Anthony Holden

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Anthony Holden (born 22 May 1947) is an English writer, broadcaster and critic, particularly known as a biographer of artists including Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, Leigh Hunt, Lorenzo da Ponte and Laurence Olivier, and of members of the British Royal family, notably Charles, Prince of Wales. He has also published translations of opera and Ancient Greek poetry as well as several autobiographical books about poker. In 2009, he was elected the first President of the International Federation of Poker (IFP).[1]


Anthony Ivan Holden was born in Southport, Lancashire, and educated at Oundle School and Merton College, Oxford, where he read English language and literature, edited the student magazine Isis and appeared on University Challenge.

A journalist before turning full-time writer, at the start of his career as a graduate trainee on Thomson Regional Newspapers' Hemel Hempstead Evening Post-Echo, Holden covered the trial in St Albans of the psychopathic poisoner, Graham Young. His book on the case, The St. Albans Poisoner (1974), was filmed as The Young Poisoner's Handbook (1995). Named Young Journalist of the Year in 1972, he was on the staff of The Sunday Times (1973–79), commended in the British Press Awards in 1976 as News Reporter of the Year for his work in Northern Ireland, and winning Columnist of the Year in 1977. He was Washington Correspondent and US editor of The Observer (1979–81), Assistant Editor of The Times (1981–82), Executive Editor, Today, (1985–86), and chief classical music critic of The Observer (2002–08).

In 1999–2000 he was an inaugural Fellow of the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. When he was a Whitbread Prize judge in 2000 he said it would have been a "national humiliation" if Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had won, ahead of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. He had threatened to resign if that happened. The novelist Robert Harris derided this threat as "pompous."[2]

Holden was a member of the Board of Governors of the South Bank Centre 2002–8, during the landmark renovation programme under the chairmanship of Lord Hollick. Since 2006 he has been a Trustee of Shakespeare North Trust.[3]

In May 2015 he gave the annual A.E. Housman lecture on the Name and Nature of Poetry at the Hay-on-Wye Festival.[4]

He has also made frequent appearances on television, presenting such documentaries as Charles at Forty (ITV, 1988), Anthony Holden on Poker (BBC 2, 1991) and Who Killed Tchaikovsky? (Omnibus, BBC 1, 1993). In the mid-1980s he presented a weekly BBC Radio 4 chat show, In the Air.

Holden's papers are collected at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.[5]

He is a dedicated Arsenal fan and has a season ticket to the Emirates.[6] Holden's maternal grandfather was Ivan Sharpe, the England international footballer and Olympic gold medallist who later became a celebrated sports writer.[7]

He has been married twice, and has three sons and three grandchildren.


Holden is a keen poker player, and spent a year playing professionally while researching his 1990 book Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player (ISBN 0-7432-9481-5), which has been praised by poker enthusiasts from David Mamet and Salman Rushdie to Walter Matthau and is frequently described as a 'cult classic'. The book covers his experiences between the World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournaments in 1988 and 1989.

In 2007, Holden published Bigger Deal: A Year Inside the Poker Boom (ISBN 0-7432-9482-3), a journal of his second stint as a professional player, between the 2005 and 2006 WSOP events.

In 2000 he won TV's first Celebrity Late Night Poker on Channel 4, beating Al Alvarez, Martin Amis, Victoria Coren, Ricky Gervais, Patrick Marber and Stephen Fry.[8] In 2005 he appeared on the chat show Heads Up with Richard Herring to discuss his life, career and his love of poker. In 2006 he represented England in TV's World Cup of Poker, staged by PokerStars, for whom he was a sponsored player 2006–2008.

In 2009 he was elected the first President of the International Federation of Poker (IFP) at its founding congress in Lausanne, Switzerland.[9] After four years in office, he resigned in April 2013.[10]


  • Aeschylus' Agamemon (1969) translator and editor
  • Greek Pastoral Poetry (1973) translator and editor
  • The Greek Anthology (1973) contributor
  • The St Albans Poisoner: The Life And Crimes Of Graham Young (1974, reissued 1995 as The Young Poisoner's Handbook)
  • Charles: Prince of Wales (1979) as Prince Charles (US)
  • Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince and Princess of Wales (1981)
  • A Week In The Life Of The Royal Family (1983)
  • Great Royal Front Pages: A Scrapbook of Historic Royal Events from Queen Victoria to Baby Prince William (1983)
  • Anthony Holden's Royal Quiz (1983)
  • Of presidents, Prime Ministers And Princes (1984)
  • Queen Mother (1985)
  • Don Giovanni: The Translation (1987) with Amanda Holden
  • Laurence Olivier: A Biography (1988, reissued 2007)
  • Charles: A Biography (1988) as King Charles III (US)
  • The Last Paragraph. The Journalism of David Blundy (1990) editor
  • Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player (1990)
  • The Queen Mother: A 90th Birthday Tribute (1990)
  • A Princely Marriage: Charles & Diana, the First Ten Years (1991)
  • Behind The Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards (1993)
  • H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother In Private (1993)
  • The Tarnished Crown (1993), Viking Publishers, ISBN 0-670-84624-4.
  • Tchaikovsky (1995)
  • Diana: Her Life and Legacy (1997)
  • Charles at Fifty (1998)
  • William Shakespeare: His Life and Work (1999)
  • Liber Amicorum for Frank Kermode (1999) editor with Ursula Owen
  • The Mind Has Mountains: [email protected] (1999) editor with Frank Kermode
  • The Drama of Love, Life and Death in Shakespeare (2000)
  • Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography (2002)
  • The Wit in the Dungeon (2005) biography of Leigh Hunt
  • All In: Texas Hold'em as Played on Late-Night TV (2005)
  • Lorenzo Da Ponte, The Man Who Wrote Mozart (2006)
  • Olivier (2007, Max Press)
  • Bigger Deal: A Year on the New Poker Circuit (2007)
  • Holden on Hold'Em (2008)
  • Poems That Make Grown Men Cry (2014) editor with Ben Holden
  • Poems That Make Grown Women Cry (2016) editor with Ben Holden
  • He Played For His Wife and other stories (2017) editor with Natalie Galustian


  1. ^ "Anthony Holden Heads Up International Federation of Poker" Jennifer Newell, Poker Works (25 June 2009)
  2. ^ "Harry Potter in Literary Flap" Giles Elgood, Reuters (26 January 2000)
  3. ^ Shakespeare North: 'Patrons and Trustees'
  4. ^ Hay Festival — 'The Housman Lecture 2015: The Name and Nature of Poetry'
  5. ^ Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center: Anthony Holden
  6. ^ "Melvyn Bragg on becoming a fan - Arsenal, 1989", The Guardian (17 May 2009)
  7. ^ The Peerage: Anthony Holden
  8. ^ "Tony Holden" The Hendon Mob Poker Database Player Profile
  9. ^ "International Federation of Poker: Governing Body for the Industry?" Earl Burton, Poker News Daily (25 September 2009)
  10. ^ "IFP President Anthony Holden Steps Down After Successful European Nations Cup Tournament" Earl Burton, Poker News Daily (19 April 2013)

External links

  • Holden's articles for The Observer
  • Holden discusses his biography of Shakespeare with Charlie Rose
  • Holden interviewed about Shakespeare on Meet The Author
  • Shakespeare North
  • Everest Poker Minute: Anthony Holden on YouTube
Media offices
Preceded by
New position
Editor of Sunday Today
Succeeded by
Peter McKay
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