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.