Sitting on the Throne with Tony Riches
The idea that it’s harder to stay at the top than get there is one that has been applied to many fields and professions, and it may perhaps ring truer for monarchs than anyone else. Having the ultimate power over people is something virtually anyone covets; a king can never get comfortably settled on their throne, for there is no shortage of enemies seeking to take it. Though Henry VII dedicated much of his life towards becoming the King of England, once he attained that power the true test had begun. In third novel of the Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches, titled Henry, we are taken deep into the life of an often overlooked name in the Tudor dynasty as he tried his best to maintain the world’s most fragile peace while essentially surrounded by enemies on all sides.
This book begins in Bosworth 1485, not long after Henry Tudor vanquishes King Richard III and becomes the rightful King of England. Needless to say, there are plenty of pretenders to the throne and impending rebellions to contend with. On top of that, the barons are none too happy with his plans to curtail their powers, and their true allegiances are anyone’s best guess. Henry tries to forge some alliances by marrying his children to different powers, even choosing a Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, for his son Prince Arthur. Just at the moment where it looked like things might finally work out, the great disaster strikes and the King of England must make all the right decisions to ensure the Tudor name persists through history, like his ancestors have many times before him.
If you haven’t read the first or second book in the trilogy, titled Owen and Jasper respectively, I just want to say that you don’t need to if you don’t want to. They are fantastic novels in their own right, but if you’re solely interested in the story of King Henry and couldn’t possibly care less about them, then you can safely jump into this one without feeling like you’ve missed much. Each of the three novels is self-contained with enough explanations that you’ll never feel confused about how things came to be the way they are.
A Game of Peace
It comes as little surprise that the rulers remembered by history were the ones who ruled in conflict, winning one war after the other and expanded their kingdoms beyond what was thought possible. Those who managed to rule during a time of peace and preserve it get far less recognition… after all, if a leader averts his people from danger, it is possible they will never know it was there. In other words, a ruler’s manoeuvres aren’t nearly as visible when they’re centred on defusing conflict, and that was the case for King Henry VII. He ruled for a period of twenty-eight peaceful years, but don’t be fooled… they didn’t come without great efforts or sacrifices.
Riches has certainly chosen an interesting man to focus the last book of the trilogy on, and I wholeheartedly support his decision. He carefully takes us through the events of King Henry’s life, detailing the various political labyrinths he had to navigate and the mental gymnastics he had to go through to manage all the bloodthirsty wolves at his front door. While it is fascinating to see a strong ruler decimate his or her enemies, I find it to be even more enthralling to watch them preserve lives and use their cunning to find the solutions that will end up lasting for a long time. After all, this here is the man who managed to unite the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York into a single entity, even fusing the Tudor and Plantagenet lines into one. Though his deeds may not ring as loud, Henry VII was arguably the greatest key player in ensuring the prolonged survival of the Tudors.
A Historical Type of Excitement
While this is indeed a novel and bears the designation of historical fiction, I guarantee you that Tony Riches has done all the possible research on the topic and uses a narrative to tell an incredible story, rather than simply taking facts from history and weaving a tale around them. The time and place he has chosen to cover has thankfully been relatively well-preserved in terms of historical records and he makes sure to pepper that knowledge of his throughout the story. Thankfully he doesn’t do it blindly and picks the spots where the historical knowledge will help to draw us into the setting or better understand the characters and their motivations.
I’ve said this before in regards to the second book, and I feel like I have to reiterate it for this third one: Tony Riches is a true professional when it comes to making history entertaining. He doesn’t really need to put his imagination into overdrive and cover up facts with fiction to make the story interesting. He has this gift, that surely developed with a lot of hard work, to present the information in a different light than most would, making it interesting by virtue of how it’s being told rather than merely its content. Frankly, I think it would be beneficial if writers of historical textbooks took a few notes on how to present information in a way that doesn’t lull the reader into a profound sleep.
The Final Verdict
I think it’s safe to say that Henry is just as good of a book as the other ones in the trilogy, and on the whole the Tudor series is definitely one of the best fictionalized works centred on the legendary dynasty. All three books are written exceptionally-well and have tremendous educational value, in addition to being pretty wild rides in a strange time and place that you won’t soon forget. If you like historical fiction and want to get to know the Tudors better, I can hardly think of a better place to start.