Book Review: “Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI” by Lauren Johnson

50270709._SY475_Medieval kings are often painted as strong, colorful figures in history. They were warriors who fought to protect their families and countries. Often, we tend to think of men like King Henry V and King Edward IV when it comes to the late medieval kings of England. However, there was a man who was sandwiched between these two pillars of strength. He was the son of Henry V, the king who came before Edward IV, and the man who started the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Unlike these two men, Henry VI was a pious peacemaker and is often viewed as a mere man in the background who never measured up to the standards his famous father left behind. His story is often incorporated into other biographies of people of his time; Henry VI has not had a solid biography about his life in a long time. That is until now. Lauren Johnson has taken up the challenge of exploring the life of this often-overlooked monarch in her latest biography, “Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI”.

When Lauren Johnson announced she was writing this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. As someone who finds the Wars of the Roses fascinating, I have wanted to read more about the Lancastrian side of the conflict, especially about Henry VI, to understand the conflict completely. This remarkable tome delivered everything that I wanted in a biography about Henry VI.

As the only son of the great warrior king Henry V, Henry VI had enormous shoes to fill, especially when his father died while Henry VI was just a baby. To add to the complicated situation of a baby king in England, with the death of the king of France, Henry VI was also the king of France. Until Henry became of age to rule both countries, he relied on the men around him to rule, while he continued his studies to become a strong ruler. Many books on the Wars of the Roses tend to skip over these informative years of Henry VI’s minority, but by delving deep into this time, Johnson gives the reader an understanding on why he made the decisions that he did later in life and why he was more of a pious scholar who wanted peace rather than a warrior.

Johnson meticulously goes through every decision and every flaw of Henry VI’s rule to show why the Wars of the Roses began and the toll that it took on Henry’s health. Her reassessment of Henry VI’s mental health and its deterioration over the years is eye-opening and gives an entirely new perspective into his reign. His peace-loving nature explains the actions that he took while he was king and also when he was an exile on the run from Edward IV while his wife, Margaret of Anjou was trying to stage a comeback that would fail, resulting in the death of her son and husband. Johnson’s exploration into Henry VI includes the afterlife that presented him as a holy man.

It has been a while since I have read a biography with such vivid descriptions and was so meticulously researched that it leaves me speechless. It was a sheer delight to read this masterpiece. I did not want it to end. I truly felt sympathy for King Henry VI. Lauren Johnson’s magnificent biography, “Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI” is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the Wars of the Roses and the peace-loving king who started it all.

Book Review: “Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses” by David Santiuste

11455551The romanticized conflict that was known as the Wars of the Roses had numerous colorful figures. From the sleeping king, Henry VI and his strong wife Margaret of Anjou to the cunning Kingmaker Warwick and the hotly debated figure Richard III, these men and women made this conflict rather fascinating. However, there was one man who would truly define this era in English history, Edward IV. He was a son of Richard duke of York who fought to avenge his father’s death and the man who would marry a woman, Elizabeth Woodville, who he loved instead of allying himself with a European power. These are elements of his story that most people know, but he was first and foremost an effective general, which is a side that is rarely explored when examining his life. David Santiuste decided to explore this vital part of Edward’s life in his book, “Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I have always been fascinated by this period in history, but I have not read a lot of books about Edward IV so I really wanted to read this one.

This book is not a traditional biography about Edward IV, but rather it is a study on the military leadership of the king. Santiuste takes the time to explain how the Wars of the Roses started to give a foundation for readers who are not quite familiar with the actual conflict. He also explores how armies were formed during this time as well as what weapons and types of equipment that a typical soldier would use on a field of combat.

Unlike the other kings who ruled during the Wars of the Roses, Henry VI and Richard III respectively, Edward IV never lost a battle in England. He could easily be compared to Edward III and Henry V as a warrior king, however, he was never able to win a victory overseas, even though he did try. Santiuste explores the sources of the time and the military strategies that Edward used in each of the battles that he fought in, especially the battles of Towton, Barnet, and Tewkesbury, to give the reader a better understanding of why the Yorkists won these battles. It is truly the re-examination of these sources that is the bread and butter of this new study of the warrior king. By doing a historiographical study of the sources, Santiuste is able to explore their validity which gives us a better understanding of the truth of Edward’s relationships and his military prowess.

What I found really interesting in this book was Santiuste’s examination of the relationship between Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick. It was a vital, if not tumultuous and complex, relationship between these two men that turned from friends to deadly enemies. Another intriguing aspect of this book was exploring Edward IV’s relationships with those who lived in other European countries, especially those who he interacted while he was in exile in the Netherlands. These relationships helped transform Edward IV from a regular warrior to a legendary warrior king.

Overall, I found this study by Santiuste enjoyable and thought-provoking. It was relatively easy to understand and it offered a fresh perspective to this king and this conflict. If you want to learn more about the Wars of the Roses and the enigmatic King Edward IV, I would highly recommend you read, “Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses” by David Santiuste.

Book Review: “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors” by Dan Jones

24611635._SY475_England throughout the centuries has known internal strife with civil wars to determine who had the right to rule the island nation. None more so than in the fifteenth century when a tug of war for the English crown broke out. Today, we call this time period “The Wars of the Roses”, but what was it all about? Who were the main figures during this time? What were the crucial battles that defined these wars? How did the Plantagenet Dynasty fall and how did the Tudors become the new dynasty to rule England? These questions and more are explored in Dan Jones’ book, “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors”.

I will admit that this was not my first time reading this particular book. I did borrow it from my local library and read it a few years ago, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided that I wanted to add it to my personal collection.

Jones begins his book with the horrific execution of the elderly Margaret Pole, the last white rose of York. Her death had more to do with her Plantagenet blood and the fact that she was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, than with any crime she committed. It was the royal blood and who had the right to rule that was at the heart of the Wars of the Roses, as Jones goes on to explain.

Although the true origins of the conflict go back to the sons of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, Jones chooses to explore the reign of King Henry V, Catherine of Valois, and their son Henry VI. When Henry V tragically died of dysentery, his infant son Henry VI became king of both England and France. This wouldn’t have been a problem if Henry VI was as strong as his father, but alas, as king was very weak, which meant that he needed help to rule his kingdoms. It was the rivals between the powerful men and women behind the crown, like Richard, Duke of York and Margaret of Anjou, which led to the thirty years of civil wars.

What I appreciate about Jones’ book is that his focus is on the people who made the Wars of the Roses so fun to study. From Henry VI and his dynamic wife Margaret of Anjou to the sons of Richard duke of York; Edward IV, Richard III ( Ricardians might not agree with Jones’ assessment of Richard III) and George Duke of Clarence. Then there are figures who stand on their own who worked behind the scenes, like Warwick “The Kingmaker”, Margaret Beaufort, Owen and Jasper Tudor, the Princes in the Tower, and the ultimate victor, Henry VII.

Jones was able to weave the stories of these extraordinary people with the bloody battles and the politics that defined the era into this delightful book. It acts as a fantastic introduction to this turbulent time in English history that brought the downfall of the powerful Plantagenets and brought forth the Tudors. Another enjoyable and engaging book by Dan Jones. If you want to begin a study into this time, I highly recommend you read, “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors”.

Movie Review: “The King”

MV5BOGZhMWFhMTAtNGM3Ni00MTdhLTg3NmMtMDViYTc5ODVkZWVlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_There is a new film that has been getting a lot of hype lately and that is based on the story of King Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt. Starring Timothee Chalamet as the main protagonist King Henry V, “The King” on Netflix is the latest historical drama movie that has come out this year. From the trailers and the information that we learned about the film before it was released, I was really intrigued, so I decided to watch it this weekend. Since there were a lot of things I wanted to discuss, I have decided to write a sort of movie review for “The King”.

The film starts with trouble brewing between King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn), the usurper King who is dying, and Henry “Hotspur” Percy. We are introduced to Henry V as a young Prince of Wales who simply wants to cause havoc, drink, and have fun with his friends. When I first saw Timothee Chalamet in this role, I felt like he was a moody teenager who could care less about his country or his father, who he, for some reason, hates. Henry IV decides that Henry, also known as “Hal”, is not good enough to be king, so he is replaced by his younger brother, Thomas of Lancaster. This is so odd because from what we know of this time, Henry IV trusted Henry V to take care of England while he was ill.

The angsty prince “Hal” leaves and decides to hang out with his best friend, Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton), who would become one of his closest allies. Falstaff would be there for Hal after he killed Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury, which in this film turns out to be a fistfight with a knife between the two men, which is won by Henry V naturally. It felt kind of awkward, especially when you notice that Thomas Beaufort (also known as Dorset in the film) is on the sideline supporting Hotspur instead of Henry V. Beaufort was extremely loyal to Henry V throughout his reign. It was here where Henry V got his noticeable scar from an arrow that hit him in the face, but the film really doesn’t show the scar.

After his brother Thomas dies off-screen, Henry V becomes King after his father dies. The coronation scene, albeit short, looked somewhat accurate, which is a plus. As king, Henry is unsure of his abilities and relies on men who he considers his allies. Those who do study this time period know that Henry V was known as a warrior king, yet for some reason, the director of this film wanted to make Henry rather a pacificist. He wants to get along with the French rather than go to war with them. This was the middle of the Hundred Years’ War. England hated France and vice versa. For this young king to want to make peace with the French was unheard of and so out of character for what we know about King Henry V. I really did not agree with this call.

It was not until after there were several attempts on Henry’s life by the French that Henry finally decides to attack France directly. It is here in the battles and sieges that Henry V would gain his warrior king title and I think that the film does a pretty good job showing some of the aspects of the invasion of France. The use of trebuchets for the siege scene was just fun to watch, even though this was just one siege of perhaps dozens that happened during the invasion. While we are in France, we are introduced to Robert Pattinson’s character the Dauphin of France. This might sound controversial, but I wasn’t impressed with his portrayal of the Dauphin. I felt like his accent felt fake, almost like he was mocking the French, and I didn’t see why he needed to have his hair dyed blond. Pattinson’s character was more of a buffoon than a serious adversary. Another thing that irked me was when Henry knelt in front of the Dauphin. Henry is a King. The Dauphin was a French Prince. It seemed really odd to do this since they were adversaries.

To me, the biggest highlight of this film was the actual Battle of Agincourt. The conditions of the field of battle were a muddy mess with the French at an advantage. The English marching in their suits of armor towards their enemy while the archers were in the back, raining arrows down on the French. Seeing Henry and Falstaff fighting in the mud with their men. It felt like it truly honored the battle well. The one issue I had with it was when Henry and Falstaff took off their helmets. I was literally yelling at them to put their helmets back on. It is one thing to see an actor’s face when they are doing a battle scene, but this just seemed utterly ridiculous to me.

A few more side notes that I wanted to include. I think the soundtrack of this film was wonderful and really captured the mood of the film. They used a lot of daggers and battle-axes instead of swords when it came to fighting one on one. The costumes felt appropriate, but the colors of the outfits felt rather mute with greys, blacks, blues, and shades of white. There were points where I thought that Chalamet was wearing a pair of jean like pants and a hoodie under his chain mail, but it might have just been me. I wanted a touch more color. The scenery was fantastic and really gave a medieval feel to the film. Finally, I wanted more Catherine of Valois (Lily-Rose Depp). We see her at the very end of the film, but I wanted more interaction between Catherine and Henry.

Overall, I actually really enjoyed “The King”. It kind of shocked me because I thought that I was going to sit through the movie and nitpick so much that I wouldn’t enjoy the film. Yet I did. It is definitely not historically accurate, but it blends the Shakespearean plays and historical information into something new. If you want a completely accurate film about Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt, this might not be the film for you. However, if you want a different interpretation of Henry V and Agincourt just for fun, “The King” on Netflix is a film that you should check out.

Book Review: “Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty” by Terry Breverton

51qnw6zqydL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Henry VII  winning at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, is viewed as the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty. However, the story of the Tudor family goes back centuries in Wales. What we consider the story of the Tudors tends to start with a man named Owen Tudor, a servant, who fell in love and married the dowager Queen of England, Catherine of Valois. Quite a romantic tale, but how much of it is true? Were the Tudors simple folk or did they have a bigger role to play in their native Wales? What roles did Owen and his sons play in the Wars of the Roses? These questions and more are explored in Terry Breverton’s latest biography, “Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this fascinating biography. Owen Tudor is someone that has always interested me, so I was quite delighted to find out that Breverton had written the first biography about this extraordinary man and his life. 

Breverton begins by exploring the origins of the Tudors and how the Welsh bards were the ones who helped preserve the history and prophecies of Wales for future generations. One such prophecy was the prophecy of Cadwaladr, which speaks of the red dragon of Cadwaladr defeating the white dragons of those who the Welsh considered barbarians. It was also the Welsh who believed that a mab darogan (“the son of prophecy”) would conquer England. Breverton must discuss these ideas because they would help the Tudors gather support that was necessary for future victories. Breverton also discusses the history of Wales and England and the Glyndwr War. He explores the Tudor family tree and how Owen Tudor’s ancestors were very influential in the decisions that Wales made in these critical years. I found this part extremely fascinating to read because casual readers of the Wars of the Roses do not read about Welsh history and the Tudor ancestors, which is vital to understand how they were able to come out victorious in the end.

Breverton also explores the family history of Catherine of Valois and how she came to marry  King Henry V and her relationship with her first son, King Henry VI. However, the center of Breverton’s book is centered around the relationship between Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois. He describes it as the “strangest marriage in English history”, but unlike other scholars, Breverton believes that an actual marriage did happen between Owen and Catherine. Their sons, Edmund and Jasper Tudor, would prove extremely important men during the Wars of the Roses, and tried to bridge the gap between the Yorks and the Lancasters. Breverton was able to track down where Owen was during his service during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses through his sons and through government records of the time, until his death shortly after the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, on February 4, 1461. The one thing I wish Breverton would have included were maps of Wales, England, and France so it would be easier to understand which towns fell and where battles were fought.

Breverton does a superb job shedding light on Owen Tudor’s fascinating life and legacy. It was an absolute joy to read, I didn’t want it to end. This was my first time reading a book by Terry Breverton and now I want to read more of his books. Breverton blends an easy to understand writing style while maintaining scrupulous attention to details. You can tell that Breverton meticulously researched Owen Tudor and the events that shaped him. This may be the first biography about Owen Tudor, but I don’t think it will be the last. If you want to read a fabulous biography about Owen Tudor and the origins of the Tudor Dynasty, I highly encourage you to read “Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty” by Terry Breverton. 

“Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty” by Terry Breverton will be published in the US on November 1, 2019. If you would like to pre-order a copy of this book, please follow the link: https://www.amazon.com/Owen-Tudor-Founding-Father-Dynasty/dp/1445694379/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Owen+Tudor+Founding+Father+of+the+Tudor+Dynasty&qid=1566589023&s=books&sr=1-1

Book Review: “Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou: A Marriage of Unequals” by Amy Licence

9188WGCCbpLHistorically, royal marriages have been viewed with such interest. A king and a queen who can come from either similar or different backgrounds in order to make their country better, or in some cases, worse. During the Wars of the Roses, there were some legendary relationships that shaped the war between the Yorks and the Lancasters. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville. Richard III and Anne Neville. Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York. However, these relationships fail in comparison to the impact that the marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou had on England during this time. Henry VI was seen as a weak, pious ruler; Margaret was seen as too strong for a woman. They have been viewed separately for a long time, never as a couple. That is until Amy Licence wrote her latest biography, “Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou: A Marriage of Unequals”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this lovely book. I have always been fascinated by Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou so this book was a delight to read.

In her introduction, Licence explains how Henry and Margaret have been viewed in the past, separately and as a couple.

Little attention has been given to Henry and Margaret as a pair, in terms of their marriage, their life together and their joint rule. This is partly because less evidence survives about their intimate relationship, leading it to be reduced to a few simple anecdotes about Margaret being already a woman at the time of her marriage and Henry’s reputed prudery…. Contemporary and subsequent historians have exploited a far more subtle relationship dynamic to undermine Henry and Margaret as individuals, as a couple and as rulers, by playing on fifteenth-century gender expectations…. Almost six hundred years after Henry’s birth, the time is right for a reappraisal of their lives and marriage, which has no need to adhere to strict cultural codes about gender, but can use them as a starting point to deconstruct the identities of two atypical individuals. (Licence, x)

Licence starts her biography by exploring the lives of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou before they became husband and wife. They had very different upbringings. Henry was the son of Henry, the strong warrior King,  and Catherine of Valois. He was declared King of England and France at a very young age since his father died while he was a few months old. Margaret was the daughter of Rene of Anjou, who was a king without a kingdom. Their union seems very unlikely, but it worked rather well, although there were some in England who wasn’t exactly thrilled for the royal couple.

It wasn’t until the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses broke out that we see how strong the relationship between Henry and Margaret truly was. Henry was weaker than his father Henry V and he did suffer from some sort of mental illness, so Margaret had to step in to help take care of him and their son while defending the throne from the Yorkists. They had to make tough choices, but Henry and Margaret did them together. Licence shows the dynamic of this relationship, not only by using English sources but by using reports from foreign ambassadors. Reading these sources allows the reader to understand that Henry and Margaret were more complex individuals than what we see in history books.

Licence presents a fresh new look at this power couple. Henry and Margaret’s story is one of love and heartache, full of both joy and struggles.  Henry might have been a weaker medieval king than his father and Margaret might have been a bit stronger than most medieval women, but that is what makes them so unique. This book packed a lot of wonderful information in it about not only their relationship, but the Wars of the Roses, and the cult of Henry VI which formed after his death. It was an absolute pleasure to read. I did not want to put this book down.  I highly recommend that you have “Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou: A Marriage of Unequals” by Amy Licence in your personal library if you are interested in Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses.

Book Review: “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown” by Nathen Amin

51ygXgS66nL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The houses of York, Lancaster, the  Nevilles, the Howards, the Mowbrays, the Percys, and the Tudors are often recognized as the families involved in the Wars of the Roses. However, there was one more house that was just as important as the others; the Beauforts. The Beauforts were the sons and daughters of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his mistress Katherine Swynford. They were considered bastards since they were born out of wedlock, yet they were connected to the house of Lancaster and rose to power by their own right. They would help change not only English history but the history of Europe forever. The Beauforts made a huge impact during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, yet many people only recognize Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke of Somerset. The Beauforts don’t get much attention. Nathen Amin, the founder of The Henry Tudor Society, wanted to tell the story of this remarkable family.  It is in his book “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown”, that the Beauforts are given the attention that they rightfully deserve.

Nathen Amin explains why he chose to focus on the Beauforts:

The Beauforts are a family often encountered when reading or studying the fifteenth century and the Wars of the Roses, although commonly relegated to supporting roles in the life and times of more prominent figures like Richard, duke of York, Edward IV, and Henry IV, V, and VI. They were always in the background, serving a king, counselling a king, and even fighting for or against a king. …Yet, there were few family units more influential in the governance of England during the period, and none more devoted to defending the Lancasterian dynasty, whether against France in the last vestiges of the Hundred Years War, or against the House of York in a new war of a very different kind. Born as bastards to a mighty prince, the Beauforts were the right-hand men of their royal kinsmen, amassing considerable authority on the national and continental stage. From uncertain beginnings, the Beauforts became earls, dukes and cardinals, and in time kings themselves, their blood seeping into every corner of the English artistocracy within a few generations of their birth. (Amin, 7).

So how exactly were the Beauforts able to accomplish all of this, going from bastards to kings? It starts with John of Gaunt marrying his mistress Katherine Swynford, making his four children with Katherine legitimate and they were given the name “Beaufort”, after his second marriage did not work out. After their half-brother King Henry IV( also known as Henry of Bolingbroke) became king, he allowed his half-siblings to obtain royal status, however, they could not be in line for the English throne.

John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford’s four children found a way to live successful lives without pursuing the English throne and they continued to support their Lancasterian family. John Beaufort became the 1st Earl of Somerset and his children became earls, counts, dukes and his daughter Joan became Queen of Scotland. John Beaufort’s granddaughter was Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the future King Henry VII. Henry Beaufort was able to become a very wealthy man and was promoted all the way to Cardinal of England, quite a feat for an English man at that time. Thomas Beaufort became the  1st Duke of Exeter and his sister Joan Beaufort Countess of Westmoreland was the matriarch of the powerful Neville family.

The Beauforts went through numereous highs and lows as they worked hard to protect England and the honor of their Lancastrian relations. Nathen Amin is able to navigate the complex world of the English court during both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses to give us the intricate story of the Beaufort family. As someone who is acquianted with parts of the Beaufort family story, I found this book rather fascinating and very informative. This was my first time reading a book by Nathen Amin and I cannot wait to read more of his books. In a complex time, it would be easy to forget one person, but Amin spends the time to write about each Beaufort child and how they made a difference.

The only real issue I had with the book was the family tree. I wished that there were birth and death dates included because I found myself getting a tad bit confused about who was who, especially when some of the Beauforts shared the same name and a similar title.

Overall, I found this book extremely fascinating and informative. Amin’s writing style is easy to understand and he brings the Beauforts from the background and onto center stage. They may have started as illegitimate children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, but they rose to be dukes and kings. If you want to learn more about this remarkable family and their influence in both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, I absolutely recommend that you read “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown” by Nathen Amin.

Biography: Elizabeth Woodville

(Born around 1437- Died June 8, 1492). Daughter of Jacquetta of Luxembourg and ElizabethWoodvilleRichard Woodville. Married to Sir John Grey and King Edward IV of England. Mother of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, Richard Grey, Elizabeth, Queen of England, Mary of York, Cecily, Viscountess Welles, Edward V, King of England, Margaret of York, Richard, Duke of York, Anne, Lady Howard, George, Duke of Bedford, Catherine, Countess of Devon and Bridget of York. Elizabeth Woodville was the woman who Edward IV fell in love with and married, much to the chagrin of Warwick. Elizabeth was the mother of the Princes in the Tower and Elizabeth of York, the mother of the Tudor Dynasty.

Elizabeth Woodville was the eldest child of Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, born around 1437 at Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire. Her parents marriage was controversial because they married for love and without King Henry VI’s permission. Jacquetta was previously married to the brother of King Henry V and, although the Woodvilles were wealthy landowners, they were still considered genteel rather than nobles. Jacquetta was considered the second lady at court, next to the Queen Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth was able to become one of the maids of honor for Queen Margaret of Anjou. With her high position at court, Elizabeth was able to marry well with her first marriage. She married Sir John Grey of Groby in 1452 and during this time, Elizabeth became one of the four ladies of the bedchamber to Margaret of Anjou. In 1461, Sir John Grey would die at the Second Battle of St. Albans, fighting for the Lancastrian cause, leaving Elizabeth a widow with two infant sons, Thomas and Richard Woodville.

Elizabeth Woodville’s sons, Thomas and Richard, did not receive the Bradgate inheritance that they deserved. Elizabeth went into mourning for two years at her family home at Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire. After the Yorkist victory a few weeks later at Towton, Edward IV, the new king, stopped by at Grafton Regis for a couple of days, where it is said he fell in love with Elizabeth Woodville. It is said that he saw her under an oak tree, waiting for him to arrive and to plead her case to get her sons’ inheritance, but there is no evidence that this actually happened. The couple married in secret sometime in May 1464.

At this time, Richard Neville “The Kingmaker” Earl of Warwick, was working on a marriage alliance with France. When Warwick and the Council found out about the marriage, they were rightfully upset. Not only did the King marry a woman who was a widow and not a princess, but now her relations were able to capitalize in the marriage market. Three of Elizabeth’s sister married sons of earls and her brother John, who was in his 20s at the time married Katherine Duchess of Norfolk, who was widowed three times and was in her 60s, causing quite a scandal. On May 16, 1465, Elizabeth was crowned queen consort and the following year, she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth of York’s godparents were her grandmother Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Warwick.

In 1469, Warwick decided to rebel against Edward IV and join the Lancastrian cause to put Henry VI back on the throne. After the Battle of Edgecote Moor, Elizabeth’s father Richard and her brother John were arrested and executed on August 12 at Kenilworth. Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta was arrested by Warwick on the charges of witchcraft. These charges were dropped in February 1470.

In September 1470, Warwick invaded England and placed Henry VI back on the throne, forcing Edward IV to flee and Elizabeth and her children sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. During this time, Elizabeth gave birth to her first son, the future Edward V. In total, Elizabeth and Edward would have 10 children, including Richard Duke of York. Edward IV returned and defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471. When Margaret of Anjou returned, she formed an army to march against Edward IV, which forced Elizabeth to seek shelter at the Tower of London. After the Battle of Tewkesbury, Elizabeth exited the Tower and Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI entered it; Henry VI would later die in the Tower. Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta would die on May 30, 1472.

Life returned to a normal pace for Elizabeth Woodville and her family. In January 1477, she watched as her young son Richard Duke of York was married to Anne Mowbray; both the bride and groom were not over the age of 5 when the wedding happened. Another marriage, arranged between Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth of York and the Dauphin of France, fell through. Shortly afterward, Elizabeth’s world changed forever when her husband Edward IV died April 9, 1483 and Elizabeth was made queen dowager.

Elizabeth’s son was named Edward V and his uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young king to London with an armed escort of 2000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. After hearing about what had happened, Elizabeth Woodville took her children, including her daughters and her youngest son Richard Duke of York, and fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

Gloucester wanted Elizabeth to hand over her son Richard Duke of York. Elizabeth was very reluctant to hand over her son to his uncle, but eventually she did. Richard was said to have been informed with information that Edward V was illegitimate because Edward IV had entered into a previous marriage contract. On June 25, Parliament agreed that Edward V was illegitimate and the following day, June 26, Richard was proclaimed king. His joint coronation with his wife Anne Neville would occur on July 6, 1483, and his title was confirmed in an act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius, which was passed in January 1484.

We do not know what happened to the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard Duke of York. They disappeared from sight after the summer of 1483, which has led many to speculate that Richard III had them murdered. At this point we cannot confirm or deny this theory. We don’t even know if they were murdered at all. It still remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in history.

Elizabeth Woodville was now known as Elizabeth Grey and she decided to side with the Duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort to put Margaret’s son Henry Tudor on the throne. Henry Tudor was the closest male Lancastrian heir and in order to cement this new alliance, Elizabeth and Margaret arranged that Henry would marry Elizabeth of York. Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard would fail and he would be killed on November 2, 1483. In December 1483, Henry made an oath at a cathedral in Rennes, France to marry Elizabeth of York. At Richard III’s first Parliament in January 1484, he stripped Elizabeth Woodville of all of her lands that were granted to her during the reign of Edward IV. On March 1, 1484, Elizabeth and her daughters left sanctuary after Richard III promised not to harm them and to arrange marriages for all of Elizabeth Woodville’s daughters. There were rumors that after Anne Neville in March 1485, Richard III’s wife, died that he was seeking to marry Elizabeth of York, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

Later in August 1485, Henry Tudor invaded England and was able to defeat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, Henry became King Henry VII of England. Henry would marry Elizabeth of York, revoke the Titulus Regius and restore Elizabeth Woodville’s title and honors of queen dowager. The last five years of Elizabeth Woodville’s life she spent at Bermondsey Abbey. She was present for the birth of her grandchildren including Margaret Tudor and Henry Tudor, the future Henry VIII. Elizabeth of York and her sister Cecily Woodville would often visit their mother. Elizabeth Woodville died at the Abbey on June 8, 1492 and she was buried with her husband King Edward IV in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Biography: Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford and Countess Rivers

(Born around 1415/1416- Died May 30, 1472). Daughter of Pierre de Luxembourg and Margaret of Baux. Married to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford and Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers. Mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England, Lewis Woodville, Anne Woodville, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, Mary Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, John Woodville, Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl Rivers, Martha Woodville, Eleanor Woodville, Lionel Woodville, Margaret Woodville, Edward Woodville, Lord Scales, and Catherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham. Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a woman who married from love, just like her daughter Elizabeth of Woodville. She was accused of witchcraft later on in her life.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg was born either around 1415 or 1416, but many believe it was around 1416, to Pierre de Luxembourg,Count of St. Pol, Conversano and Brienne, seigneur of Enghien and Viscount of Lille, and his wife Margaret of Baux. Not much is known about Jacquetta’s early life. She was born during the Hundred Years War between France and England. In 1420, the Treaty of Troyes was signed, making King Henry V and his heirs the next heirs to the French throne. In 1422, the brother of Henry V, John Duke of Bedford was named regent in France for the young English King Henry VI. John was married to Anne, sister of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy in 1423. Anne died childless in 1432.

John wasn’t sure about marrying again, until Louis, Bishop of Thérouanne, convinced him to marry his niece Jacquetta; the couple was married by Louis in April 1433. The marriage was controversial because they had married so soon after the death of John’s first wife, making his brother in law, the Duke of Burgundy, upset. Humphrey Duke of Gloucester and the English regent to the young King Henry VI, requested that John come back to England to answer questions about neglect in his job in France. John also needed more funds for the war effort so he took Jacquetta with him to England in June of 1433. On July 8, Jacquetta was given the rights of English citizenship and that same year, her father Pierre de Luxembourg died. In 1434, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford was given the honor of joining the Order of the Garter.

The Duke of Burgundy was still fuming over the marriage of John and Jacquetta, decided to abandon his alliance with the English and join forces with the French. During this time, Sir Richard Woodville was appointed as lieutenant of the garrison at Calais. His father was Richard Woodville, the chamberlain of the Duke of Bedford. John Duke of Bedford, was very ill at this time, and would die on September 14, 1435; he was buried in Rouen. He had no children with Jacquetta.

Sir Richard Woodville was ordered by King Henry VI to bring Jacquetta to England under an agreement with Jacquetta’s uncle Louis. This allowed her to maintain one third of the Bedford estates and the title of Duchess of Bedford if she agreed to go to England and obtain the king’s permission to remarry. During the journey, Jacquetta and Richard fell in love and married in secret, without seeking the king’s permission. This angered the king and he fined the couple 1000 pounds and on March 23, 1437, Parliament recognized the marriage. Jacquetta did raise the money and was able to buy land in October. The couple had a long and happy marriage. They had 14 children, including Elizabeth Woodville, the future Queen of England.

Richard continued his military career even after his controversial marriage. He served under the Dukes of Somerset and York in France until 1442 and he was recognized as a premier jouster. In 1444, Jacquetta and Richard were part of a large group to help escort Margaret of Anjou to England; Jacquetta was related to Margaret through marriage as Jacquetta’s sister Isabel was married to Margaret’s uncle Charles, Count of Maine. Jacquetta was a favorite at court and in 1448, Richard Woodville was made Baron Rivers. In 1452, Jacquetta watched as her daughter Elizabeth was married to Lord Grey of Groby, a member of the Lancastrian family. The couple would have two sons.

In 1453, Jacquetta was there for the churching ceremony of Margaret of Anjou after she gave birth to her son Edward of Westminster. In 1457, Richard was made constable of Rochester Castle and his family was sent to live with him there. Richard’s job was not to guard against attacks from the French but to guard against an attack from Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. In 1461 at the Second Battle of St. Albans, Margaret of Anjou’s Lancastrian army were victorious over the Yorkist army, but Elizabeth Woodville’s husband and Jacquetta’s son in law Sir John Grey, was killed, leaving Elizabeth a widow.

After the Yorkist victory a few weeks later at Towton, Edward IV, the new king, stopped by at Grafton Regis for a couple of days, where it is said he fell in love with Elizabeth Grey, Jacquetta’s daughter. In 1464, the Lancastrian Woodvilles decided to side with Edward IV after he married Elizabeth in secret, angering his allies, especially Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was working on a marriage alliance with France. Jacquetta was there to see her daughter crowned queen and she was the godmother of Elizabeth’s first child, Elizabeth of York, born on February 11, 1466.

In 1469, Warwick decided to rebel against Edward IV and join the Lancastrian cause to put Henry VI back on the throne. After the Battle of Edgecote Moor, Jacquetta’s husband Richard and their son John were arrested and executed on August 12 at Kenilworth. Jacquetta was arrested by Warwick on the charges of witchcraft. She is said to have made two leaden figures of Edward IV and Elizabeth Grey and she practiced black arts to bring about the marriage between her daughter and the king. She was also accused of making a figure of Warwick and conspiring his death. These charges were dropped in February 1470, but they would resurface after Edward IV’s death in 1483.

In September 1470, Warwick invaded England and placed Henry VI back on the throne, forcing Edward IV to flee and Jacquetta, Elizabeth and her children sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. During this time, Elizabeth gave birth to her first son, the future Edward V. Edward IV returned and defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471. When Margaret of Anjou returned, she formed an army to march against Edward IV, which forced Jacquetta and Elizabeth to seek shelter at the Tower of London. After the Battle of Tewkesbury, Jacquetta and Elizabeth exited the Tower and Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI entered it; Henry VI would later die in the Tower. Jacquetta tried to bring charges against Warwick for the murder of her husband and her son, but they failed. Jacquetta would die on May 30, 1472.

Biography: Margaret of Anjou

(Born March 23, 1430- Died August 25, 1482). Daughter of Rene, King of Naples and 220px-MargaretAnjouIsabella, Duchess of Lorraine. Married to King Henry VI of England. Mother of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Margaret of Anjou was the strong wife of the weak King Henry VI. She is the one who kept the Lancastrian cause going for the first half of the Wars of the Roses.

Margaret of Anjou was born on March 23, 1430 to her parents Rene King of Naples and Isabella Duchess of Lorraine. Her father was known to be a king with many crowns and yet he did not have the kingdoms. In order to help bring about the end of the Hundred Years’ War, her father arranged her marriage to the son of Henry V, Henry VI. The couple was married on April 23, 1445. Henry VI was technically also declared the King of France and because of this, Charles VII of France only agreed to this marriage if Henry gave France the areas of Maine and Anjou. Henry agreed but he kept this a secret from his people. Margaret was crowned Queen of England on May 30, 1445.  

Henry VI was a weak ruler who had really no desire to be king or an interest in politics. He often left the control of the government in the hands of men who really cared only about their titles than the well being of the kingdom. After the John Cade rebellion of 1450, Henry VI appointed Edmund Beaufort, the duke of Somerset, as his closest advisor. Somerset was a failure when it came to battles in France, but he was an ally of Margaret of Anjou. Somerset’s enemy was Richard Duke of York, who returned to England in August 1450, after being banished after the John Cade rebellion, and demanded that he should have a place on the Council. The council agreed, but Somerset’s  and York’s rivalry continued.

In August 1453, Henry VI had his first bout of mental illness. He had what some describe as a mental breakdown and was unresponsive for many months. During this time, Margaret was very pregnant and on October 13, 1453, she gave birth to the couple’s only child Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. However, even though Edward was the king’s son, Henry VI did not acknowledge him and said that the boy was the son of the Holy Ghost. Margaret thought that the perfect  Lord Protector for the king during this time would be her ally Somerset, however the person that became the Lord Protector was Richard Duke of York. York quickly arrested Somerset, but when the king recovered in 1454, Somerset was released and York was dismissed. This was the last straw for York.

During this time, Margaret had retired to Greenwich with her son, but she saw how powerful York had become and how weak her husband was, and she began to take an interest in politics. At the First Battle of St. Albans, on May 22, 1455, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset was killed and the king was captured by the Yorkists, led by Richard duke of York. Henry wanted to reconcile with York, but then Henry had another bout of mental illness and York was made Lord Protector again in November 1455; he was dismissed in February 1456. Margaret decided that she had to defend her husband’s cause and so she raised an army to face off against York and she encouraged Henry Beaufort, the new duke of Somerset to fight with her. 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.

At the battle of Northampton, Warwick had captured the King and York came back to England.  In September 1460, Richard duke of York officially placed his claim to the throne to Parliament. In order to avoid more conflict, York was declared the heir to the throne, in place of Prince Edward. Margaret was not about to let this stand so she led her army to attack York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. The Duke, Salisbury and York’s second son, the seventeen year old Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed, their cries for mercy were ignored.  The Queen had their heads impaled on spikes on the city walls of York. Margaret then faced against Warwick’s army at the Second Battle of St. Albans in 1461 and her army was able to defeat him, which forced Warwick to flee.

Warwick was not done. He raised an army with the son of Richard duke of York, Edward earl of March. They faced off against the Lancastrians at the battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle during the Wars of the Roses, where the Lancastrians were defeated; Margaret and her son Edward fled into Scotland, Edward earl of March became Edward IV, and Henry VI was taken prisoner. However, things would quickly sour between Edward and Warwick when  Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville, not exactly the person that Warwick wanted the king to marry. Warwick was soon joined by the king’s brother George Duke of Clarence, who was Warwick’s son in law as he married Warwick’s daughter Isabel, in their rebellion against the king. Edward IV defeated Warwick and Clarence and so the two men fled to France. Meanwhile, Margaret made her way back to France where she seeked the aid of her cousin King Louis XI, also known as “the Spider”, of France.  

Louis XI had an idea that Margaret and Warwick should reconcile and join forces against Edward IV. This wasn’t an easy task as they hated each other, but they did agree to join forces. In order to show Warwick’s good will towards his new ally, Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville was betrothed to Edward of Westminster Prince of Wales. Warwick invaded England in 1470 in the name of King Henry VI, which forced Edward IV to flee and Henry VI was reinstated as king. Edward IV would come back and kill Warwick at the Battle of Barnet on April 14, 1471, the same day that Margaret and Edward of Westminster returned to England. Margaret wanted to return to France, but her son Edward of Westminster wanted to stay. Margaret reluctantly agreed and with her army, faced off against Edward IV one last time at Tewkesbury on May 4, 1471. Her 17 year old son Edward of Westminster was killed. This broke Margaret’s spirit and she was taken captive by William Stanley under the orders of Edward IV. She was first sent to Wallingford Castle and then she was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Her husband Henry VI was also in the Tower where he died on May 21, 1471, the cause of death is unknown but it is suspected to have been a regicide. In 1472, a broken Margaret was placed in the custody of her former lady-in-waiting Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk. She remained in the custody of the Duchess of Suffolk until she was ransomed by Louis XI in 1475 through Treaty of Picquigny. Margaret returned to France where she was hosted by Francis de Vignolles and died in his castle of Dampierre-sur-Loire. She died on August 25, 1482 at the age of 52.