As a young teenager I had the good fortune to watch a BBC Television drama series called The Shadow of the Tower (meaning the Tower of London) - about the Kingship of Henry VII (1457-1509), first of the Tudors. This gave me a lifelong sympathy and interest concerning Henry Tudor, something completely alien to my usual taste in people and periods.
I was so taken by these plays that a bought a book which accompanied the series.
As you can see from the cover, one of the features of this series is that the actors were chosen partly on the basis of resembling what is known (from portraits) of the appearance of the historical characters.
The form was a set of 13 plays by several authors - all performed in studio sets - spanning from the beginning of Henry's reign (1485) at the Battle of Bosworth when Richard II was killed; until around the death of Henry's much loved wife - Elizabeth of York.
These plays are nothing like any television today. They are very tightly written, subtle, extremely intelligent - and demanding of total concentration.
The character of Henry (depicted by James Maxwell) comes across as appealing - very clever, subtle, secretive; someone who regarded himself as a father to his nation and God's anointed representative. He certainly left England in a much better state than he found the country - more peaceful , richer, stronger... All too soon most of this was wasted or put to evil use by his Tyrannical son Henry VIII ('the Attila of England' as John Aubrey rightly termed him).
Yet - to my surprise - Henry VII tends to be regarded pretty negatively; variously as a faceless and characterless individual, a hypocrite, a miser, and a too-careful man of small spirit and scope. Inkling Charles Williams was one of these nay-sayers - in a potboiler biography he wrote for Oxford University Press. But Francis Bacon - author of the first biography about a century after Henry died - called Henry the Solomon of England.
Shadow of the Tower's sympathetic portrayal of Henry fits what is known very exactly, but hostile portrayals make sense too. This just goes to show how the same facts can be given very different interpretations - how 'evidence' does Not overturn assumptions.
However regarded; Henry VII came at a fascinating time, right on the cusp of our civilization. He was the last medieval monarch of Merrie England, the last Roman Catholic king - and also the first 'modern', legalistic, mercantile national administrator.
Take a look at the TV series, if you like the sound of my description. The first two episodes, written by Rosemary Anne Sisson, are superb examples of screenwriting craft on a low budget; of great integrity, where less is more; and there is none of the lazy padding or crude manipulation that have since become normal.
The end of the first episode fixes the camera on the hands of Henry and his new wife Elizabeth as they sit next to each other. At first, the two hands are positioned in a conventional fashion - then, there is a short, affectionate squeeze; depicting with great economy that the relationship began as a political convenience, but developed into love.
Indeed, Henry and Elizabeth enjoyed one of extremely few (relatively) 'normal', stable and loving family lives among all English monarchs. To me, that says a lot about the man.