Review of Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England

Author: Thomas Penn

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2013

This excellent book is Penn’s debut and deserves recognition as one of the finest books of history published in the last half-decade.  Henry VII is not the most complicated figure, but his reign is somewhat mysterious and Penn, looking at Henry’s relationships with foreign rivals and allies, as well as with his own realm, provides at least a partial justification for what can only be described as the greatest tyranny in British history.

The depth of this work is commendable.  By comparison Robert Hutchinson’s Young Henry (about the rise of Henry VIII) documents some of the same events, but in describing the relationship between the British monarchy and the Pope leaves out Penn’s account of the disputed trade in alum, which the Pope sought to monopolize and which England helped to smuggle to the Low Countries.  This is important clarifying detail, inasmuch as it establishes an early basis for conflict between the Tudor monarchy and the Papacy, regardless of the changes in occupants in each place between the reign of Henry VII and the English Reformation.

Easily a five-star book and one which any student of 1500s England ought to read.

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