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Winter King

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,459 ratings  ·  439 reviews



'He were a dark prince, and infinitely suspicious, and his times full of secret conspiracies and troubles' Sir Francis Bacon

In his remarkable debut, Penn vividly recreates the
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Penguin Books (first published September 29th 2011)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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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
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 s
Rick Riordan
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this really interesting, but I’m a history nut. After Wolf Hall, I wanted to find out about Henry VII, the lesser-studied father of Henry VIII, who founded the Tudor Dynasty. The author does a good job drawing on his sources and bringing the characters to life while staying true to the history, but the subject matter is just not inherently as ‘sexy’ as Henry VIII’s or Elizabeth I’s reigns. Henry VII comes across as a talented micromanager and financier. He made huge gobs of money binding ...more
Leanda Lisle
Jun 27, 2013 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
Margaret Sankey
May 04, 2012 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
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
David Sarkies
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Shakespeare Lied
1 August 2017

Everywhere where this book is concerned there are statements about how it won all these awards, and how wonderful it is as a history book, yet I found it on the clearance table at a bookshop I was exploring in inner city Sydney. Normally I wouldn't have purchased it, but it grabbed my attention, and a part of me actually thought it was about Richard III. Actually, maybe I bought it because it was about Henry VII and then promptly forgot, but I do know that I didn't
☙ nemo ❧ (pagesandprozac)
this was well-written and i love henry vii for how he managed to a) get the throne of england and b) keep it and make the crown so solvent after the devastating years of the Wars of the Roses, but i can't help but think that a lot of this was... rather dry. of course, a large proportion of my opinion is probably due to the fact that i knew a lot about henry vii already, and Penn tried to create quite a thrilling/mysterious feel, which is all well and good if you don't already know how everything ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Levissimus = lightest, quickest, smoothest

In medieval times, Levissimus was also used to refer to the 'least of men'. It is a word that aptly describes Henry VII, the first Tudor king and one of the most wily leaders of the royal line. That familial connection wasn't as strong as other lineages, but the Winter King moved quickly to extinguish Richard III's life and to grab the throne. He effectively ended the Wars of the Roses, but many learned to never turn their back on him.

Henry's government,
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie by: spotted on Susanna's updates
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
K.J. Charles
This was excellent. Well written and really interesting about an often ignored king. I had an idea Henry VII was a force for stability; in fact he was a terrifying kleptocrat, abusing the law with arbitrary fines and imprisonment, scheming to effectively steal entire estates and wring every penny out of subjects as well as impose political control through financial means. The parts on how he abused his position and the law to enrich himself while an entire nation watched helplessly are, frankly, ...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: .
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 14, 2012 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
Claire M.
Sep 16, 2012 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.

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. ...more
Hanna  (lapetiteboleyn)
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
I've never read much on the reign of Henry VII - mostly because to really get to grips with his policies, you first have to get to grips with his exhaustively complicated financial policies - but Penn provides a wonderful accessibility through his writing, which provides valuable context to the man who founded England's most famous dynasty. ...more
Caidyn (he/him/his)
This is one of those books that I feel could have been very good, but it wasn't. The book focuses on Henry VII's reign without really focusing on it. Does that make sense? Probably not. But, I'll explain myself a bit more. The prologue/introduction of the book rushes through Henry VII's childhood and his role in the Wars of the Roses, something I think needs to be expanded on since it explains who he was as a person and his paranoia in his later reign.

Then, suddenly, we've jumped away from Henr
Robert Hall
Apr 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, kindle
Henry Tudor is a familiar name to students of English history, especially the military side of it. Henry VII is actually a less familiar figure, despite being the same person.

So, a book on Henry VII's reign seemed like a good way to fill in the 'hole' between the Wars of the Roses and the ever-popular Henry VIII. And Penn's Winter King does a very good job at that.

I would not call this a biography. Henry VII was fairly remote as a king, watching from afar, and generally letting others be the pri
Claire Ridgway
Feb 21, 2012 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
Sep 09, 2012 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
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
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
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
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It was really very well researched and painstakingly written. Unfortunately, since all I really wanted to know about was learning about Henry the 7th and his family as people - the things that happened to them, what kind of people they were, etc. - and that was only about 50% of the book, it was only about 50% interesting to me.

The other 50% was, like I said, very well researched material about both various conspiracies to remove Henry from the throne and very detailed information about the roy
Jan 14, 2016 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.

Ryan Silberstein
This book was way too focused on what happened, but not so much on the why or why it was important.
Suzanne (winterscribbler) Cole
I've been wanting to read this for so long, I have history crush on Henry vii and it's quite strong. This was not exactly what I expected, but it was still interesting and very well written, which was more important since the story itself was much more stationary than any account of Henry's son, or his predecessor, would be. It was also fascinating to see some well known characters who we are familiar with from what followed, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Catherine of Aragon, not to mention a yo ...more
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