Next year is the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII to the throne of England in 1509. Such is the perplexing power of the cult of the anniversary in contemporary society that Henry is sure to receive a great deal of attention. That in turn offers a lucrative opportunity for publishers and biographers. David Starkey, now best known as a television historian of the monarchy, began as a graduate student of Sir Geoffrey Elton pursing the court of Henry VIII, and it is not at all surprising that he has seized the opportunity. An eye-catching faceless image of Henry's body from chin and neck down to his waist, with a bejewelled hand in front – presumably taken from a recent film – adorns the cover of this book: it is not hard to imagine it as an advertisement on the platforms of the London Underground, just in time for the Christmas market.
Yet Henry: Virtuous Prince is less than it seems. It is not a full biography of Henry VIII. Its 192 pages take Henry's life up to 1511, when he was twenty and had been king for just two years. By contrast, in his classic biography Jack Scarisbrick vividly covered the