Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
All right. First of all, no amount of quick re-telling can ever do actual history any justice, but suffice to say, The War of the Roses was a ROYAL MESS.
Literally. You can trace its roots back to Richard II when Henry IV deposed him, setting up the later battles between York and Lancaster, but this is somewhat disingenuous. People loved Hal, later to become King Henry V, and they were all amazed at how much of France he had won for England, capping off a truly heroic entry and the close end of the Hundred Years War.
And then he died. Of the flux. Horribly. Leaving another kid to be the king, just like Richard II. Only this time, Henry VI was set up on his mother's side to madness, a common malady of kings, and that, combined with horribly overbearing uncles and "helpers" to the throne, a power struggle begins, pulling this way and that and nobody really blames the poor king when the conflicts break out. Again, and again, and again. Then somewhere down the line, after Margaret of Anjou, his wife, is pregnant, Henry VI has a mental breakdown and she takes over, impressively, but not flawlessly. Conflicts abound. Edward IV is crowned king with the help of Warwick even though Henry VI is still kicking, and even though it begins well, Warwick and Edward start baring fangs at each other and yet MORE war happens. Which is a shame. I kinda liked both Warwick and Edward. Both were pretty much the heroes that stopped all the previous stupid conflicts that was dragging England through the mud.
And then, after some really great women power between a few queens including Margaret, the impossible eventually happens. Peace.
Well, until Richard III kills all the Heirs and crowns himself king until Henry VII smites him down, but that's all ancient history, right? Right?
Well even though I spelled this out in horribly simplistic terms, do NOT assume that this book is anything simple. Tons of names, battles, and character studies of kings and notables are extant. This is pretty damn exhaustive. And, I might say, exhausting.
I recommend other works if you are new to the 1455-1485 period in England. It's bloody and sad and horrific and sad. But if you are familiar with the broad strokes, then there are much worse reference points for you. I got a lot out of it, but since I'm not an expert in the field, what I do understand is dwarfed by all the little things that passed me by.
One thing I can say is that my knowledge has increased quite a bit, and isn't that what we really look for in a good History? It's not extremely focused, but it gives us some background before Henry VI loses France and sparks the real beginning of the War. The rest is pretty comprehensive to my layman's eye, though, and I'm satisfied even if even I found it a bit dry.
And now, I'm set to run through all the Shakespearian Histories for this time! :) Yay! (Well, for a second time, anyway. :) There's nothing like a bit of deep immersion to bring out the inner geek. :)
Who knows, I think I'll run through the rest of the Histories, too, for good measure and variety. :) lol
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