Things history nerds obsess about:
Two child princes disappeared, and nobody raised a stink. What. The. Ever-Loving. FUCK.
Was Richard III really that much of a fear-monger? We now know he got his comeuppance (*cringe*), but seriously — NO ONE bothered to look for those poor boys? Sheesh.
ANYWAY, it’s been a while since I dug into the non-fiction side of York vs. Lancaster (and I can never remember who was on what side), but here’s a few from my Shelf of Actual History With Little Or No Smooching.
Despite five centuries of investigation by historians, the sinister deaths of the boy king Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, remain two of the most fascinating murder mysteries in English history. Did Richard III really kill “the Princes in the Tower,” as is commonly believed, or was the murderer someone else entirely? Carefully examining every shred of contemporary evidence as well as dozens of modern accounts, Alison Weir reconstructs the entire chain of events leading to the double murder. We are witnesses to the rivalry, ambition, intrigue, and struggle for power that culminated in the imprisonment of the princes and the hushed-up murders that secured Richard’s claim to the throne as Richard III. A masterpiece of historical research and a riveting story of conspiracy and deception, The Princes in the Tower at last provides a solution to this age-old puzzle.
Weir is now a fiction author as well, but oddly enough, I think she tells a better story in her non-fiction works, and this is one of her best.
Lancaster and York. For much of the fifteenth century, these two families were locked in battle for control of the English throne. Kings were murdered and deposed. Armies marched on London. Old noble names were ruined while rising dynasties seized power and lands. The war between the royal houses of Lancaster and York, the most complex in English history, profoundly altered the course of the monarchy. Alison Weir, one of the foremost authorities on British history, brings brilliantly to life both the war itself and the larger-tha-life figures who fought it on the great stage of England. The Wars of the Roses is history at its very best—swift and compelling, rich in character, pageantry, and drama, and vivid in its re-creation of an astonishing period of history.
This one is much drier and fact-heavy than Princes, but it’s one of the few full histories of the Wars of the Roses that held my attention through the end of the book.
And coming soon from somewhere in the TBR….
Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood
To contemporaries, the Wars of the Roses were known collectively as a “cousins’ war.” The series of dynastic conflicts that tore apart the ruling Plantagenet family in fifteenth-century England was truly a domestic drama, as fraught and intimate as any family feud before or since.
As acclaimed historian Sarah Gristwood reveals in Blood Sisters, while the events of this turbulent time are usually described in terms of the male leads who fought and died seeking the throne, a handful of powerful women would prove just as decisive as their kinfolks’ clashing armies. These mothers, wives, and daughters were locked in a web of loyalty and betrayal that would ultimately change the course of English history. In a captivating, multigenerational narrative, Gristwood traces the rise and rule of the seven most critical women in the wars: from Marguerite of Anjou, wife of the Lancastrian Henry VI, who steered the kingdom in her insane husband’s stead; to Cecily Neville, matriarch of the rival Yorkist clan, whose son Edward IV murdered his own brother to maintain power; to Margaret Beaufort, who gave up her own claim to the throne in favor of her son, a man who would become the first of a new line of Tudor kings.
A richly drawn, absorbing epic, Blood Sisters is a tale of hopeful births alongside bloody deaths, of romance as well as brutal pragmatism. It is a story of how women, and the power that women could wield, helped to end the Wars of the Roses, paving the way for the Tudor age—and the creation of modern England.
Release date: February 26, 2013
There’s some wicked good stuff to get geeky about. The two other works by Gristwood that I’ve read were enjoyable, but not memorable, so I’m really hoping she pulls this one off.