Holden, Anthony (Ivan) 1947-

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HOLDEN, Anthony (Ivan) 1947-

PERSONAL: Born May 22, 1947, in Southport, England; son of John (a company director) and Margaret Lois (Sharpe) Holden; married Amanda Juliet Warren (a musician), May 1, 1971 (marriage dissolved, 1988); married Cynthia Blake, July 21, 1990; children: (first marriage) Sam, Joe, Ben. Education: Merton College, Oxford, M.A. (with honors), 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Poker.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Rogers Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England. Agent—Curtis Brown Ltd., 575 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Journalist, biographer, editor, translator, and freelance writer. Evening Echo, Hemel Hempstead, England, reporter, 1970-73; London Sunday Times, London, England, general reporter, 1973-77, author of column, "Atticus," 1977-79; Observer, London, chief U.S. correspondent, 1979-81; Punch magazine, London, Transatlantic Cables columnist, 1979-81; Times, London, features editor and assistant editor, 1981-82; BBC Radio 4, presenter of "In the Air," 1982-84; freelance writer, 1982-85; Sunday Express magazine, author of "Holden at Large" column, 1982-85; Today, New York City, NY, executive editor, 1985-86; writer, 1986—. Also created the television documentaries "The Men Who Would Be King" (1982), "Charles at Forty" (1988), "Anthony Holden on Poker" (1992), and "Who Killed Tchaikovsky?" (1993).

MEMBER: National Union of Journalists.

AWARDS, HONORS: Young Journalist of the Year, National Council for Training of Journalists, 1973, for local newspaper work; News Reporter of the Year, British Press, 1977, for work in Ulster; Columnist of the Year, British Press, 1978, for "Atticus"; fellow, Centre for Scholars and Writers, New York Public Library, 1999-2000.


(Editor and translator) Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Cambridge University Press (London, England), 1969.

(Editor, translator, and author of introduction) Greek Pastoral Poetry: Theocritus, Bion, Moschus, the Pattern Poems, Penguin (London, England), 1974.

The St. Albans Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Graham Young, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1974.

Prince Charles: A Biography, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979, published as Charles, Prince of Wales, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1979.

Their Royal Highnesses: The Prince and Princess of Wales, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1981.

(Author of introduction) Great Royal Front Pages, Collins (London, England), 1983.

Anthony Holden's Royal Quiz: The Penguin Masterquiz, Penguin (London, England), 1983.

Of Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Princes: A Decade in Fleet Street, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

The Queen Mother, n.p., 1985, revised edition, n.p., 1993.

(Translator with first wife, Amanda Holden) Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's Don Giovanni (opera), A. Deutsch (London, England), 1987.

Laurence Olivier, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988, published as Olivier, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1988.

King Charles III: A Biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1988.

Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player, Viking (New York, NY), 1990, republished with a new introduction as Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player, Abacus (London, England), 2002.

(Editor) The Last Paragraph: The Journalism of David Blundy, Heinemann (London, England), 1990.

A Princely Marriage: Charles and Diana, the First Ten Years, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.

The Tarnished Crown: Princess Diana and the House of Windsor, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.

Tchaikovsky: A Biography, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

Diana: A Life and a Legacy, n.p., 1997.

Charles at Fifty, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Charles: A Biography, Bantam Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor with Frank Kermode) The Mind Has Mountains, Los Poetry Press (Cambridge, England), 1999.

(Editor with Ursula Owen) There are Kermodians: A Liber Amicorum for F. Kermode, Everyman (London, England), 1999.

William Shakespeare: His Life and Work, Little, Brown (London, England), 1999, published as William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius: A Biography, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000, abridged edition published as William Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography, Little, Brown (London, England), 2002.

The Drama of Love, Life and Death in Shakespeare, Mitchell Beazley (London, England), 2002.

Wit in the Dungeon, Little, Brown (London, England), 2005.

Contributor of articles to magazines in the United States and England, including Punch, New Statesman, Spectator, and National Geographic. Also translated, with Amanda Holden, La Boheme for Opera North (1986) and The Barber of Seville for English National Opera (1987).

WORK IN PROGRESS: Researching a biography on the Romantic poet and journalist Leigh Hunt.

SIDELIGHTS: Anthony Holden ranks among the foremost authorities on the English royal family. Unlike many royal-watchers, however, Holden has not restricted himself merely to biographies on the House of Windsor—his varied works include a book about poker playing, an encyclopedic history of the Academy Awards, and highly regarded biographies of actor Laurence Olivier, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and playwright William Shakespeare. An accomplished journalist who has worked for press outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, Holden has been commended for both his reportage and writing style.

Holden went to work as a newspaper reporter right after college and within three years had won a position—and a column—at the London Sunday Times. In 1979 he published his first royal biography, Prince Charles. Released to coincide with the Prince of Wales's thirtieth birthday, the book was soon overshadowed by a momentous event: the marriage of Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Holden was one of many who wrote intimate biographies of Charles and Diana at the time of their engagement, but Holden's prior relationship with the prince allowed him a closer view of the couple than most other writers were afforded. Thus it was that Holden, with his wealth of background material on the couple, stood in a good position to assess the marriage as it began to disintegrate. Called upon to discuss the royals on television and radio, he also penned another biography of Charles on the prince's fortieth birthday and other books on the royal marriage and its impact on the House of Windsor.

Ironically, Holden's reputation rests less on his works about the royals than upon his other books. In 1988 he published a 504-page biography of noted actor Sir Laurence Olivier that garnered favorable reviews even though the actor had been the subject of almost a half-dozen previous biographies. "Mr. Holden, to his everlasting credit, resists the spurious and gives us a scrupulously fair portrait of a great artist at war with himself," wrote Bryan Forbes in the New York Times Book Review. "Inevitably, he cannot avoid tracts of familiar ground in tracing Laurence Olivier's progress from childhood to glory, but marshals and presents his material in a way that compels the reader forward. . . . Here we have not just the fascinating details of an extraordinary career, but a compassionate stripping away of the public mask to reveal the face of insecurity." In a London Review of Books essay on Laurence Olivier, contributor Ronald Bryden commented, "Holden comes well-equipped. He has assembled all the facts available from previous biographies, as well as scores of entertaining new ones from his own researches and interviews with Olivier's friends and coworkers. It is the largest compilation between covers of what is known about the actor, and that is its value, a real one."

Reviewers responded with equal favor to Holden's biography of Tchaikovsky, the popular Russian composer whose works include The Nutcracker Suite. In the biography Holden reveals the musician's deep-seated self-loathing and fear of scandal, brought on by his homosexuality. As Ted Libbey put it in the Washington Post Book World, the work "is the chronicle of an artist who might have said, as Pushkin does in Eugene Onegin, 'Love passed, the muse appeared, the weather of mind got clarity newfound; now free, I once more weave together emotion, thought, and magic sound.' Only Tchaikovsky was never free. And while this book is about his life, its importance is in the story it tells of his death, by far the best treatment of that sad event yet to emerge." Spectator correspondent Fiona Maddocks maintained, "Anthony Holden's biography, acknowledging a debt to [other] scholars, is a noble attempt at a psychologically informed portrait of a neurotic, troubled genius. The author makes no pretence at unearthing new facts, which in itself will attract scorn from some circles. Rather, he draws together the latest findings into a readable . . . narrative which anyone with an interest in the composer, or in the Russian nineteenth-century landscape he inhabited, would do well to read."

After the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, Holden published Diana: A Life and Legacy, an emotional lament for the deceased princess. The royal family was unhappy with Holden's obvious sympathy for Diana's often turbulent life and refused to cooperate with him in gathering information for his next book, Charles at Fifty. An examination of another decade of Prince Charles' life, this royal biography is strikingly different from the others. On the Denver Post Web site, reviewer Tom Walker commented, "the book covers familiar ground but is most fascinating when it examines how Buckingham Palace, horrified by the outpouring of grief that followed Diana's death in 1997, has been trying to give Charles the common touch." In Charles at Fifty, Holden portrays the prince as cold, arrogant, and comfortably estranged from his people—the way many people viewed him in younger years and even more so after the divorce and death of his publicly kind and generous wife, whom Holden "avoids deifying," according to Walker. "Once an admirer of an idealistic prince he called intelligent and compassionate, a disillusioned Holden now writes of a selfish and hypocritical man out of touch with the majority of his subjects," observed Library Journal contributor Elizabeth Mary Mellett, who also dubbed Charles at Fifty a "well-written, intelligent, and fascinating biography."

Popular critical opinion suggests that Holden's treatment of the royal family in Charles at Fifty stays above the level of malicious criticism, despite the dissolution of his personal relationship with them. Holden attempts to present the famous royal relationship from an honest perspective, not a vengeful one. The author "gives a painful portrait of a man and a woman who went from mutually dazzled to crushingly disillusioned almost overnight," remarked Salon Web site's Mary Elizabeth Williams. "Holden's sympathy for the princess is evident—it's obvious he enjoyed a friendly relationship with [Diana] long after Charles had huffily severed their friendship over displeasure at his biographies." Williams continued, "Holden doesn't shy away from presenting the warts-and-all sides of both their natures, as well as the brutally biased way in which their relationship played out in the press." Similarly, Brad Hooper of Booklist maintained, "Holden's is an excellently thorough and balanced evaluation of Charles' past, present, and likely future."

The following year Holden paid tribute to the most renowned playwright in English history with the publication of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius. With little known about his personal life, Shakespeare has long been a mysterious figure in literature. Holden used a variety of methods to write the biography of the great bard. While he relies on such traditional historical sources as church records and legal documents, Holden also mines the playwright's own works for clues about his religious and political beliefs, possible romantic relationships, and business activities. "Conjecture fills in some gaps," Bryce Christensen admitted in Booklist, "but every speculation—just like every inherited legend—must pass the tests of plausibility and consistency." "With a story full of the characters of the age," wrote Neal Wyatt of Library Journal, "Holden crafts a lively and interesting Shakespeare anchored to his times. He brings a sense of immediacy to the best of his chapters and sometimes almost transports one to the Bard's time." While the critic for Publishers Weekly believed that "as Shakespeare's life progresses, Holden's guesswork becomes less convincing," Ralph Berry in Contemporary Review concluded, "Holden has written a smooth, professional, and undemanding life." Brian Bethune, writing in Maclean's, stated, "What makes Holden's new life [of Shakespeare] both informative and engaging is his boundless enthusiasm, his thorough grasp of recent scholarly work and his pugnacious attitude."

Two years after its publication in the United States, William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius was republished in an abridged volume as William Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography. In Library Journal, contributor Morris Hounion pointed out that the abridged and "lavishly illustrated volume is geared for a popular audience," commenting, "for those who want to know something about the author after reading or viewing his plays, this book is ideal." The year 2002 also saw the revival of another of Holden's works, one based on the author's favorite hobby-turned-passion: poker. Big Deal: One Year As a Professional Poker Player, reissued with a new introduction under a slightly altered title, revisits the author's journeys through the glamorous gambling worlds of Las Vegas, Morocco, and many places in between. Holden, an amateur poker player at the book's beginning and ranked professional at its close, shares nuggets of wisdom picked up en route, as well as anecdotes of various run-ins with poker celebrities. "Holden's rite of passage through this process is as fascinating as it is inspirational," wrote reviewer Graeme Maughan on the BBC Web site. "This is a book that knows when to go with the rush, and when to pause to consider the hand it's playing out," related Maughan, "A book, above all, not about gambling . . . but about psychology. . . . This is gonzo journalism with style."

Holden turned his attention to Shakespeare once again with The Drama of Love, Life and Death in Shakespeare, which Birmingham Post contributor Christine Barker termed a "warm and affectionate new look at the Bard." In the book, Holden examines the continued relevancy of Shakespeare's work and the increasing popular interest in his plays and poetry due to the cinematic adaptations of his work. Each chapter examines a different passion, presenting examples from Shakespeare's pages, as well as personal elements of the poet's life.



Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Peerage Ltd. (London, England), 2004.

Writers Directory, 19th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Booklist, November 15, 1998, Brad Hooper, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 563; June 1, 2000, Bryce Christensen, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, p. 1836.

Books Magazine, autumn, 1998, review of Prince Charles: A Biography, p. 22; Christmas, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 18.

Book World, January 17, 1999, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 3.

Chicago Tribune Books, October 16, 1988; January 14, 1990.

Contemporary Review, July, 2000, Ralph Berry, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and Work, p. 55.

Economist, November 13, 1999, review of The Mind Has Mountains, p. 11.

Entertainment Weekly, December 4, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 98.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 1434.

Library Journal, November 15, 1998, Elizabeth Mary Mellett, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 75; May 15, 2000, Neal Wyatt, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, p. 94; September 1, 2002, Morris Hounion, review of William Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography, p. 175.

London Review of Books, September 1, 1988, Ronald Bryden, review of Laurence Olivier, pp. 4-6; August 19, 1993, pp. 8-9.

Maclean's, February 7, 2000, Brian Bethune, "Millennium Man: An Engaging Biography Recreates Shakespeare," p. 58.

New Leader, July, 2000, Phoebe Pettingell, "In Love with Shakespeare," p. 29.

New Republic, April 12, 1993, pp. 39-42.

New Statesman, July 24, 1981, pp. 16-17; December 6, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 71.

New York Times, March 18, 1993, p. C21; July 9, 1993, p. C27.

New York Times Book Review, October 23, 1988, Bryan Forbes, review of Laurence Olivier, p. 14; January 7, 1990, p. 28; December 27, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 14.

Observer (London), June 6, 1993, p. 62; September 24, 1995; November 14, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 13.

People, November 16, 1998, Kim Hubbard, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 47.

Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 49; June 12, 2000, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, p. 61; October 26, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 49.

Punch, July 16, 1991, p. 44.

Spectator, July 25, 1981, pp. 20-21; December 30, 1995, Fiona Maddocks, review of Tchaikovsky: A Biography, p. 30.

Time, November 19, 1990, p. 110.

Times Educational Supplement, November 26, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 11.

Times Literary Supplement, June 10-16, 1988, p. 652; November 11, 1988, p. 1254; November 16-22, 1990, p. 1239; June 14, 1991, p. 6; September 25, 1998, review of Charles: A Biography, p. 31; December 10, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 34.

Washington Post Book World, March 21, 1993, p. 3; March 31, 1996, Ted Libbey, review of Tchaikovsky, p. 4.


Austin Chronicle Online,http://www.austinchronicle.com/ (July 21, 2000), Roger Gathman, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius.

BBC Web site,http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (March 29, 2001), review of The Barber of Seville;(May 16, 2004), Graeme Maughan, review of Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player.

Denver Post Online, (January 14, 2003), Tom Walker, review of Charles at Fifty.

Highbeam Research,http://static.highbeam.com/ (July 1, 2000), Christine Barker, review of The Drama of Love, Life, and Death in Shakespeare.

Looksmart,http://www.looksmart.com/ (June 25, 2004), William Baker, review (from Style magazine, spring, 2000) of The Mind Has Mountains.

Salon.com,http://archive.salon.com/books/sneaks/1998/12/07sneaks.html (December 7, 1998), Mary Elizabeth Williams, review of Charles at Fifty.

Time Warner Bookmark Web site, http://www.twbook mark.com/ (January 14, 2003), "The Authors: Anthony Holden."*