Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors

Since I enjoyed listening to the Audible version of Dan Jones' The Plantagenets, I decided to try listening to his next book, The Wars of the Roses, as well. It's an excellent follow up to the first book, yet Jones' explanations of the history and issues behind the Wars of the Roses is so thorough that I think you could easily read it without having read the first book. 

The Wars of the Roses were a violent, unstable period of English history that saw murder, civil war, and insanity take decimate the English nobility, leaving room for one of the most ambitious and unlikely dynasties in European history, the Tudors, to seize control of the crown. Indeed, if you've ever wondered why Henry VIII had such intense fear of leaving his realm without an heir, this book gives some explanation. Furthermore, the historical figures that Jones describes include the real-life inspirations for many of the characters on "Game of Thrones," including the Mad Kings of England and France, Charles VI and Henry VI, and Henry VI's manipulative wife, Margaret of Anjou (a real life Cersei Lannister). Indeed, the stories of these historical figures, their lives and characters, is as griping as any fiction. The complicated and heart-rending tale of Edward IV, his young sons, and his brother, Richard III, is as tragic and violent as any fiction. Jones notes how deeply Edward IV trusted his brother the Earl of Gloucester, who was known as a noble, great-hearted man until his lust for power and bizarre paranoia lead him to murder his nephews. 

I have heard the Wars of the Roses described as a period of English history so complicated and confusing that it baffles people who read about it, but Jones' account is as clear and easy to follow as can be. The many Edwards and Richards who populate the narrative have such clear and distinct characters that I didn't have trouble distinguishing them. Furthermore, Jones demonstrates the true issues underlying the wars--not dynastic succession or a struggle between powerful families, but an inability for England's political system to cope with a weak, often insane king like Henry VI. The vacuum of power during his reign created a slew of rival claimants to the throne, resulting in a savage civil war that pit men against their cousins, brothers, and nephews.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in late Medieval history. It's a great read, full of dramatic events as well as exciting and tragic historical characters. 
  

2 comments:

  1. Sounds wonderful. I think I've read about this book before; I'm slightly obsessed with this period so would love to read this and have just written it on my to-read list - thanks :)

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    1. You're welcome:) It's an excellent book, and makes complicated history very approachable.

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