Historical British Royalty: Biographies and Histories

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"Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England", Thomas Penn 2011 [Henry VII]

"Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England"
by Thomas Penn

Published: 20/10/2011
Format: Hardback, 456 pages
ISBN-13: 9781846142024
ISBN-10: 1846142024

reviews (excerpts)

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn - The Observer

In Winter King, first-time historian Thomas Penn has written a definitive and accessible account of the reign of Henry VII that will alter our view not just of Henry, but of the country he dominated and corrupted, and of the dynasty he founded.

The royal couple's determination to make more children to replace the one they had lost ended in tragedy, and Penn is at his most sympathetic to Henry when the wife that he married for political gain, but probably learned to love, died in childbirth. In his depiction of Elizabeth of York, the Plantagenet princess who brought popular support and Yorkist loyalties to the Tudor arriviste, Penn offers us an unusually engaging portrait. Instead of the usual picture of a passive, dominated young woman, heroically bearing children in the enemy camp, this account suggests that she was equal to her situation, and brought to the Tudor court the easy grace and informality of her parents: the glamorous Edward IV and the famously beautiful Elizabeth Woodville.

Margaret Beaufort, Henry's mother, has been neglected by historians, but in this account she is frequently glimpsed. Penn describes her nun-like appearance, her eye for household detail and discipline, and notes that whenever Henry suffered his regular illness, Lady Margaret turned up with physicians, remedies, her own bed and a barrel of her favourite wine.

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England | Thomas Penn | Review by The Spectator

There is something of Gordon Brown in the older Henry VII: an impression of darkness, of paranoia and barely suppressed rage, not to mention the terrifying tax grabs and tormenting of enemies. But Gordon was never quite as entertaining, or frightening, as Thomas Penn’s Winter King in this brilliant mash-up of gothic horror and political biography.

The 28-year-old who won the battle of Bosworth in 1485 was a leader of some charm, even charisma, but also a damaged man, ‘infinitely suspicious’. He did not know England and was acutely aware that what had been won by the sword could as easily be lost by it. Henry had gained his victory with the support of those Yorkists who had turned against Richard III after the disappearance of Edward IV’s sons, the princes in the Tower. Henry carried out his promise to them to marry Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, but was crowned in his own ‘right’ – and it was a ‘right’ that was often to be questioned. With the last Plantagenet – the Earl of Warwick – kept in the Tower, his enemies set up pretenders against him. For Penn a key moment is the appearance in 1491 of a young man who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, son of Edward IV. Even Sir William Stanley, the man who had crowned Henry at Bosworth, was prepared to betray him for this boy. The pretender was executed in 1499 as Perkin Warbeck. Warwick, who had not left the Tower since childhood, was also killed. But Henry never felt safe, and the deaths of his elder son, Prince Arthur, in 1502, and his wife the following year, seemed to shut all the light out of his life.

Henry disappeared like a spider into his private apartments. There he spun a web that allowed him unprecedented control over his subjects. He described it as keeping them ‘in danger at his pleasure’. Earlier kings had bound offenders and suspects for their good behaviour on pain of paying a ‘debt’. Henry VII extended this system to the entire propertied class. Opposition was priced out of the market. Penn’s description of this Tudor tyranny is a tour de force: both scholarly and a pleasure to read, covering the breadth of the European political scene, while providing the details that allow us to feel intimately the terror at home. Hope for the future fixed on the young Prince of Wales, the future Henry VIII. He is the spring that, at last, follows the Winter King. Unlike Gordon Brown’s successor, Henry VIII inherits coffers stuffed with cash (if Henry VII was ‘led into avarice’, it was, at least, to some good purpose). The monster is dead. People rejoice. But, this being a horror story, Penn leaves us with the icy sensation of some unimaginable terror ahead.

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England | BBC History Magazine

The Wars of the Roses continued long after Richard III’s death at Bosworth in 1485. Henry Tudor, whose claim to the throne was almost non-existent, became king solely because he was the only candidate available to challenge Richard, and although he married Edward IV’s eldest daughter, many die-hard Yorkists would never accept him. He survived plot after plot, but constant danger turned him into a paranoiac. Thomas Penn brilliantly recreates his strange, Machiavellian personality and the “sustained state of emergency” that was his reign.

His wealth came from financial expertise rather than parsimony (he spent lavishly on clothes, jewellery and building), as he had acquired a remarkable knowledge of the commodity markets. Penn shows how he made enormous profits from the illegal alum trade with the Turks, loaning money and ships to Italian merchants, and controlling the supply of alum into England – where it was in demand as a dye-fixer by clothmakers.

In attempting to found a dynasty, his elder son Arthur’s betrothal to the king and queen of Spain’s daughter was a coup for the parvenu Tudors. It was spoiled by the prince’s death and her father’s refusal to pay her dowry. Whether or not Catherine of Aragon would marry the future Henry VIII instead gives the book an extra focus. This impressive book will certainly become the definitive study of our strangest, most mysterious, king.

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I read this book a few years ago and can recommend it highly. As always with Sarah Bradford, the sources are well documented and the picture of the individual that emerges is balanced.:flowers:

"George VI"
by Sarah Bradford

Penguin paperback, 688 pages
published January 2011


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"Elizabeth the Queen: The Woman Behind the Throne" by Sally Bedell Smith (2012)

A new biography due out on February 2nd.
Elizabeth the Queen: The Woman Behind the Throne: Amazon.co.uk: Sally Bedell Smith: 9780718158651: Books

History's repeating itself: Ex-Archbishop tells of the Queen¿s 'despair' over Charles's split from Diana and love for Camilla in a revealing new biography | Mail Online

A new biography of the Queen reveals for the first time her despair over the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and the Monarch’s fears that her eldest son was about to ‘throw everything away’.
In Elizabeth The Queen, by Sally Bedell Smith, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, recalls the moment that the Queen finally confronted the problems in her son’s marriage.
The Archbishop reveals she was terrified that history was about to repeat itself – that Prince Charles would give up his place in the line of succession for Camilla, just as King Edward VIII gave up the throne in 1936 to marry his mistress, Wallis Simpson.

"Elizabeth the Queen: The Woman Behind the Throne"
by Sally Bedall Smith

Pages: 688
Published: 2 February 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780718158651
ISBN-10: 0718158652


An intimate portrait of Her Majesty the Queen

As we celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, this brand new biography of Queen Elizabeth II is the first all-round, up-close picture of one of the most fascinating, enigmatic and admired women in the world. With exclusive access to the Queen's personal letters, close friends and associates, this intimate biography is a treasure trove of fresh insights on her public persona and her private life.

Here we see Queen Elizabeth going about her daily duties, preparing for formal occasions, playing with her children at the Palace, crawling on her stomach to stalk deer, donning yellow Marigolds to wash up after Balmoral cookouts, and even changing a car wheel. Here we, at last, get to meet the leader, strategist, and diplomat; the daughter, wife, mother and grandmother - Elizabeth the Queen.

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This books is such a wonderful commemoration to the Queen and in time for the diamond jubilee celebrations, HM certainly is quite the character and the cover is one of my favorites of HM too!
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One of many books coming out for the Jubilee. I just finished reading this and it's a refreshing look at HM. I agree, the front cover is just stunning and the color photos inside are lovely as well.
Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset

Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset (Harper Press).
The visionary queen who made our nation - Telegraph
Poor, poor Queen Anne, with her 17 pregnancies but no surviving children. She was fat, and far from brilliant, and could rarely find the right words in conversation. Her sharp-tongued friend and enemy, Sarah Churchill, criticised her “insipid heaviness”.
Anne Somerset, always such a sympathetic historian, tells Anne’s story movingly. Without overstating the case, she concludes that the Queen was both good and wise. She was selfless: even though, because of her childlessness, the throne would pass at her death to her “unloved and distant” Hanoverian cousins. She did whatever she could for the welfare of the countries whose thrones she had inherited.
There is so much rich material in thisbook but I shall concentrate on just one thing, because it is now so topical. Dull old Anne united England and Scotland. She created Great Britain. Three centuries later, a significant minority wants to break it up.
A great read! I would recommend this to any royal watcher! :flowers:
Thank you all for posting reviews. I have just bought a copy of this book, the cover alone is an encouragement to those of us too young to have any memories of the Queen, as a young woman. I only hope the prose, is as enticing!!!
"Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: Diamond Jubilee Souvenir" by Annie Bullen (2012)

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: Diamond Jubilee Souvenir

Annie Bullen

ISBN: 9781841653730
Binding: Paperback
Price: £7.99
Publisher: The History Press


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years as British Sovereign in 2012. With the exception of Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years, she is the longest-serving monarch, acknowledged worldwide for the duties she has performed with grace and dignity. In her lifetime she has seen the dissolution of the British Empire and the rise of the Commonwealth of Nations, which she now presides over. Her Majesty still remains the monarch, separately and independently, of sixteen Commonwealth members.

This special souvenir guide illustrated with over 80 photographs, looks at every aspect of the life of the Queen: her childhood and teenage years in the company of her sister, Princess Margaret; her role as Heir Presumptive; her engagement and marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh and as mother to her young family; her accession and coronation.

Also explored are her duties from working with charities, attending the State Opening of Parliament and taking part in traditional ceremonies such as the Royal Maundy, the Trooping the Colour, the Garter Ceremony and the Remembrance Day service.

Her passion for horses is well known, as are her other country pursuits that she enjoys in her rare 'off-duty' moments, all of which are featured in this Jubilee souvenir guide.

• A timely piece in preparation of Her Majesty's 2012 celebrations.

• Author of the well-received Pitkin Royal Souvenir Guide William & Kate .
• Covers the entire spectrum of Queen Elizabeth's life, including her childhood.

Annie Bullen is a freelance journalist, and regularly features in national and regional magazines. She has written a biography of John Derry, Britain's first supersonic pilot, and two novels as well as compiling Pitkin guides. She previously produced the William & Kate wedding souvenir. She lives in Andover, Hampshire.

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Publisher's Twitter competition

In conjunction with the release of
Annie Bullen's "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: Diamond Jubilee Souvenir"
the publishers,
The History Press, are running a competition on Twitter with copies of the souvenir book as prizes.

Members who are interested should simply tweet @TheHistoryPress with your
favourite royal memory from Queen Elizabeth's reign
using the hashtag #jubileeguide

♦ ♦ ♦

The History Press,The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Glos, GL5 2QG

◘ ◘ ◘
If you're looking for good historical fiction about Elizabeth I, I highly reccomend the books by Karen Harper. Not only are they tough to put down, but she does her research into whatever feature of Elizabethan life she's showcasing. For instance, the first novel is based during Elizabeth's final year playing chess w/her sister Mary I and her allies who have her under watch at Hatfield. It also features the poisons of the time and their various effects. In fact, it's called The Poyson Garden and was fascinating and I've found her other novels equally so.

I just finished re reading The Hooded Hawk, which literally has my heart pounding whenever I read it. It focuses on the Sports and Games of the time around the threat to the Queen.

Anyway, I saw you were looking for good fiction based on the ever fascinating Elizabeth Tudor, but not many were giving you a recommendation for that. Hope that helps!! :eek:)
Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I

by Tracy Borman and Tracy Joanne Borman

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (September 2011)
Publisher: Random House (April 2012)
ISBN-10: 0224090550
ISBN-13: 978-0224090551

Publisher's Overview

Around the year 1049, William, Duke of Normandy and future conqueror of England, raced to the palace of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. The count's eldest daughter, Matilda, had refused William's offer of marriage and publicly denounced him as a bastard. Encountering the young woman, William furiously dragged her to the ground by her hair and beat her mercilessly. Matilda's outraged father immediately took up arms on his daughter's behalf. But just a few days later, Baldwin was aghast when Matilda, still recovering from the assault, announced that she would marry none but William, since "he must be a man of great courage and high daring" to have ventured to "come and beat me in my own father's palace."

Thus began the tempestuous marriage of Matilda of Flanders and William the Conqueror. While William's exploits and triumphs have been widely chronicled, his consort remains largely overlooked. Now, in her groundbreaking Queen of the Conqueror, acclaimed author and historian Tracy Borman weaves together a comprehensive and illuminating tapestry of this noble woman who stood only four-foot-two and whose role as the first crowned Queen of England had a large and lasting influence on the English monarchy.

From a wealth of historical artifacts and documents, Matilda emerges as passionate, steadfast, and wise, yet also utterly ruthless and tenacious in pursuit of her goals, and the only person capable of taming her formidable husband—who, unprecedented for the period, remained staunchly faithful to her. This mother of nine, including four sons who went on to inherit William’s French and English dominions, confounded the traditional views of women in medieval society by seizing the reins of power whenever she had the chance, directing her husband’s policy, and at times flagrantly disobeying his orders.

Tracy Borman lays out Matilda’s remarkable story against one of the most fascinating and transformative periods in European history. Stirring, richly detailed, and wholly involving, Queen of the Conqueror reveals not just an extraordinary figure but an iconic woman who shaped generations, and an era that cast the essential framework for the world we know today.

The Author

Tracy Borman is the author of Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant and Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen, as well as The Ring and the Crown: A History of Royal Weddings, 1066-2011, which she co-authored with Alison Weir, Kate Williams, and Sarah Gristwood. Borman studied and taught history at the University of Hull and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1997. She has worked for various historic properties and national heritage organizations, including the National Archives and English Heritage. She is now chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust and also works for Historic Royal Palaces. Borman is a regular contributor to history magazines, such as BBC History Magazine, and is a frequent guest on television and radio.


Literary Review
Medieval Bookworm
Tudor Book Reviews by TheAnneBoleynFiles.com

London Review of Books (part):
Rough Wooing
Queens and female rulers of the early Middle Ages have claimed a good deal of attention in recent years, and deserve to receive more. Of several books about or inspired by Queen Emma, wife successively of Æthelræd ‘the Unready’ and Canute ‘the Great’, the best is Pauline Stafford’s Queen Emma and Queen Edith (1997), which brackets Emma with her successor, wife of Edward ‘the Confessor’. Stafford’s earlier Queens, Concubines and Dowagers (1983) took a broader view, as does Lisa Hilton’s Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens (2008).

If one were to pick out another powerful ruler too often forgotten, one might ask for a biography of King Alfred’s daughter Æthelflæd, ‘Lady of the Mercians’, who in partnership with her brother Edward ‘the Elder’ and her extremely mysterious husband, ‘Alderman’ Æthelræd, played the Isabella role in the tenth-century reconquista of central England from the pagan Vikings, and left her mark on the map of England to this day.

Random House:

Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, was the first woman to be crowned Queen of England and formally recognised as such by her subjects. Beyond this, though, little is known of her life. No contemporary images of her remain, and in a period where all evidence is fragmentary and questionable, the chroniclers of the age left us only the faintest clues as to her life. So who was this spectral queen? In this first major biography, Tracy Borman elegantly sifts through the shards of evidence to uncover an extraordinary story. In a dangerous, brutal world of conquest and rebellion, fragile alliances and bitter familial rivalries, Matilda possessed all the attributes required for a woman to thrive. She was born of impeccable lineage, and possessed of a loving and pious nature, she was a paragon of fidelity and motherhood. But strength, intelligence and ambition were also prerequisites to survive in such an environment. This side of her character, coupled with a fiercely independent nature, made Matilda essential to William's rule, giving her unparalleled influence over the king. While this would provide an inspiring template for future indomitable queens, it led eventually to treachery, revolt and the fracturing of a dynasty.

Characterised by Tracy Borman's graceful storytelling, Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror takes us from the courts of Flanders and Normandy to the opulence of royal life in England. Alive with intrigue, rumour and betrayal, it illuminates for the first time the life of an exceptional, brave and complex queen pivotal to the history of England.

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She did lead a very interesting life and also had some fascinating ancestry!
Reading the summary, this makes us understand how important was the Protestant-Catholic divide in the 16th and 17th centuries, and how it produced ultimately the Act of Settlement, which bars the heirs to the English throne from marrying Catholics. As usual, the Scots got suppression from the English throne, bore the brunt of this misery, as they had for centuries, whether Protestant or Catholic. Interesting book.
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