The Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses

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by Alison Weir
     
 

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Lancaster and York. For much of the fifteenth century, these two families were locked in battle for control of the British monarchy. 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 House of Lancaster and York, the longest and most complex in British history,… See more details below

Overview

Lancaster and York. For much of the fifteenth century, these two families were locked in battle for control of the British monarchy. 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 House of Lancaster and York, the longest and most complex in British history, profoundly altered the course of the monarchy. In The Wars of the Roses, Alison Weir reconstructs this conflict with the same dramatic flair and impeccable research that she brought to her highly praised The Princes in the Tower.

The first battle erupted in 1455, but the roots of the conflict reached back to the dawn of the fifteenth century, when the corrupt, hedonistic Richard II was sadistically murdered, and Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king, seized England's throne. Both Henry IV and his son, the cold warrior Henry V, ruled England ably, if not always wisely--but Henry VI proved a disaster, both for his dynasty and his kingdom. Only nine months old when his father's sudden death made him king, Henry VI became a tormented and pathetic figure, weak, sexually inept, and prey to fits of insanity. The factional fighting that plagued his reign escalated into bloody war when Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, laid claim to the throne that was rightfully his--and backed up his claim with armed might.

Alison Weir brings brilliantly to life both the war itself and the historic figures who fought it on the great stage of England. Here are the queens who changed history through their actions--the chic, unconventional Katherine of Valois, Henry V's queen; the ruthless, social-climbing Elizabeth Wydville; and, most crucially, Margaret of Anjou, a far tougher and more powerful character than her husband,, Henry VI, and a central figure in the Wars of the Roses.

Here, too, are the nobles who carried the conflict down through the generations--the Beauforts, the bastard descendants of John of Gaunt, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known to his contemporaries as "the Kingmaker"; and the Yorkist King, Edward IV, a ruthless charmer who pledged his life to cause the downfall of the House of Lancaster.

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, dangerous, and often grim period of history. Alison Weir, one of the foremost authorities on the British royal family, demonstrates here that she is also one of the most dazzling stylists writing history today.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this prequel to her Princes in the Tower (LJ 1/94), historian Weir presents a well-written, entertaining narrative of the first phase of the War of the Roses. Accepting the Tudor view that the conflict originated with Richard II's deposition, she devotes half of the book to relations between Lancaster and York from 1399 to 1455. The second half deals with the period from the first Battle of St. Albans (1455) to the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471). Weir centers her narrative upon leading figures-Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou, Richard of York, Edward IV, the earl of Warwick-and others. Though the text lacks footnotes and the bibliography omits some recent scholarship (e.g., by Rosemary Horrox and P.W. Hammond), Weir uses a variety of printed primary sources and secondary works. Much here will be familiar to scholars, but the work is a stimulating discussion as well as a fine introduction for the general reader.-William B. Robison, Southeastern Louisana Univ., Hammond
School Library Journal
YA-This book reaffirms Weir's mastery of English history. Like The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The Princes in the Tower (both Ballantine, 1993), this title is jam-packed with information. The narrative begins with a short history of the House of Plantaganet, more specifically the disastrous rule of Richard II, which is seen as sowing the seeds of the conflict, and ends with the Battle of Tewkesbury and the murder of King Henry VI. The author weaves the story of the magnate families involved in the politics and rivalries of the era, and makes it understandable, interesting, and readable. Included are the simplified genealogical tables of the families involved as well as extensive primary- and secondary-source bibliographies. Any student of English history will appreciate the ease with which the period is unveiled and the detailed information on the people and places of England from 1399 to 1500.-Debbie Hyman, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Brad Hooper
n one side of the bloody dynastic struggle that plagued England between 1455 and 1487 stood the House of Lancaster, headed by the inept King Henry VI. The opposing team was led by King Henry's cousin, the duke of York, whose lineage gave him a better claim to the throne than his ineffectual relative. This period of conflict between royal cousins is known as the Wars of the Roses (tradition has it that for an emblem the Lancaster side of the family adopted a red rose, the Yorks a white). Weir, author of the perceptive and engaging "Princes in the Tower" (1993), again presents popular history at its finest in an account of the Wars of the Roses and its complicated antecedents. Weir goes back to the heart of the trouble, the disastrous reign of the childless Richard II, and gives witness to the Lancaster family toppling his administration; she then follows the course of the Lancaster dynasty as wearers of the crown through the reigns of three kings, to find out why and how their York relatives, after decades of sitting in the shadow of the throne they by strict rights of inheritance should have occupied, eventually and successfully evicted the House of Lancaster and ruled as the House of York. No history collection should do without this perfectly focused and beautifully unfolded account.
From the Publisher
“Weir does a masterful job of leading the layman through the entwined family trees of England’s powerful families. . . . [She] has perfected the art of bringing history to life.”—Chicago Tribune

“[A] spellbinding chronicle . . . [Alison] Weir’s dark, glorious pageant restores the personal dimension to an oft-told tale without losing sight of a war that shattered feudalism, paved the way for capitalism, and weakened the monarchy.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Weir is] skilled at delineating the many memorable characters of the age. . . . It’s a tribute to her skill that she leaves you wanting more.”—The Plain Dealer

“A magnificent history.”—The Boston Globe

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307806857
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/05/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
44,161
File size:
6 MB

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