Winter King by Thomas Penn

Thomas Penn’s debut Winter King about the life of Henry VII has won acclaim and plaudits throughout the literary world and I have to add my name to the long list of historians, authors and reviewers who find this work engaging, thought provoking and insightful.


Those with an interest in the middle ages, Shakespere or the new White Queen series on BBC1 will know that Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, married Elizabeth of York, founded the Tudor dynasty and was succeeded by his son Henry VIII. So much for the general ignorance category how about the Q.I? The rest of Henry VII’s extraordinary life has been largely forgotten.

Penn’s writing style has the form of a narrative interspersed with fact and followed the life of Henry Tudor chronologically from his origins as nephew of the king with a great inheritance, his banishment and role throughout the Wars of the Roses to his seizure of the throne, revolutionary kingship and legacy. It is easy to follow and the particular attention paid to Henry’s form of government and management of the nobles provides a new insight into a key figure of history who has been overshadowed by his more famous son Henry VIII and grandchildren (Mary I and Elizabeth I).


Penn’s research is exemplary and he his clear passion for the subject matter is evident in his style and the composition of the book and chapters which are both manageable and full of information. For a newcomer to the history genre and particularly the over-saturated Tudor period, Penn has succeeded in providing something fresh and entertaining about this Machiavellian king who tore up the rule book and established a new type of kingship and government. The legacy of Henry VII permeates the reigns of his progeny and elements of his banking enterprises and governance thrived long after he was sidelined by history.


Overall, Winter King has greatly added to our store of knowledge about the Tudor period and Thomas Penn, if he continues in this manner, looks set to become a household name as an accessible and enlightening historian.



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