Winter King, By Thomas Penn

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In August 1485, with a feeble force, young warlord Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven. A month later, after Bosworth, he was king of England.

This supremely readable, expert and confident biography of Henry VII restores the first Tudor king to a time before hindsight. Beset by pretenders, the new monarch had to halt the "cycle of violence" with him at the top of the wheel.

Penn shows in captivating detail how he did so, with the Spanish alliance abroad – as Catherine of Aragon married first the doomed Arthur, then the future Henry VIII – and an aggressive policy of state empowerment at home.

This new England owed its muscle to the strongarm revenue-raising practised for Henry by licensed thugs. That glorious Tudor rose had muck around its roots.