Review of The Wars of the Roses

We finished Dan Jones’s The Wars of the Roses a few weeks back.  While an excellent narrative history of fifteenth century England, the book does not lend itself easily to being read at table.  It is hard to keep all the players straight when you are only hearing the book read, and not seeing the words on the printed page.  You almost have to do homework (e.g. looking up royal genealogies) to keep up with table reading.  How many Dukes of Clarence were there?  How do you keep all the various Richards and Edwards straight?

Given that King Richard III will be reburied in a few weeks, reading about the wars of the roses was in fact timely.  Jones claims that the marriage of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York did not end the tensions of Lancaster versus York.  In fact, he opens the work with a story of the judicial murder of the last Plantagenet, Margaret Pole, during the reign of Henry VIII in 1541.  Margaret Pole, the niece of two Yorkist Kings, was not only a countess in her own right, but is considered a Blessed by the Catholic Church.  The dynastic struggles of the fifteenth century are seemingly replaced (and transformed) by the struggles of Protestant versus Catholic in the next century’s English Reformation.

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