The royal racketeer


Among the vagaries of education and inclination, Henry VII somehow got left out.  I have been filling the gap:

I’m struggling for a word to describe the experience of reading this story, seeing Henry’s reign degenerate into something combining the less attractive features of a police state and a mafia organisation, in which perversions of justice and extortion were carefully audited by the king himself.  His plan was to rule by fear and by debt, and he succeeded.  It is a fascinating, horrible spectacle.  I certainly understand the inception of the Tudor dynasty better than I did.

A slight disappointment: we hear a little about Henry’s devotion to his wife and his piety, but I’m not sure that a portrait of Henry the man emerges in the book.  Then again, if Penn’s narrative is anything to go on, even Henry’s contemporaries had difficulty detecting anything human when they met him and his ubiquitous account books.


3 responses »

    • I think Henry VIII got his dramatic instincts and physical appetites elsewhere – his father doesn’t seem to have been interested in feasting, fighting, art, music or women – but Penn’s final chapter talks about the way HVIII continued to use HVII’s financial methods while trying to look big and benign. I also rather wondered if Charles I took a few hints from Henry VII when he started dredging up rights to whatever it was – tunnage, poundage, tillage and ullage, as ‘1066 and all that’ would say.

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