Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England
by Thomas Penn
Narrated by Simon Vance
Blackstone Audio, 2012
14 hours and 34 minutes
A fresh look at the endlessly fascinating Tudors - the dramatic and overlooked story of Henry VII and his founding of the Tudor Dynasty - filled with spies, plots, counter-plots, and an uneasy royal succession to Henry VIII.
Near the turn of the sixteenth century, England had been ravaged for decades by conspiracy and civil war. Henry Tudor clambered to the top of the heap, a fugitive with a flimsy claim to England’s crown who managed to win the throne and stay on it for 24 years. Although he built palaces, hosted magnificent jousts, and sent ambassadors across Europe, for many Henry VII remained a false king. But he had a crucial asset: his family - the queen and their children, the living embodiment of his hoped-for dynasty. Now, in what would be the crowning glory of his reign, his elder son would marry a great Spanish princess.
Thomas Penn re-creates an England that is both familiar and very strange - a country medieval yet modern, in which honor and chivalry mingle with espionage, realpolitik, high finance, and corruption. It is the story of the transformation of a young, vulnerable boy, Prince Henry, into the aggressive teenager who would become Henry VIII, and of Catherine of Aragon, his future queen, as well as of Henry VII - controlling, avaricious, paranoid, with Machiavellian charm and will to power.
Rich with incident and drama, filled with wonderfully drawn characters, Winter King is an unforgettable account of pageantry, intrigue, the thirst for glory, and the fraught, unstable birth of Tudor England.
Why this book?
A couple of months ago, I found myself searching for an audiobook to enjoy with my husband during a long car ride. His only request was that it be nonfiction. I often listen to nonfiction, but was having a hard time settling on a title until I came across this post on nonfiction audiobook recommendations at Beth Fish Reads. Finally, a book I was certain we could both enjoy.
Manipulation, intrigue, and more. I have a long-standing interest in Tudor England that mostly centers around Henry VIII. Henry VII, however, was a mystery. Through Winter King, I developed an understanding of both Henry VII's reign and the making of Henry VIII.
Many of the names were already familiar yet, especially in the opening chapter, I had a hard time keeping them straight and wished I could refer to a print copy. Unfortunately, the library hold list was quite long and I wasn't able to obtain one prior to finishing the audio. As a result, some of the early details went over my head, yet I was still able to relax and enjoy the book thanks to Simon Vance's excellent narration.
Accounts of intelligence, counter-intelligence, sabotage, and the overall oppression of subjects during Henry VII's reign came as somewhat of a surprise. I enjoyed learning more about Catherine of Aragon - her marriage to Arthur, life as a widow, and the proceedings that lead to her marriage to Henry VIII. The death of Henry VII and events surrounding Henry VIII's rise to power were also especially interesting.
Despite a rocky start, I ended up enjoying the book quite a bit.
A note on the audio production:
Simon Vance, where have you been all my audio life? Vance is a perennial favorite among audiobook fans, and with good reason. His flawless narration was incredibly engaging, and definitely the high point of the book for me.
The audio production:
Winter King provides a fascinating look at the beginning of Tudor England, especially the reign of Henry VII. Highly recommended history buffs.
FTC disclosure: purchased from Audible.com