Book Review: “Wars of the Roses: Bloodline” by Conn Iggulden

51nExUGFrkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The deaths of the Duke of York, Earl Salisbury and Edmund Earl of Rutland at the Battle of Wakefield at the end of 1460 marked a changing point for how the Wars of the Roses was fought. Now it was not going to be simply a matter of who was going to be the King of England, but it was a war of revenge. What the Lancastrians did not realize at the time was the fact that these deaths would unleash two men who would mark the destruction of the Lancastrian cause; Edward Duke of York, the future King Edward IV, and Richard Neville Earl of Warwick “the Kingmaker”. In the third book of Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series called “Bloodline”, Iggulden explores the rise of these two dynamic men and how family matters tore the two best friends apart.

After the victory at Wakefield, Margaret of Anjou marched her Lancastrian forces to London, but they were not allowed to enter. The Lancastrians decided to keep marching until they meet the Yorkists at St. Albans for a rematch, on February 17, 1461. The Lancastrians were able to win the battle and regain control of King Henry VI. However, this was a small victory. After the defeat, Edward Duke of York decided to take up the claim to the throne that his father left behind, and declared himself King Edward IV of England. That’s right, there were two kings of England in 1461. Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrians were not about to give without a fight. They met Edward IV, Warwick and the Yorkists forces outside Towton on March 29, 1461, during a snowstorm. The Battle of Towton is known to be the bloodiest battle on English soil and the way Iggulden described the onslaught is masterful. In the end, the Yorkists are victorious and Edward IV is officially the King of England while Henry VI is held captive in the Tower of London while Margaret of Anjou and her son flee to France for help.

After Towton, Edward IV and Warwick are closer than ever. Warwick wants to do what he can to help support his friend and king so he tries to arrange a marriage between Edward and a French princess, to form an alliance. However, Edward has other ideas and marries Elizabeth Woodville and decides to tell Warwick later. I find it fascinating that Iggulden decided to change how Edward and Elizabeth met as it is quite different from what traditionally is told about how they met, but it works really well. Edward’s brother George Duke of Clarence falls in love with Warwick’s daughter Isabel and wants to marry her.  This is the moment when Edward and Warwick really begin to feud.

Iggulden explains in his Historical Note why he decides to focus on this aspect of their relationship quite a bit:

In the first two books, I have tried to explore the sheer awe felt by some for the person of the king of England. It is the only thing that explains why King Henry remained alive despite being captured by York and held for months at a time. Yet it is also true of human nature that “awe” is less likely when one witnessed a boy growing up and becoming king. No man is a prophet in his own home- and Warwick was sufficiently exasperated with Edward and his wife to throw it all into the air and arrange Edward’s capture and imprisonment. (Iggulden, 402).

It is interesting to read about the relationship between these two friends and how that friendship turned into hatred because Edward decided to marry for love. Iggulden is able to capture the shifting relationships between the main characters extremely well in the third book of this amazing series. The blend of battles, political intrigue and romance is perfect and keeps the reader engaged. This is the fall of the Lancasters and the rise of the Yorks.  If you were a fan of the first two books of the Wars of the Roses series, I highly encourage you to read “Wars of the Roses: Bloodline” by Conn Iggulden.

Book Review: “Wars of the Roses: Trinity” by Conn Iggulden

61793uzwgql._sx324_bo12c2042c2032c200_England is on the brink of civil war. Families with royal blood in their veins are fighting amongst each other as King Henry VI has fallen ill.  Mistrust runs rampant and sacrifices are made in order to gain the throne. This is the England of 1454 and the beginning of the period in English history that we know today as the Wars of the Roses. Families like the Nevilles,  the Percys, and the houses of York, Lancaster, and Tudor would gain fame and infamy during this time. Conn Iggulden decided to explore this tumultuous time after the Jack Cade rebellion, which he explored in his first book “Stormbird”, in the second book of his “Wars of the Roses” series called “Trinity”.

Many who study the Wars of the Roses believe that it started in 1455 with the First Battle of St. Albans. However, Conn Iggulden begins “Trinity” with a conflict between the Percys and the Nevilles, which is known as the Battle of Heworth Moor. Iggulden explains why he chose this point to begin his story in his Historical Note:

The ambush by some seven hundred Percy retainers and servants on the Neville wedding party took place a little earlier than I have it here, in August 1453- around the same time King Henry VI fell into his senseless state. It was a key event among years of low-level fighting between the families as they struggled to control the north and widen their holdings. That attack by Thomas Percy, Baron Egremont, was one of the most brutal actions in that private war, sparked by the marriage of Salisbury’s son to the niece of Ralph Cromwell, a union which placed estates claimed by the Percy family into Neville hands. The ‘Battle of Heworth Moor’ failed in its main aim of slaughtering Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. I have not included a dozen minor skirmishes, but that feud played a key part in deciding where the Nevilles and the Percys stood in the first battle of St. Albans in 1455- and its outcome. (Iggulden, 463).

The Battle of Heworth Moor is a unique place to start. We are thrust into the middle of the Percy family’s feud with the Nevilles. The plan is to attack the Nevilles during a wedding, but the Percys fail. It would not be a wedding that either family would forget for a long time. The Percy family decides to side with the Lancasters and the King, while the Nevilles side with the Yorkist cause. In the beginning, the Wars of the Roses was nothing but feuds between families to determine who should be taking care of the sick King Henry VI. Iggulden describes Henry VI in a way that shows the King as weak in body but his mind is sharp. When he wakes from his first bout of illness, he dismisses Richard Duke of York from being Lord Protector and reverses everything that  Richard did.

Richard and the Yorkist cause are not upset with the king, but rather those who they believe are responsible for being in control of the king; Queen Margaret of Anjou, the Duke of Somerset and the Nevilles. Anger boils until it bursts at the First Battle of St. Albans in 1455. This battle was so pivotal in the evolution of the conflict that Iggulden goes into great detail to explain how the battle unfolded. The Yorkist cause may have one the “first” battle of the Wars of the Roses, but it ignited a flame inside of Margaret of Anjou to not only protect her son and her husband but to also completely destroy Richard Duke of York. As the story progresses, we see both sides working hard to gain control of the king in a more complex version of “capture the king”.

Conn Iggulden delivers a high action and extremely descriptive sequel to “Stormbird” with “Trinity”. He incorporates beloved characters from the previous novel, like Margaret of Anjou and the charismatic Derry Brewer, with new faces like the Tudors, Thomas Percy Baron Egremont, Warwick, Richard Duke of York and his eldest son Edmund Earl of Rutland. Iggulden transports the reader to this volatile time in English history. This book is so engaging and it keeps the reader wanting more, so he included a side story that is equally entertaining. Once again, Iggulden makes the Wars of the Roses and all of its intrigue come alive. If you were a fan of Conn Iggulden’s first book in the “Wars of the Roses” series “Stormbird”, I strongly encourage you to read “Trinity”.   

Biography: Richard Duke of York

richarddukeofyork-243x300Also known as Richard Plantagenet. (Born September 21, 1411- Died December 30, 1460). Son of Richard Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. Married to Cecily Neville. Father of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV, King of England, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard III, King of England. Richard Duke of York was the one who became Lord Protector to Henry VI, but when he didn’t get the respect he thought he deserved, challenged the king and claimed that he should be king, and started the Wars of the Roses.

Richard of York was born on 21 September 1411. He was the son of Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, by his wife Anne de Mortimer, the daughter of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March. Anne Mortimer was the great-granddaughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the second surviving son of King Edward III. After the death in 1425 of Anne’s brother Edmund, the 5th Earl of March, this supplied Richard, of the House of York, with a claim to the English throne that was, under English law, arguably superior to that of the reigning House of Lancaster, descended from John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III. On his father’s side, Richard had a claim to the throne in a direct male line of descent from his grandfather Edmund, 1st Duke of York, fourth surviving son of King Edward III and founder of the House of York. Richard’s claim through his mother made him more eligible to be king than Henry VI, thus he adopted the last name “Plantagenet” in 1448 to mark his claim to the throne.

Richard’s mother is said to have died giving birth to him and his father was executed  in 1415 for his part in the Southampton plot that tried to remove Henry V from the throne and replace him with Edmund Mortimer. His father’s titles were forfeited, but not attainted, which meant that Richard at 4 years old, became his father’s heir. A few months later, Richard’s uncle Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, was slain at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415. Henry V decided to give the lands of the Duchy of York to Richard.

Richard was an orphan and he was considered property of the crown. His wardship was a very valued gift of the crown and it was granted to Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland. Ralph Neville had a large family, 20 children who survived infancy,  with many daughters who needed husbands, so in 1424, Neville betrothed Richard to his daughter Cecily Neville. On February 2, 1425, Richard was created Duke of York, after his uncle Edmund Mortimer died. In October 1425, Ralph Neville died and his widow Joan Beaufort was given the wardship of Richard, which was even more valuable since Richard was now the Duke of York. On May 19, 1426 he was knighted at St Mary de Castro in Leicester by John, Duke of Bedford, the younger brother of King Henry V. In October 1429 or earlier, Richard and Cecily were married. York was there for Henry VI’s coronation on November 6, 1430 and he was also at Henry VI’s coronation in France when he became king of France on December 16, 1431. Finally, on May 12, 1432, York was finally given full control over his estates.

York was loyal to Henry VI and the Lancasters in the beginning. He worked with John Duke of Bedford, who was the English regent in France. Bedford died in 1435 and York took on the responsibility of being governor of France and Normandy from 1436 to 1437 and 1440 to 1445. At this time, York  was neutral in politics, but he seemed to have sided with Humphrey Duke of Gloucester in the idea of continuing the war with France. York wanted to apart of Henry VI’s council, but he was not allowed. On his return to England in 1450 York was seen as the opponent of the Duke of Somerset. He was as popular as Somerset was not and York had powerful allies in the Nevilles. In 1451, there was a claim in Parliament that York should be the next heir to the throne because the king did not have a son. This claim was not taken seriously and the one who proposed this was imprisoned.  

In 1452, York declared that he wanted to be the next heir to the throne so he summoned an army to march on London. It didn’t go well and York was placed on house arrest for two weeks and then he was forced to give an oath of allegiance to the king and promised that if he did want to pursue his claim, he would do it in a legal manner.

In the summer of 1453, York had lost all hope of becoming king and changing the government for the better as Margaret of Anjou became pregnant and the king’s half brother Edmund Tudor married Margaret Beaufort. Then in August of 1453, Henry VI had his first bout with mental illness reared its ugly head. He heard about the Battle of Castillon in Gascony, which ended the English hopes of winning the Hundred Years’ War, sending him into an unresponsive state. The Council decided to elect York as Lord Protector and one of the first things he did was to have Somerset arrested and placed in the Tower. In October of the same year, the son of Henry VI and Margaret Beaufort, Edward of Westminster Prince of Wales, was born dashing York’s chances of becoming the heir by peaceful means. York remained Lord Protector until 1455 when Henry VI recovered. Henry VI released Somerset and basically reversed every decision that York had made while he was Protector. This was the last straw for York.

York and his Neville allies, including Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, marched to St. Albans where they faced off against Somerset and the Lancastrian forces that supported the king. Somerset was killed during the  First Battle of St Albans on May 22, 1455, and shortly after, the king had another bout of mental illness. York was declared Lord Protector yet again, but was removed from his post when the king recovered in 1456, but the king had accepted York and the Nevilles as an important part of the government. This reconciliation would not last long.

It was then that Margaret of Anjou took up her husband’s cause. She encouraged the new duke of Somerset Henry Beaufort to fight against York. The battlelines were being drawn. The Yorkists were led by Richard duke of York, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville earl of Warwick. The Lancastrians were under Henry VI, but led by Margaret of Anjou, Somerset, and Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland. In 1459, at the battle of Ludlow, the Lancastrians won and sent the Yorkists into hiding; however the Yorkists came back with a vengeance at the battle of Northampton.

In 1460 York officially declared his claim to the throne. After much discussion, it was agreed that after the king died, York and his sons would be the heirs to the throne, removing Edward of Westminster from the line of succession. Henry VI seemed to have been okay with this arrangement, but Margaret was beyond upset. She led the Lancastrian forces to face off against York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in the battle. York was beheaded, his head was put on a spike wearing a paper crown and was displayed over Micklegate Bar at York.