Title: Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses
Author: Alison Weir
Source: Library (audio book)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
When Henry VI came to the throne in 1422, he was 9 months old. The only son of Henry V, his age meant England was ruled by regents until he was 15. Once he was old enough, it quickly became clear that whilst Henry VI may have been born to rule, he wasn’t very good at it. He was too pious, too forgiving, and too easily led by the powerful factions that had developed during his minority. Add to that mental ill health and, from 1445, his domineering wife Margaret of Anjou, and things seem doomed to go badly.
The badly was the Wars of the Roses, 32 years of conflict which eventually led to the fall of Henry’s House of Lancaster and the rise of the rival House of York (before their defeat at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor). Alison Weir’s book tells the story on these wars and what led to them, focusing on the people and how their personalities played a large part in what happened.
For me, it was absolutely fascinating to see just how many bad decisions Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou (plus their faction) made. How many things they misunderstood about the English people and what they wanted in a monarch. That doesn’t mean the House of York were much better but they understood how to get the public behind them. And how to fight a battle. I don’t know much about warfare but it seems they were a lot better at it.
The battles took up around half the book and Alison Weir describes them in great detail. I learnt a lot about how wars were waged and was shocked by the level of brutality and cruelty (perhaps I shouldn’t have been but I was). By the end, though, I was a little battle’d out. There was a bit too much pillaging and plundering for me and I started to lose track of what was happening, who was winning and who was losing.
The first half of the book was much more interesting for me because it was about the people. I read Helen Castor’s book She Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth last year and so knew something of Margaret of Anjou but I knew very little about Henry VI, other than that he was insane. (Insanity being the term used at the time for someone who was actually suffering from severe mental health problems, most likely brought on by stress). By the end of the book, I actually felt quite sorry for him and wonder what would have happened if his father had lived longer or he had felt he could give up the throne and live a more peaceful life.
All in all, a good book if a bit too bloody for me.
About the audio book
Narrator: Maggie Mash
Publisher: W F Howes
Release Date: Sep 28, 2012
Duration: 22:10:51 (hh:mm:ss)