And now, the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses. Can someone British please tell me how British schoolchildren feel about learning the Wars of the Roses? Because I can see it two ways. On one hand, I can imagine it would be a great relief to get out of the thicket of battles and mess and dethronings and usurpations and arguing that went on all through the fifteenth century. On the other hand, I love political scheming and the Wars of the Roses are all schemes all the time.
The Sunne in Splendour (Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) is about my man Richard III. It has some tics, chief amongst them being the addition of helping verbs where the primary verbs did not truly require extra assistance, and the exclusion of grammatically warranted conjunctions. These things are a bit annoying. But set against those tics are ALL THE SCHEMES, y’all seriously, I can’t overstate how much I love schemes. It was also nice to reacquaint myself with this period in British history. I read a ton of books (nonfiction ones) about Richard III when I was in middle school because I’d just read Daughter of Time (of course), but it’s been ages since I took an active interest. Reading The Sunne in Splendour reminded me what a fascinating and insane time the fifteenth century was in British history. Can anyone recommend a good history of the Wars of the Roses? I won’t read Alison Weir because I think she’s bullshit, but I will take any other suggestions.
In case you do not know or have forgotten, here is the story of Richard III: He was the fourth son of a man who believed that his claim to the throne of England was better than that of the current king of England. Machinations ensued in which Richard’s father and oldest brother were killed, whereupon Richard’s second brother, Edward, began angling to get the throne. There were some battles, Edward was good at armies, and he did indeed become king (Edward IV). He married a widow with a gazillion ghastly relatives and dealt with a number of rebellions and malcontents, including his and Richard’s ridiculous brother George. Richard meanwhile married a woman whose father and first husband were both executed traitors; and they appear to have been happy as clams together so I guess he married for love. Very inconveniently, Edward IV died when his sons were still teenagers. Richard had the sons declared illegitimate (the validity of this declaration is in question) and took over the crown. And then Richard’s son died and then his wife died and then Henry VII showed up and took over the crown and killed Richard in a great big battle.
(Henry VII was not a good guy.)
As it’s been a while since I engrossed myself in Tudor/Plantagenet history, I kept having minor (but boring) epiphanies while reading this novel. For instance I realized that Thomas Grey (Edward IV’s wife’s son from a previous marriage) was most likely related to the Nine Days’ Queen, Lady Jane Grey, poor dear. I also realized that Robb Stark from Game of Thrones owes quite a bit to Edward IV. Edward’s family were lords in the North; like Robb Stark, Edward IV was a gifted and lucky military commander at a very young age; and also like Robb Stark, he did not marry who he was meant to marry but instead made a catastrophic marriage to a nobody. (Not, like, Red Wedding catastrophic, in Edward IV’s case. But pretty bad.) I was irritated with myself for not noticing this sooner! I knew this about Edward IV, and I also knew that George R.R. Martin was like, Wars of the Roses guy. Stupid stupid Jenny.
I enjoyed The Sunne in Splendour as a Wars-of-the-Roses-story delivery system, and as a supporter of Richard III who I also like and I really don’t think he killed his nephews so there. The prose had, as I said, some tics; and in the end I didn’t finish reading the book because it depressed me too much to read on to the part where Richard III was going to die. I kept being struck by how young he was — he had his first command when he was seventeen, became king at thirty-one, and died at thirty-three. That is too sad, even if he did become king by slightly underhand methods.
(Honestly even if Richard III made up the whole thing about Edward’s children being illegitimate, I still think it was the smart play. You will note that when a different kid called Edward with ambitious maternal relatives became king in 1547, things did not go that well for England.)
So! Recommend me a good history of the Wars of the Roses please! I am curious to read a proper history (not a novel) and see what is known and what is not really known. Litlove I do not mean to put you on the spot but I feel like you will know what book I should read about the Wars of the Roses. I kept going online to check whether things in The Sunne in Splendour were true or not. Like apparently Richard really did find Anne Neville working as a serving woman somewhere (either because she was hiding, or because Richard’s ridiculous brother George was hiding her in order to take her lands) and take her back to to London and marry her. That sounds fake. I am still sort of suspicious about that. But anyway if it is made up, Sharon Kay Penman is not the one who made it up.
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