars of the Roes so fair do's.

This book brought home just what an innovative, efficient tyrant the man was, and what a breath of
Ryan Groesbeck
Jan 07, 2016 Ryan Groesbeck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good book about the man without whom there would be no glittery Henry VIII. It captures the essence of how Tudor power was established, and the network of fear and informers that twisted the whole country into a paranoid, scheming mass of terrified people.

I'm always happy to see the money-earners get some credit. It seems to me that most of the Glorious Interesting monarchs who get books written about them tend to be complete spendthrifts, and the only reason they were able to d
Jan 28, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain
The Winter King is a detailed history of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. In the prologue, the book very briefly describes Henry's life up to 1500. It then slows down to focus in on the time period from 1500 (15 years into Henry's reign) until his death in 1509. I was fascinated to learn about the numerous plots to seize power from Henry by various people with claims to the throne. These plots were all due to the fallout from The Wars of the Roses of the previous century and Henry's own very ten ...more
This book was a meticulously researched, yet still dishy, look at the life and times of King Henry VII. Mercifully free of invented dialogue and filler, the book still languished a little bit in the middle. The author ultimately seems to agree with popular consensus: The most interesting thing about Henry 7 was his extremely famous second son, Henry 8. Paranoid, nerdy, and neurotic, Henry VII would today be a CFO or compliance officer. Henry VIII would be Kim Kardashian. One of these personae is ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Audeline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Aug 06, 2011 Éowyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jun 14, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  • Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words & the Words of Those Who Knew Her
  • Tudor: The Family Story
  • Blood Sisters:  The Women Behind The War Of The Roses
  • The Last White Rose: Dynasty, Rebellion and Treason. The Secret Wars against the Tudors
  • House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England
  • Blood & Roses: the Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses
  • The Perfect Prince: The Mystery of Perkin Warbeck and His Quest for the Throne of England
  • Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen
  • England Under the Tudors
  • A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
  • Henry: Virtuous Prince
  • The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth about the Tudors
  • Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I (The History of England, #2)
  • New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485-1603
  • The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family
  • Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn

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