Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses

3.9 53
by Alison Weir

See All Formats & Editions

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,


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.

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

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
6 MB

Meet the Author

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen; The Marriage Game, A Dangerous Inheritance; Captive Queen; The Lady Elizabeth; and Innocent Traitor and numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Wars of the Roses 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
TKWms More than 1 year ago
Weir does it again for the Anglophile with a staunch medieval addiction. Oh, the costumes and jangling of chain mail, the galloping politics, the ferocious women, the handsome war lords, the wanna-be kings, the intrigue, the scandals, the murders, the skulking and lurking, the battles and righteous causes, the not-so-righteous causes, the marching to and fro and hither and yon, the barring of gates and the storming of gates, the scurrying across the border or the sailing across the channel in storm fraught swelling seas, the back room deals and the back room weasels. "To Arms, To Arms" with seething rebellion and throne usurping all taking place amongst a large bunch of noisy, malevolent, nasty cousins...all served up with delicious relish and lots of "off with their heads" momentum. And...all true. Can't beat that combination!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is history the way it SHOULD be done. Weir's treatment of the subject matter is so engrossing that I felt as if I were reading a thriller... not non-fiction. I found myself shaking my head at all of the political maneuvering (if you think our political system is cut-throat, petty and backstabbing, read this for some perspective!!) and even laughing out loud at her wry comments about the various personalities! I recommend keeping a sheet of notes handy to keep all the kings, queens, rival factions, and family members straight but overall it is a wild ride that I'm glad I took!!
Francine More than 1 year ago
This book is so well written and enjoyable. The history is very interesting. If anybody feels that the past was more innocent than the times we are living in today, this book will change their minds! The brutality of the people and the political intrigue is amazing. The way Alison describes the characters really makes them come to life. I do feel like I am right there with everything that is happening. If you love history, I would recommend this book highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I buy sight unseen/reviews unread anything by Alison Weir. I have yet to be disapointed in any of her novels. She does her research well, and even thogh some subject matters could be rather dry, she always seems to bring them to life with her chaecters. I love the fact that these charecters are based usually on historical real life figures, and yes, she takes poetic licence with several of them, but never to the detrement of the person, but rather to add another dimension. As a Brit I was raised on this kind of litriture, but I still found information in it that I was not aware of. Just one more good read, hard to put down book.
sam1973 More than 1 year ago
Written beautifully. Brings you into the moment as if history stopped and you were there. Accurate and an easy read. A nice edition for any one's library, especially the English history buffs.
Melissa_W More than 1 year ago
Since I started with "Eleanor of Aquitaine" and then moved to "Mistress of the Monarchy" and "Queen Isabella" I decided to move forward in history through Weir's histories and biographies. Chronologically that meant I had to read "The War of the Roses" before "The Princes in the Tower" or any of the Tudor histories. This book has a very different character from her biographies; the intimate, in-depth feel is gone because Weir has to cover more than three generations of English royal family nonsense and history. That doesn't make the book hard to read but you do have to keep track of that many more people - all of whom happen to have the same names (and titles in the cases of primogeniture). Weir starts her history with the deposition of Richard II by Henry IV (where "Mistress of the Monarchy" begins to wind down) and ends with Edward IV's triumph over the last few Lancastrians. The bulk of the book is spent detailing Henry VI's reign which is torturous and full of power-hungry magnates. Weir makes Henry VI a very sympathetic man, one who really wan't cut out for the job given him as an infant, but spares little sympathy for Henry's wife, Margaret of Anjou, who was the power behind the throne and about as bloodthirsty as any of the Yorks and Lancastrians. The only drawback to this volume is that Weir gives a rough one-page outline of the remaining histories of the central characters as the fifteenth-century draws to a close; she probably covered much of the time period in "The Princes in the Tower" but it would have been nice to have something a little longer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alison Weir really brings the period to life providing the reader with a real understanding of the background of the conflict and how the various personalities shaped the future of England. The period has some very powerful and interesting personalities that all seem to be cousins or in-laws such as the Beauforts, Nevilles and Beauchamps and Alison Weir does an excellent job of bringing these people to life over 500 years later. I've enjoyed the book immensely.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book although I was bothered by the Lancastrian bias I felt. I felt the book was a great historical account of the Wars and gave me a lot of information I was looking for. I felt she treated Margaret of Anjou a little too leniently and was unduly harsh on Richard III, but otherwise it's a great read for enthusiasts of this period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The detail of this book is amazing and you will learn so much as you read!
EugeneTX More than 1 year ago
first, This is a wonderful book without which a tremendous amount of information about the period could be lost. Second, I do wish this author could learn to be a little less judgemental about persons and events and a little less catastrophizing over the way someone ruled, or died, or an event failed to satisfy her. Perhaps it would help to remove the burr from her saddle or whatever causes this. On the other hand, I do love the book and I could have loved it even more if it had been more objective and even tempered. The book itself is an excellent repository of information and helps in understanding what was takinng place in England and across France at the timeline involved. We would not be where we are today except for the investment in blood, sweat, and tears made by all our ancestors across time and space. Take a moment and think of all that has been accomplished since the first millenia. Consider all the battles and diseases our ancestors fought and defeated in moving the ball forward. This is a book for your reference library and will greatly aid you as you work toward obtaining a bigger and better picture of what events were taking place during the period as well as the names of the most prominent persons involved. One should remember that evidence of an event or the lack thereof neither proves nor disproves a fact in question. Evidence is not even evidence until it is accepted by a body of lay experts or officials accepting that it contributes to a better understanding of the question at hand. Even when no evidence is available, reasonable inferences may be drawn if enough evidence is available to render a finding based on reasoning. This still doesn't make it true or false just reasonably so. You will enjoy this book if you overlook the ias.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book extremely well wrtten snd documented. It is also very entertaining and i had difficulty putting it down. I have read several of Ms Weir's books and liked all of them but this is,so far, my favorite.
Diego_in_Austin More than 1 year ago
If you have ever read some of the riveting history books written by David McCollough or Doris Kearns Goodwin then you will definitely be disappointed by this book. Trying to cover hundreds and hundreds of years of history basically renders this book a dry list of dead people who briefly surface, marry, have a kid and then blip out of existence. None of these people truly come to life and are people you end up caring about. By the end you don't really care that this noble or that noble did not get paid for their conquest of French territory, you just hope that it will all be over soon. The book cover is very pretty though.
Anonymous 3 months ago
These facts would be better applied in story form.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OKP More than 1 year ago
This book is for professionals  who is looking for extra info for their own research, or writing historical fiction, or etc. Lost among infinite amount of names and dates. For people who know History of England in a such great details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hoping for a novel, but this is just a dull history book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
eo1 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book,and recommend it to anyone who appreciates history
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is THOROUGH and long but very interesting if you are interested in the subject. Not for everyone; it is a history not a novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago