Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses

I tend to avoid reading much about British history - firstly because it's a very small part of the world that only really became relevant in the last few hundred years, and secondly because there are plenty of people out there who already know it. The world doesn't need yet another person who can name all the Plantagenets but has no idea who the Sassanids were. But "The Wars of the Roses" is a very cool name for a series of civil wars, so I thought I'd give it a go (there was a bit of influence from a well-known Wars of the Roses fanfic that I've enjoyed reading).

It's hard to make history really interesting, but Alison Weir's Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses makes a good effort. It's well researched and notes the primary sources frequently without being overly footnotish. She makes good attempts to get inside the heads of the main protagonists - you end up with a good sense of who Margaret of Anjou, and Warwick were, not just what they did. Edward IV and Henry VI are less well-rounded, but Kings tend to be that way. The book starts out rather dry but picks up steam as it gets going - the first half took ages to read, but the second half I got through quite quickly.

But the actual wars themselves were rather pointless and depressing. There's no sense of a great historical change happening here. It's just cousins thumping each other with armies and playing Musical Thrones. Henry VI was a bit of a gumby and probably should have abdicated much earlier in favour of someone competent. Edward was a bit of a tool, bit at least he was competent. Warwick and Margaret might've made good rulers, but Warwick wasn't in line for the throne and so had to scheme and plot and switch sides all the time, and Margaret was a woman, and so had to rely on her gumby of a husband for legitimacy. And then at the end, the whole thing was rendered completely pointless by Richard (he of the Princes in the Tower) who ruined everything.

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