Anthony Holden

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Anthony Holden
Born(1947-05-22)22 May 1947
Died7 October 2023(2023-10-07) (aged 76)
London, England
Alma materMerton College, Oxford
Occupation(s)Writer, broadcaster, critic
Known forBiographies of artists and members of the British royal family, Poker books
Notable work"Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player"
  • Amanda Warren
    (m. 1971; div. 1988)
  • Cynthia Blake
    (m. 1990; sep. 2000)
Children3 sons
AwardsYoung Journalist of the Year (1972)

Anthony Ivan Holden (22 May 1947 – 7 October 2023) was an English writer, broadcaster and literary critic, particularly known as a biographer of artists including Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, the essayist Leigh Hunt, the opera librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte and the actor Laurence Olivier, and of members of the British royal family, notably Charles, Prince of Wales. He 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]

Early life and education[edit]

Holden was born in Southport, Lancashire on 22 May 1947 to John Holden (1918-1985), an officer in the Manchester Regiment, and Margaret Lois, daughter of Ivan Sharpe, the England international footballer and Olympic gold medallist who later became a celebrated sports writer.[2] John Holden was second son of Sir George Holden, 2nd Baronet, of The Firs, Lancashire.[3][4] He was educated at Trearddur House School, Anglesey, at Oundle School and at Merton College, Oxford,[5] where he read English language and literature, edited the student magazine Isis[5] 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.[5] 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).[5][3]

In 1999–2000 he was an inaugural Fellow of the Centre 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".[6]

Holden was a member of the Board of Governors of the South Bank Centre 2002–08, during the landmark renovation programme under the chairmanship of Lord Hollick. Since 2006, he was a Trustee of Shakespeare North Trust.[7]

In May 2015, he gave the annual A.E. Housman lecture on the Name and Nature of Poetry at the Hay-on-Wye Festival.[8]

Holden 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.[9]

Holden was a dedicated Arsenal F.C. fan and had a season ticket to the Emirates Stadium.[clarification needed][10]


Holden was 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. The book covers his experiences between the World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournaments in 1988 and 1989.

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.[11] 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 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 2009, he was elected the first President of the International Federation of Poker (IFP) at its founding congress in Lausanne, Switzerland.[12] After four years in office, he resigned in April 2013.[13]

Personal life and death[edit]

Holden married Amanda Warren in 1971. They had three sons and four grandchildren. They divorced in 1988 and in 1990 he married novelist Cynthia "Cindy" Blake.[5] They separated in 2000, but did not divorce.[14]

Holden died from a brain tumour and complications of a stroke at his home in London on 7 October 2023, at the age of 76.[5][15]


  • Aeschylus' Agamemnon (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); published as Prince Charles in 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); published as King Charles III in 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: a.alvarez@lxx (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)[16]
  • He Played For His Wife and other stories (2017, editor with Natalie Galustian)
  • Based on a True Story: A Writer's Life (2021)


  1. ^ Newell, Jennifer (25 June 2009). "Anthony Holden Heads Up International Federation of Poker". Archived from the original on 5 March 2010.
  2. ^ Lowdon, Claire (25 November 2021). "Anthony Holden is nostalgic for journalism's good old bad old days". The Spectator. Retrieved 25 September 2023.
  3. ^ a b "Anthony Holden, writer of non-fiction blockbusters on subjects ranging from poker to the Royal family – obituary". The Telegraph. 9 October 2023. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
  4. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 2, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, p. 1940
  5. ^ a b c d e f Green, Penelope (26 October 2023). "Anthony Holden, Royal Chronicler Who Ruffled the Palace, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2023.
  6. ^ "Harry Potter in Literary Flap" Giles Elgood, Reuters (26 January 2000)
  7. ^ "Shakespeare North: 'Patrons and Trustees'". Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  8. ^ "Anthony Holden". Hay Festival. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2024.
  9. ^ "Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center: Anthony Holden". Archived from the original on 6 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Melvyn Bragg on becoming a fan - Arsenal, 1989", The Guardian (17 May 2009)
  11. ^ "Tony Holden's profile on The Hendon Mob". The Hendon Mob Poker Database. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  12. ^ Burton, Earl (25 September 2009). "International Federation of Poker: Governing Body for the Industry?". Poker News Daily. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  13. ^ Burton, Earl (19 April 2013). "IFP President Anthony Holden Steps Down After Successful European Nations Cup Tournament". Poker News Daily. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  14. ^ Denis MacShane, Anthony Holden obituary, The Guardian, 22 October 2023
  15. ^ "Anthony Holden obituary". The Times. 9 October 2023. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
  16. ^ Holden, Anthony (23 February 2016). "The sequel to Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: women, look upon these works and weep…". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 November 2019.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
New position
Editor of Sunday Today
Succeeded by