Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors Dan Jones Book Review


William  Shakespeare in his play, Richard III, created a brilliant soliloquy for the main character and it best described one of challenging periods in British History.

“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.” 


Book Cover of The Hollow Crown

The year 1483 will be known in history as the year of the three kings and it will also mark the beginning of the end for the House of York. After successfully wrestling the crown from Henry VI, Edward did not foresee that his own brother, Richard, would grab the kingship from his own son after his death. The lust for power and glory was an inheritance that the Plantagenet Dynasty inadvertently passed on to their offspring.

It's ironic to know that 15th-century politics were dominated and controlled by different factions of royals and nobles who shared the same ancestor, Edward III. After Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, forced the abdication of Richard II, he unknowingly planted the seeds of England's longest civil war known as The Wars of the Roses or The Cousins' War. It also split the Plantagenet Dynasty into two ruling Houses---The Yorks and the Lancasters.


Dan Jones has a way of bringing history alive and easy for contemporary readers. I truly enjoyed reading and learning from his writings. I find his research and presentation, historically factual and doesn't cater to rumors that has long endured and that people might consider real. 

There has been renewed interest in the Wars of the Roses with books and TV series coming out in abundance along with the recent discovery of Richard III's bones at a parking lot in Leicester. 


Richard III


Before stealing the crown from his nephew, Richard III was known as the Duke of Gloucester. He is considered the most maligned character in England's history. It didn't help that Tudor sympathizers would embark on a smear campaign on Richard III. Even Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare added fuel to the fire.

But he was loyal to his brother, Edward IV, and when he decided to become king, the English population turned against him because they could not fathom how he could taint his brother's memory by this act of treason. And the mystery of the disappearances of his nephews, Edward V and Richard Duke of York, Richard III did not quell the rumors that he had them murdered. His reign was not generally accepted by the majority because Edward V was a legitimate successor to his father Edward IV and he was just a young man of twelve. 


His death in 1485 was the last time a ruling Monarch died on a battlefield. It paved the way for Henry Earl of Richmond to name himself King.


House of Lancaster

The union of the Lancastrian monarch, Henry V to Catherine of Valois would pave the way for the self-destruction of the Plantagenets and the rise of the Tudors. Due to the early death of Henry V, his son, Henry VI would be crowned the youngest King of England and the country would be ruled by various royal advisers and politicians. 

Henry V's widow, Catherine of Valois, would enter a second marriage with a Welshman, Owen Tudor, which would produce two sons, Edmund and Jasper. Edmund Tudor would marry 12-year-old Margaret Beaufort from the House of Lancaster. They are the parents of Henry, Earl of Richmond, who would later be Henry VII.


Henry VI's periods of indisposition placed the power to his cousin, Richard 3rd Duke of York. The Duke of York was named Lord Protector during the king's absence but this did not go well with Queen Margaret of Anjou. In reality, the lineage of Richard Duke of York supersedes Henry IV's. 



Women Power

The Wars of the Roses also sowed the idea that not only men had the power to change the course of history. It showed the dynamics that the women brought to the mix. From Catherine Valois to Cecily Neville to Margaret Beaufort to Margaret of Anjou to Elizabeth Woodville and finally to Elizabeth of York. 

Many might consider them as mere pawns but in a king's game, the strategies brought by these women determined the fortunes, travails, and legacy of the various 15th-century players.


The Rise of the Tudors

The Wars of the Roses also marked the bloodiest and costliest Civil War in the history of England. Not just in monetary means but also in the decimation of royal and noble families. It also turned the tides of not only the fortunes of the Plantagenets but also the people surrounding them. 

Once Henry VII was on the throne, he and his heirs embarked on the quest of eradicating claimants to the Crown to solidify their own dynasty.



The Hollow Crown opened new avenues of learning for me and interest that I'm trying to look for new books dealing with the Wars of the Roses and the various historical characters involved. It's truly an entertaining book to read for avid fans of British royalty and history.


Other Suggested Readings:

The Plantagenets: The Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones
The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir
Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood



Fun Fact: George R.R. Martin's epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which in turn was made into the highly successful HBO show, Game of Thrones, was partly inspired by the Wars of the Roses. 

I even wrote a post about this connection (Read: The Wars of the Roses and Game of Thrones).

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