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You Think You’ve Seen a Royal Wedding?

August 9, 2012 by Reader's Connection

Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor EnglandYou ain’t seen nothin’ like the wedding that Henry VII threw for his eldest son Arthur. It went on forever. The description in Thomas Penn’s Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England makes me want to crack open an ale and find a bench along the procession route.

Henry had mixed motives for his extravagance. Henry had mixed motives for everything. His right to the crown of England was widely debated, and he was using this wedding to lock up his family’s kingship. Arthur had even been named so that subjects would associate him with that other one, the Excalibur fellow.

You might need Excel, not Excalibur, to keep track of the plots against Henry, and the spy networks of the king and his enemies, and Henry’s elaborate money-gouging mechanisms. If you feel overtaxed, be grateful you’re not English in 1504.

Penn speculates that Shakespeare left this Henry out of his sequence of history plays “because the reign was simply too uncomfortable to deal with.” The reader can enjoy Henry’s rule, though, even if his subjects couldn’t, and the reader can watch as, after the early death of Arthur–at whose funeral 6,000 pounds of candlewax are burned–the king’s ten-year-old second-born son rounds a corner toward becoming that strange man Henry VIII.

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