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What about Henry VII?

What about Henry VII?

After reading an interesting review article in the London Review of Books, vol. 34, no. 8; ‘One Cygnet Too Many’ by John Watts on Thomas Penn’s ‘Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England’, it got me thinking about how much we/I know about Henry Tudor.

Most people (in the UK) know something about his son, King Henry VIII. He has been well researched and documented in many histories, TV dramas, films and is widely taught at school from a young age.

Most school children could tell you that he’s the one with the 6 wives, and many could quote the popular rhyme (at least from my childhood anyway),

‘divorced, beheaded, died,

divorced, beheaded, survived.’

And most could recognise that it was Henry VIII who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, and who destroyed the monasteries and positioned himself as the head of the Church of England.

Henry VIII is also easy to picture in the imagination, granted usually as his older, rotund self.

But what about his father?

I confess that I know little about him – but in my defence the history that I research and write about is imperial history – the history of the British Empire.

But as I flipped through and read this months (April 2012) edition of the LRB, I stumbled across a review article.

[which you can read in the paper magazine or if you are a subscriber can access online at:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n08/john-watts/one-cygnet-too-many ]

John Watt the author of the article, and fellow and tutor in history at Corpus Christi, Oxford, is generally highly praiseworthy of the history by Thomas Penn, and credits him with writing,

‘a learned and highly convincing account of an unusual and important period of English history, that he has done so for a wide audience only adds to his achievement.’

John Watt comments that the majority of the past work documenting Henry VII’s life and reign has been, on the whole, dry reading, and the history itself tends to be poorly documented. Therefore adding to his praise of Thomas Penn’s work, of which he (Watt) says,

‘he succeeds in bringing his characters to life through a series of well-chosen and scrupulously documented illustrations from the sources’

Thomas Penn’s ‘Winter King’ has promptly been added to my reading list and I look forward to broadening my knowledge about the Tudor age.


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