In order to understand why we are who we are, it is important to understand from whence we came. History is an integral part of a nation, especially when that nation held the future of the world in it’s grasp. England, the British Empire, did not come out of no where. While a tiny island, it directed world affairs for the better part of a millennia. So we need to understand exactly who the British were, and how they got there. Nothing bespeaks the convolution that is the English spirit than the disastrous War of the Roses. Pitting the House of York against the House of Lancaster for the ultimate prize, the throne, gives us much of our legacy and lore. For eventually the excesses of the War of the Roses, led to the Tudor Period, and hence the Elizabethan age.
In his book, Ravenspur, the Rise of the Tudors, Conn Iggulden, opens up the politics, the military issues, and the family dynamics of that tumultuous period of civil war. Writing, in his accessible style, the author brings the reader to the moments of indecision, and betrayal that shaped the lives of the English nobility during this period. We learn of the precarious situation that so many faced, and recognize how none went away unscathed.
The book spares no one and no idea. It tells the truth about Edward of York, a vacuous, self-indulgent king, with no care for anyone or anything but himself. A spoiled brat, if you will, who threw his life away, and his dynasty. A once well loved ruler, whose appetites destroy all that cross his path, most notably his own family.
Then there is the upstart Henry Tudor. Henry, a boy kept prisoner, unloved and uncared for, until he is rescued by his uncle Jasper at the age of 14. How that shaped a youngman who would later be England’s king is very important. The Tudor dynasty he began, reverberates around the world to this day.
We understand the musings of the Kingmaker, Warwick, the choices that propelled him once into the House of York, and then to the service of Lancaster. Warwick an oft misunderstood man of history.
There are the seemingly minor players in this drama, George of Clarence, who looses and then regains his brother Edward’s favor. We learn about the real life of Elizabeth Woodville, and what happened to her two sons, later known as the Princes of the Tower.
And then there is Richard III.
We see him for who he is. Not some Shakespearean bugaboo. But a real live flesh and blood man, making decisions that would ultimately mean his doom. The whys, and wherefores are very important, but nonetheless, murder is still murder. Yet, how many medieval kings did not broker homicide as a regal tool, and think that it was their right to preserve their throne and dynasties? So was Richard truly any different than any that came before him, or any who came after?
What is also important to understand is how the battles were fought and won. Victory, or loss, caused the death of Kings, and the usurpation of the throne. Military power and how it was wielded during the War of the Roses is essential to understanding why the outcome on Bosworth Field was almost preordained.
This is a wonderfully written book. For anyone interested in this period of history, this book is a must read.
This book is available in paperback December 5, 2017