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Henry: Virtuous Prince - David Starkey

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Genre: Biography / Author: David Starkey / ISBN: 0007247729 / Publication Date: 2009 / Publisher: Harper Perennial

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    2 Reviews
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      24.12.2012 00:19
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      A good book to read if you've read the series

      This book is a biography about Henry VIII when he was in his youth from the time of his birth to his twenties. It also outlines how Henry's father got his hands on the throne and mentioned that Henry's grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort gave birth to Henry VII (Henry Tudor) when she was only 13 years old. The Tudor Dynasty is one that's won the hearts and minds of old and young alike. Ever since I learned about them in school, I couldn't get enough of it. The basics were stuck in my head, but there are still many mysteries that surround the dynasty and also many fictional work inspired by the dynasty. The book is David Starkey's masterpiece according to the Sunday Times.

      By watching his documentaries and listening to his speeches, I can see that Dr. David Starkey knows his stuff and knows what he's talking about. I find his work very engaging and when I heard that he had written some books, I had become interested in reading the books very quickly. So when I picked this book up, I had very high expectations. Some people do find the author a bit intimidating or snobby which is understandable. I personally enjoy his work and I think that he is a good historian. I think that this book is really personal because I can see the passion in his words.

      In this book, I can see that there has been a lot of effort in this novel. I think that there must have been at least years of research being put into this. All of Starkey's scholars, education, essays and work so far have brought him to write this book: a biography of Henry VIII to celebrate his legacy after over 500 years since he was crowned King Of England. It is a well known fact that he and his daughter, Elizabeth I changed England forever, and made it clear that there was no going back.

      I'm impressed with the amount of detail that's been put into this book, although I do find the book a bit insatiable because it makes you want to know more. It's very well written, engaging and trust-worthy. It's rich in detail and information. I think this book would be incredibly useful for students who are studying Tudor History.

      Henry VIII is often described as ginger, obese and abusive. He is known as the king who had six wives and had two of them beheaded. He destroyed monasteries and many were executed for their believes and because of various plots. But the Henry in this book is the young Henry. The Henry that was beautiful, religious and passionate for his family. A man who understood the ways and the needs of women. The book highlights all the twists in fate that led Henry into his crown and details of all the people in his youth who shaped him into the tyrant he would later become.

      As you can tell, I have enjoyed this book. My overall opinion of the book is that it is a biography with exceptional quality writing in it. There are also a lot of beautiful pictures in there. Although the book could have done with a few more pictures, I do think that the book is great and I think the effort put into this book has been fantastic.

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      13.11.2011 20:19
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      Interesting history of Henry VIII's early life

      Like most people, I know the basic facts about the reign of Henry VIII such as his fight with the Roman Catholic church, the dissolution of the monasteries, his wives and his children but I know very little about his early life, all of which prompted me to choose this book recently from Read It Swap It. Henry: Virtuous Prince was released in conjunction with the Channel 4 series on the life and reign of Henry VIII presented by David Starkey.

      On a personal level, I find Dr David Starkey somewhat pompous and far too right wing for my political tastes but there's no denying his credentials or scholarship when it comes to knowledge of the Tudor dynasty and his TV programmes on the subject are always interesting and educational and I hoped this book would also be so and help me gain some insight into Henry the man.

      In his introduction, Dr Starkey talks of there being two Henrys; the younger and the older, and of the difficulties in fleshing out the young one of whom there are no portraits who is always overshadowed by the older one depicted in the universally known Holbein portrait. The Holbein was painted almost at the end of Henry's life which had seen him change from a golden hope for England into a despotic ruler quite capable of sending wives and former friends, as well as his enemies to the scaffold. This older man was described by Charles Dickens as 'a spot of blood and grease on the history of England.' David Starkey says the reason for publishing this book is to show how the experiences of the young Henry fed into the somewhat tyrannical ruler he became.

      Dr Starkey's writing style is every bit as engaging as the scripts he follows on his TV history programmes and it makes for easy and interesting reading. He begins the telling of Henry's early life with a brief overview of the events leading up to his father's taking of the throne from Richard III. Tudor expert he may be, but Dr Starkey pays due respect to Richard III (the last English king to lead his men into battle) and admits that Henry Tudor was a usurper whose claim was not a strong one but that the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth left him 'the only surviving and improbably remote heir of Lancaster.'

      Prince Henry was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and it seems that his older brother, Arthur, was the king's favourite, something which Dr Starkey claims had a major impact on Henry's later character. The author builds up a picture of an intelligent and well educated young man who, somewhat unusually for the times had been brought up alongside his sisters and as the only boy in the nursery he'd been top dog and the centre of much female attention. His older brother had had his own household almost from infancy so as the 'spare' Henry grew to maturity away from brotherly rivalry.

      Although there aren't any official portraits of Henry in his youth, there is enough surviving documentation for Dr Starkey to put together an accurate description of Henry at that time: He was about six feet tall with red gold hair and his tall stature and good looks coupled with great athleticism, made him a textbook prince who had grown to be an easy and confident youth. As the 'spare' he was, of course, a pawn in his father's court, being made Duke of York and granted various positions to bolster Henry VII's still somewhat tenuous claim on the throne. These were intensely political times and Henry VII's throne was far from safe, with many Yorkists mounting assaults on the throne from across the Channel. It was therefore in Henry VII's best interests to promote his children, especially his sons, as strong princes born to rule.

      To that end a marriage between Arthur and Princess Catherine of Aragon was arranged. Unlike Henry who had been brought up with his sisters, Arthur had been given his own establishment from a very early age and had grown up to be a model prince though a rather stiff and proper one and David Starkey postulates that as king, 'Arthur would have been respected, possibly feared, but not, one suspects, loved.'

      However, Arthur was not to be king, dying shortly after his marriage to Catherine and negotiations were opened to find her another royal husband. In the interim, Henry VII's wife had also died and he even considered marrying his son's young widow himself but this caused such an outcry from Catherine's family that he decided instead to marry her to Henry, although it was to take almost another seven years before this was to take place.

      David Starkey has written an easily accessible history of Henry VIII's early years which is written largely in chronological order although the chapters are divided into the various influences such as education, friends and family, married life and Cardinal Wolsey, all of which affected Henry's life and formed his character.

      Reading of Henry's prowess at hunting and jousting and his mastery of Latin and modern languages formed a picture in my mind of a full grown young man and it sometimes came as a shock to then discover that he was only nine or ten years of age at the time. In fact, he wasn't quite eighteen when his father died and he acceded to the throne and this book only covers the years up until Henry was approximately twenty but according to David Starkey, these early years were not only fairly turbulent but also instrumental in forming Henry's character and would certainly impact on his later life.

      Although the book has a good deal of interesting details about court life during the early years of the Tudor dynasty and the people who controlled events, I do feel it only skimmed the surface and certainly isn't an in depth study of Henry's early life. In fact, in many ways, it reads like a TV script. It's recounted in language which is easily understandable and engages the reader without much difficulty.

      There are plenty of colour photographs to accompany the text and these include pictures of many of the major players, both of royalty and their hangers on. I was rather surprised, however, to see a couple of pictures of Henry himself depicted as a teenager and then as a man of about twenty especially as David Starkey's text had said that there weren't any contemporary portraits of the young Henry. The earliest portrait shows a fresh faced and untroubled teenage countenance whereas that of the twenty year old is already showing a pinched mouth young man with a rather calculating look in his small eyes, maybe early indicators of the monarch he was to become.

      I enjoyed this book in as much as it painted a picture of the young Henry, albeit with fairly broad brushstrokes and it certainly helped to show how various external influences may have had some bearing on events during his monarchy but it hasn't really made me want to read more about those later years.

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