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”.

Book Review: “Forgotten Royal Women: The King and I” by Erin Lawless

38507412._SY475_In English history, the story of the royal families tends to capture the imagination of those who study it. Full of dynamic tales of kings and queens, and numerous nobles, these are tales that make it into history books and history classes. We tend to focus on the same kings and queens, who have become the popular royals. But what about those who are left in the dust of those popular royals? Who were the royal women who lived in the shadow of the throne that time has forgotten? What were the lives of these women like? It is these women who are the focus of Erin Lawless’s latest book, “Forgotten Royal Women: The King and I”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. The title of this book initially caught my eye and I really wanted to see what royal women Erin Lawless would be discussing in this particular book.

Lawless has decided to write about thirty different royal women, from Scota to Princess Charlotte, covering several centuries of vivacious women. Some of these women I have encountered in my own studies, like Margaret Pole, Margaret Tudor, Eleanor Cobham, and Mary Grey( who are obviously women from the Tudor dynasty). Others were women that I have never heard of, like Gwellian ferch Gryffydd and Isabella MacDuff, who lead armies for their respective countries, Wales and Scotland respectfully, to fight against the English. Grace O’Malley, also known as Granuaile, who was Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the O Maille clan, and a pirate from Tudor Ireland. And of course, plenty of royal women who married for love and suffered the consequences.

These tales are truly tantalizing, yet they are tragically too short as Lawless only spends a few pages on each woman. Just as you are starting to really get into the story, you move onto another lady and her history. It may seem a little bit unfair, but I think it should be noted that Lawless did this with a rather important purpose behind it. Lawless wanted to give an introduction to the lives of these women, both the fictional tales and the facts so that readers would be intrigued and decide to study more about them. It’s a great strategy to get more people interested in studying the obscure and forgotten royal women in history. Of course, I wanted more details, but that is because I love having a plethora of information about a subject in books that I read, yet in this case, I think the amount of details works in Lawless’s favor.

The one thing that I really wish Lawless did include was a bibliography or a list of books that helped her with her own research when it came to this book. I really like seeing an author’s research in the back of biographies or history books, especially for a book that covers different topics, so that I can have a starting point for my own personal research.

Overall, I found this book incredibly enjoyable. It is certainly a conversation starter for those who discuss the English monarchy. Lawless has a delightful writing style that feels like you are having a casual history conversation with her. This book is small in size, but it could be the stepping stone for new research for those novice historians who want to write about someone who has been stuck in the shadow for centuries. If you would like to read short stories about royal women who have stayed in the background for a long time, I highly recommend you read “Forgotten Royal Women: The King and I” by Erin Lawless.

Movie Review: Downton Abbey

MV5BMmQxNGRkMjYtZTAyMy00MDUyLThiNmYtODI1NTkyNmI0ZTNlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjM4NTM5NDY@._V1_.jpgHave you ever wondered what your favorite television series would be like on the big screen? To have all your favorite characters go on new adventures, even after the series had ended. However, you are worried that something will get lost once the series moves to the film adaptation. I know I was worried about it before I went to see Downton Abbey the movie. 

Now, I know what you are thinking. Why is she talking about Downton Abbey, which takes place in the 1920s when this blog is all about the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors? Don’t worry, this is a one-time thing.  

Downton Abbey holds a special place in my heart. It is really the first series that I really felt that I could binge and it never gets old for me. It feels magical every time I watch it. From the clothes and the gorgeous Highclere Castle to the complex characters that you fall in love with, Downton Abbey is a series that stands the test of time.  

 I was worried that the film was not going to have the same magic as the series, but  Downton Abbey blew my expectations out of the water.

 Downton Abbey plays host to King George V and Queen Mary as they travel across the country, which means a lot of drama and oh so much stress. All of the original cast is back (which is amazing) with brand new royals and royal servants. With all of these regal characters, how will Downton Abbey, both upstairs and downstairs, deal with the new protocols and procedures fit for a king? 

The character interactions during the different twists and turns during this film feels like you never left Downton Abbey. They are still brilliantly witty, especially Dame Maggie Smith who plays Violet Crawley Dowager Countess of Grantham, and they truly care about the honor of the Crawley family and the honor of Downton Abbey. With romances and intrigue abound, Downton Abbey never disappoints. 

 I did have a few issues with the movie. I wanted to see more of the young kids. They were in the background a lot, but I wanted to see them interact more. I also wanted to see more of Robert and Cora Crawley, played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern respectfully. Finally, I wanted the interactions between Mary and Edith Crawley, played by Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael (who many might recognize as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury in The Spanish Princess), to be more like they were in the past. In a word, they were a bit too “nice” to each other.

Overall, I loved Downton Abbey. It felt like reuniting with old friends and making new ones. I really hope that they make either a sequel movie or another season after this movie. If you are a fan of the Downton Abbey series, you will thoroughly enjoy Downton Abbey. 

 

Trailer Review: “The Spanish Princess”

As many of you know, the first trailer for “The Spanish Princess”, the new miniseries by Starz and based off books by Philippa Gregory, just dropped. This is the story of Catherine of Aragon coming to England to marry Prince Arthur, but when Arthur dies unexpectantly, Catherine must choose between going back to Spain or marrying her dead husband’s brother Henry Tudor, who would become Henry VIII. I have watched the trailer and I have decided to review the trailer. 

The Books

This series is “drawn” from two of Philippa Gregory’s books, “The Constant Princess” and “The King’s Curse”.  It has been over a year or two since I personally read these books. So before we dive into a review of the trailer, I thought it would be appropriate to look at the summaries of both of these books, which you can find from Philippa Gregory’s website,  to see what we might expect to see from this series.

The first book we will look at is “The Constant Princess”:

61uvmxu-owl._sx326_bo1,204,203,200_We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it.

The second book is “The King’s Curse”:

This is the story of deposed royal Margaret Pole, and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s 51qydh3apnlstratospheric rise to power in Tudor England. Margaret Pole spends her young life struggling to free her brother, arrested as a child, from the Tower of London. The Tower – symbol of the Tudor usurpation of her family’s throne – haunts Margaret’s dreams until the day that her brother is executed on the orders of Henry VII. Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret is buried in marriage to a steady and kind Tudor supporter – Sir Richard Pole, governor of Wales. But Margaret’s quiet, hidden life is changed forever by the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon, as Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple. Margaret’s destiny, as an heiress to the Plantagenets, is not for a life in the shadows. Tragedy throws her into poverty and rebellion against the new royal family, luck restores her to her place at court where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine and watches the dominance of the Spanish queen over her husband, and her fall. As the young king becomes increasingly paranoid of rivals he turns his fearful attention to Margaret and her royal family. Amid the rapid deterioration of the Tudor court, Margaret must choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, Henry VIII, or to her beloved queen and princess. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret has to find her own way and hide her knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors, which is slowly coming true . . .

The Trailer

The trailer for “The Spanish Princess” begins with the introduction of the show’s protagonist, Catherine of Aragon, played by Charlotte Hope, walking outside in her white wedding dress. Her purpose in England was to marry the future King of England in order to make an alliance between England and Spain. I think Charlotte Hope looks the part of Catherine of Aragon. She looks rather regal, a bit shy at first, but she becomes a strong and determined young woman. Plus she has auburn hair; which is the actual hair color Catherine of Aragon was known to have. A huge plus for fans of Catherine of Aragon and her life story.

The first few seconds of the trailer, we are introduced to the important members of the English court. King Henry VII, played by Elliot Cowan, is an older man who seems to dress quite lavishly and who seeks to make England a better country. The one problem that I have with the character of Henry VII is his accent. Though we are not sure what kind of accent he might have had since he was part Welsh and lived in France and Brittany for a time in his life, one would assume he might have some French or Welsh accent, but his accent, from what we can gather, sounds solely English. I might be nit-picking here a bit, but it did bother me a little bit. Always next to Henry’s side is his wife, Elizabeth of York, who is played by Alexandra Moen.

Now we come to the two brothers, Arthur and Henry, or “Harry” as he is called in this series. Prince Arthur, who is played by Angus Imrie, looks very thin and almost sickly in the images that we do see of him. From what we know of Arthur, he was rather healthy, until his death shortly after marrying Catherine. Henry “Harry”, played by Ruairi O’Connor, has that suave and debonaire feel to him. The one problem that many people have, myself included, is the fact that when Catherine and Henry first met, Henry was around 10 or 11 and Catherine was around 16. The trailer makes it seem as though the two were around the same age when they met, which was not the case.

Henry and Catherine developed feelings for each other and Henry wants Catherine to stay and marry him, although she is his brother’s widow. We see two members of the English royal family who are not exactly thrilled with this match. They are Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII’s grandmother, played by Dame Harriet Walter, and  Margaret “Maggie” Pole, played by Laura Carmichael. We also get a look at the ladies of waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Lina, and Rosa, who are played by Stephanie Levi-John and Nadia Parkes respectfully. The series also decided to include Oviedo, played by Aaron Cobham, who falls in love with Lina.

I do enjoy the costumes for this series as they do seem to honor the past. The scenery is intriguing and transports the viewer to the time of the Tudors. The one scene that I did have a slight problem with was the last one in the trailer, which shows Catherine, Lina, and Rosa dressed in black in the cathedral, mourning for Prince Arthur. From what it looks like in the trailer, it is Arthur’s funeral. Lina and Rosa are wailing while Catherine is in the middle, no tears down her face, as she looks stoically at the camera. My issue with this scene is the fact that members of the royal family did not attend his funeral because of the risk of the sweating sickness. If you would like to read more about Prince Arthur’s funeral, Dr. Sean Cunningham, who wrote the book “Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was”, wrote a fascinating article for On the Tudor Trail, which you can find below in the sources.

The series also uses nicknames such as “Harry” for Prince Henry, “Maggie” for Margaret Pole, “Charlie” for Charles Brandon and “Meg” Tudor. It is not clear if “Meg” is a combination of Mary and Margaret or if it is just Margaret Tudor. I don’t know why they would choose to go down this route as both Mary and Margaret are important figures, being the sisters of Henry and Arthur Tudor. Another notable absence from the list of characters is Isabella of Castille, Catherine’s formidable mother. We do, apparently, get an appearance from Christopher Columbus, according to the cast list, but not from Catherine’s own mother, who really shaped what kind of woman Catherine would become.

Overall, I did enjoy the trailer. I think it is interesting that Starz decided to combine both the stories of Catherine of Aragon and Margaret Pole into a mini-series. From what was shown in the trailer, it looks like their main focus will be Catherine and Henry so hopefully, we will see more of Margaret later in the show. “The Spanish Princess” looks like it will be an enjoyable show for those who love historical dramas.

What are your thoughts about this trailer and will you watch “The Spanish Princess”?

 

Sources:

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a26038583/the-spanish-princess-starz-first-teaser-trailer/

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8417308/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

https://www.philippagregory.com/books/the-constant-princess

https://www.philippagregory.com/books/the-king-s-curse

http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2016/07/30/prince-arthurs-funeral-ceremony-despair-and-shifting-politics-in-1502/

https://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2015/06/19/the-wedding-of-arthur-tudor-prince-of-wales-and-catherine-of-aragon/

Biography: George Plantagenet 1st Duke of Clarence

georgeclarence(Born October 21, 1449- Died February 18, 1478). Son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. Married to Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence.
Father of Anne of York, Lady Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, Richard of York. George was a young man who believed that he would be a better king than his brother Edward IV. He revolted a few times and it led to his death by an unusual means.

George Plantagenet was born on October 21, 1449 to Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. His father died at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460 and in March 1461, his brother became King Edward IV. George was created the 1st Duke of Clarence and a Knight of the Garter by his brother and the following year, he received the Honour of Richmond and was created lord-lieutenant of Ireland.

When George was named as a possible suitor for Mary, the daughter of Charles the Bold, later the Duke of Burgundy, he would enter into the influence of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. Warwick, also known as “the kingmaker”, helped Edward IV become king but when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville instead of Bona of Savoy, which would have established an alliance with France, Warwick and Edward were not as close as they once were. Warwick decided to get back at Edward and in July 1469, George married Warwick’s daughter Isabel (or Isabella), which was a marriage that Edward did not support at all.

Warwick then started a series of uprisings in northern England; Edward was a popular king but his marriage with Elizabeth Woodville sullied his image a little while Warwick was seen as a national hero. Edward did employ an army, but when he saw that he was outnumbered, he dispersed his army and allowed himself to be captured by Warwick. Warwick had Edward imprisoned in the Tower, but when his reputation began to suffer, he released Edward in October 1469. Warwick and George both decided to reconciled with Edward but Edward never truly trusted either of them ever again.

George was loyal to his brother, but when Warwick deserted Edward and fled to France, George went with his father in law. On the way to France, Isabel gave birth to their first child, a girl, on 16 April 1470, in a ship off Calais. The child would not survive. Warwick joined forces with Margaret of Anjou and Louis XI of France to restore Henry VI to the throne. In September 1470, Warwick and his rebellion made its way to England. Warwick removed Henry VI from the Tower and restored him to the throne.

Henry VI rewarded George by making him next in line to the throne after his own son, removing Edward IV from the line of succession completely. Warwick had his younger daughter, Anne Neville, George’s sister-in-law, marry Henry VI’s son in December 1470. This obviously infuriated George since this meant that Warwick had no desire of making George the next king and so George secretly reconciled with his brother.

Warwick made a mistake and decided to take Louis XI’s advice and declare war on Burgundy. This forced the duke of Burgundy, who had stayed on the sidelines this entire time, to help Edward IV raise an army. Edward returned to England on March 11, 1471. His army defeated Warwick’s army at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471, where Warwick was killed. After Warwick’s death in April 1471 Clarence appears to have seized a vast sum of the estates Warwick owned. George did not gain all of Warwick’s properties as his younger brother Richard Duke of Gloucester married the widow Anne Neville. In March 1472 was created by right of his wife Earl of Warwick and Salisbury. A quarrel between George and Richard ensued, and in 1474 the king interfered to settle the dispute, dividing the Warwick estates between his brothers.

In 1475 George ‘s wife Isabel gave birth to a son, Edward, later Earl of Warwick. Isabel died on December 22, 1476, two months after giving birth to a short-lived son named Richard. Though it is believed that Isabel died of either consumption or childbed fever , George was convinced she had been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho, whom, as a consequence, he had judicially murdered in April 1477 right after her trial. The same year, George was eligible for Mary Duchess of Burgundy’s hand, but when Edward refused the marriage suit, George left court.

Edward was convinced that George was aiming at his throne after three of George’s men were tried for treason and were executed. George was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs and had prepared for a new rebellion. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death was announced. It is said that Edward gave his brother a choice on how he would die and George said that he would like to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. What we do know is that George Duke of Clarence was executed in private either on February 17th or 18th 1478. Two of his children would outlive him: Edward earl of Warwick, who was executed in 1499, and Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury.