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Extended Audio Sample Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (631 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Thomas Penn Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 twenty-four 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “I feel I’ve been waiting to read this book a long time. It’s a fluent and compelling account of the cost of founding the Tudor dynasty: of a clever, ruthless, enigmatic monarch, a refugee all his early life, king by right of conquest, prepared to harass and frighten his subjects into submission: a man content to be feared and not loved. The level of detail is fascinating and beautifully judged. The book shows what a mistake it is to regard these closing years of the reign simply as a curtain raiser for Henry VIII. I think that, for the first time, a writer has made me feel what contemporaries felt as Henry VII’s reign drew to an end; the relief, the hope, the sudden buoyancy.”

    Hilary Mantel, Man Booker Prize–winning author of Wolf Hall

  • “The research into the players is intricate and multifaceted, and Penn paints a detailed picture of court life with its insecurity, conspiracy, intrigue, diplomacy, and politics at the highest levels…Simon Vance’s rich tenor voice and English accent take listeners back to the era.” 

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “An exceptionally stylish literary debut…[Penn’s] book should be the first port of call for anyone trying to understand England’s most flagrant usurper since William the Conqueror.”

    Diarmaid MacCulloch, New York Times bestselling author

  • “This is an exceptionally stylish literary debut. Henry VII may be the most unlikely person ever to have occupied the throne of England, and his biographers have rarely conveyed just what a weird man he was. Tom Penn does this triumphantly and in the process manages to place his subject in a vividly realized landscape. His book should be the first port of call for anyone trying to understand England’s most flagrant usurper since William the Conqueror.”

    Diarmaid MacCulloch, New York Times bestselling author

  • “A wonderful read, as rich in character and drama as Wolf Hall, only shorter and true.”

    John Carey, author of William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies

  • “A definitive and accessible account of the reign of Henry VII.”

    Guardian (UK)

  • “With a sharp eye for detail and adroit use of a gifted historical imagination…[Thomas Penn] lets us hear the creak of oars and the scratch of pens, as well as the tubercular king fighting for every breath…Vigorous and thoroughly enjoyable.”


  • “[Penn] entertains casual readers with a brisk, almost conversational tone…Tudor scholars will appreciate Penn’s well-documented attention to the elder king’s steadfast devotion to stability, to the character formation of the young heir, Prince Henry, and Penn’s revealing analysis of why in the last years of his reign, Henry earned respect but not love from his people.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “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.”

    Guardian (UK)

  • “Stunning…This is not a new story—but in Penn’s hands, it is a revelation…Penn has pulled off a rare feat: a brilliant and haunting evocation of the Tudor world, with irresistible echoes of the age of fear in which we now live.”

    Telegraph (UK)

  • Winter King offers us the fullest, deepest, most compelling insight into the warped psychology of the Tudor dynasty’s founder to have appeared since [Francis] Bacon wrote.”

    Financial Times

  • “Succeeds brilliantly…[A] finely drawn portrait…Penn’s deft turn of phrase superbly re-creates the drama and personalities of the court.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “A tour de force.”


  • “An entertaining, insightful biography featuring a colorful cast of characters, led by the formidable Henry VII, who passed on the first untroubled succession in eighty years, launching the equally turbulent but more familiar Tudor renaissance.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A Guardian Best Book of the Year
  • A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
  • A Telegraph (London) Best Books • Biography & Autobiography2011

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Barbara Welch | 2/20/2014

    " If you've read Tudor history this book fills in some gaps and fills out some of the lesser known characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Laura Jordan | 2/18/2014

    " A fascinating read about one of the least well-known Tudors. Even the details on the intricacies of the papal monopoly on alum mining were interesting! My only complaint: I would have liked a list of names of the figures who appear in the book -- it was sometimes hard to keep track of all of the players (major and minor). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Marcy | 2/15/2014

    " i really liked the flow of this book. I hope to read of this author. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Taylor Kniphfer | 2/15/2014

    " A tale of intrigue, finacial terror, and secret diplomacy. Such was the age of Henry VII of England. Thomas Penn has done a great job at balancing scholarship with a very readable story. Henry VII certainly left England a far more stable realm than when he became king in 1485. The price, as Penn shows us in such vivid detail, was his own soul "

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About the Author

Thomas Penn has a PhD in early Tudor history from Clare College, Cambridge. Winter King is his first book.