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: “John Morton: Adversary to Richard III, Power Behind the Tudors” by Stuart Bradley

51+Uk6sMNqL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)In history, many people tend to focus on the big names. The kings and queens, the rebels, and those who really made an impact. The political advisors and men of the church tend to get left behind in the dust since they are not seen as “important”. However, it is these men who were the backbone of the monarchy, who helped make the king’s vision come to fruition. They tend to come and go, so that is why John Morton’s story is so extraordinary. John Morton helped three separate kings of England, was the enemy to a fourth king, tried to reform the church, and had numerous building projects. His life tends to be overshadowed by the kings that he served, but his life is brought into the light in this biography by Stuart Bradley, “John Morton: Adversary to Richard III, Power Behind the Tudors”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. Morton’s life and his service to the kings he served was rather fascinating to read about and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Like any good biography, Bradley begins by exploring John Morton’s life before he moved up the ranks to work with kings through his collegiate career, which was rather impressive. It is imperative to understand Morton’s education and background to show what type of skills he brought to the political and ecclesiastical positions that he would have later on in his life. Morton caught the eye of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourgchier, who helped Morton get into his position as Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, which put him in direct contact with Prince Edward of Westminster, Queen Margaret of Anjou, and King Henry VI. He served King Henry VI until his death in 1471. 

Morton could have decided to live as an exile during the reign of Edward IV, but instead, he accepted a royal pardon and decided to work with the Yorkist king. This may seem like an unusual step for a man who was once loyal to the Lancasterian cause, but Morton was loyal to his country first and foremost. During this time, he helped establish peace with France and became the Bishop of Ely. When Edward IV died and his sons disappeared from records, Morton could have retired, since he was in his mid-sixties at this point, but instead, he leads a rebellion against King Richard III, with young Henry Tudor as his choice for the next king. Morton helped arrange for Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York to be married, as well as help Henry VII stop the pretenders from taking the English throne. Under King Henry VII, Morton worked non-stop as both Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, to guide the king and to ensure the survival of the dynasty, until his death in 1500.

It is remarkable to see how much Morton did during his lifetime in politics, for the church, and the building projects. Morton was one of those figures that I honestly did not know a lot about before I read this book, but now I want to know more about him. Bradley obviously thoroughly researched Morton’s life and times and is able to articulate this research in this engaging biography. If you want a fantastic biography about a rather remarkable man who helped England navigate through the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, I highly recommend you read, “John Morton: Adversary to Richard III, Power Behind the Tudors” by Stuart Bradley.

Book Review: “Elizabeth Widville Lady Grey: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’” by Dr. John Ashdown-Hill

A1EHw9PpVwLThe English conflict known as the Wars of the Roses is filled with dynamic figures whose stories are those of legends. None more so than the wife of Edward IV and the mother of Elizabeth of York and the princes in the Tower, Elizabeth Woodville. She has been known in popular culture as the commoner turned “White Queen” consort, but do we really know the true story about her life? Was she really Edward IV’s wife? How much influence did she actually carry? These questions and more are tackled in Dr. John Ashdown-Hill’s latest book, “Elizabeth Widville Lady Grey: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I have had my eyes on this particular title for a while since I like learning about the women of the Wars of the Roses, and because I have never read a book by Dr. John Ashdown-Hill.

Since I was not familiar with Dr. John Ashdown-Hill and his work before I read this book, I decided to look into him in order to understand the position he might take on this particular topic. He is a medieval historian, who mainly focuses on Yorkist history. His main claim to fame was when he helped find the location where Richard III’s remains were buried. He also traced the female-line descendants of Richard III to his sister, which established the mtDNA haplogroup that was necessary to identify the remains found in the Leicester parking lot as Richard III. For this important research, Dr. John Ashdown-Hill was awarded an MBE in 2015 but sadly passed away from motor neurone disease on May 18, 2018. This was one of the last books he had ever written.

Knowing this information about Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, it helps to understand that he knows this subject rather well. He does show his knowledge through the family trees, the letters, and the tables that he does include. These sources give the reader an understanding of where Ashdown-Hill is coming from and a different perspective on Elizabeth Widville’s life and times in the courts of Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII. Ashdown-Hill does use his own books quite frequently as sources, which can come across as braggadocious at times.

Ashdown-Hill refers to Elizabeth Widville as the ‘Pink Queen’ because, at different times in her life, she was supporting the Lancastrians and the Yorkists causes. I do agree with this terminology because it does tell her story in a colorful way. However, it is his calling Elizabeth Edward IV’s ‘chief mistress’ where I do have an issue. Personally, I believe that Elizabeth was Edward’s wife, but Ashdown-Hill believes that Edward’s pre-contract with one Eleanor Talbot was valid and that Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth was bigamous. This is a central point in this book, but he does not really go into the depth that I wished he would have gone into to explain his point of view.

Another part of his book that I do not exactly agree with is his assessment of how many deaths Elizabeth was associated with, including possibly poisoning George Duke of Clarence’s wife and young son. He does not take into account illnesses as possible causes of death and jumps straight into malicious intentions, mostly by Elizabeth herself. Ashdown- Hill can come across as either passionate or brash in his writing style, which can be a bit off-putting at times. It feels like, at least to me, that Elizabeth was either treated as a villain or was in the background for this particular biography, instead of in the spotlight, which is something one would expect in a biography about a certain person.

Although I do not entirely agree with Dr. John Ashdown- Hill’s assessment of Elizabeth Widville’s life, I do respect the amount of research he obviously poured into this book. It is meticulously researched and I found it a unique experience to read a different perspective from my own. I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of this book, as I did have to stop reading it and come back to it several times to get my head around what he was saying since it was different than what I accept as fact about her life. However, I do believe that it is important to read books and authors who you don’t agree with in order to expand one’s knowledge about a topic. If you are a fan of Dr. John Ashdown-Hill or you would like to read a unique take on Elizabeth Widville’s life and times, I would suggest you read “Elizabeth Widville Lady Grey: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’”.

Elizabeth Widville, Lady Grey: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’ by Dr. John Ashdown-Hill will be published in the United States on November 2, 2019. If you are interested in pre-ordering this book, you can follow this link: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Widville-Lady-Grey-Mistress/dp/1526745011/

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: “Wars of the Roses: Ravenspur- Rise of the Tudors” by Conn Iggulden

41+RQteGLUL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_By the year 1470, England had been embroiled in a civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster for nearly 20 years. Edward IV was king until he was driven out of the country by his former best friend Warwick and Edward’s own brother, George Duke of Clarence. The House of Lancaster is back in charge with Henry VI, but Edward IV and his other brother Richard Duke of Gloucester are not giving up without a fight. However, there is another family who wants to fight for the throne, the Tudors. How will it come to an end? Who will become King of England when all the major battles come to an end? These questions are answered in Conn Iggulden’s thrilling conclusion to his Wars of the Roses series, “Ravenspur- Rise of the Tudors.”

We are thrown back into the story with Edward forced to leave England and his wife and children forced to go into sanctuary while the Lancasters, with Warwick and George Duke of Clarence taking over military control. We are also introduced to new characters. Jasper Tudor, his nephew Henry Tudor, and Edward’s other brother Richard Duke of Gloucester, who would one day become King Richard III. In his historical note, Conn Iggulden explains Richard, his twisted spine and the struggle he might have had on the battlefield:

For all those who have imbibed a romantic view of King Richard III, I think they have cause to be grateful to Shakespeare, for all the bard’s delight in making him a hunchbacked villain. Without Shakespeare, Richard Plantagenet was only king for two years and would have been just a minor footnote to his brother’s reign. There is not one contemporary mention of physical deformity, though we know now that his spine was twisted. He would have lived in constant pain, but then so did many active fighting men. There is certainly no record of Richard ever needing a special set of armour for a raised shoulder. Medieval swordsmen, like Roman soldiers before them, would have been noticeably larger on their right sides. A school friend of mine turned down a career as a professional fencer because of the way his right shoulder was developing into a hump from constant swordplay- and that was with a light, fencing blade. Compare his experience to that of a medieval swordsman using a broader blade, three feet long or even longer, where strength and stamina meant the difference between victory and a humiliating death. (Iggulden, 456-457).

Iggulden explores the relationship between the main characters; Edward IV, Warwick, Jasper Tudor, Richard III, George Duke of Clarence, and Henry Tudor, and how the events between 1470 and 1485 radically changed their lives forever. The betrayal of Warwick and George and how that affected Edward and Richard. How Edward and Richard leaving England for a time affected Elizabeth Woodville and her children. When Edward and Richard landed in Ravenspur and marched against Warwick and George at the Battle of Barnet. The final defeat of the Lancasterian cause at the Battle of Tewkesbury and what followed after the death of Edward IV in 1483. And of course, the Battle of Bosworth where Henry Tudor wins the crown and begins the Tudor dynasty.

“Ravenspur” is a well-written and thrilling conclusion to Iggulden’s “Wars of the Roses” series. He was able to combine exciting battle scenes with family drama, internal dialogue, and political intrigue to create a masterpiece of a series. The only problem I had with the book was that I did want more dialogue from Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort. They seemed to have been sprinkled in when it was convenient. Overall, I found “Ravenspur” engaging and enjoyable. If you have read the three previous books in Conn Iggulden’s series, I highly encourage you to read “Ravenspur- Rise of the Tudors” as it brings the Wars of the Roses to a dramatic end.

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.

Favorite Couples from the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor Dynasty

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the couples that we all enjoy studying from the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor Dynasty. These are couples that went through a lot together and stayed together. That is why people like Henry VIII will not be on this list since we all know his marriage track record. This is a list combining your favorites, which you stated as answers to a question I posted on the Facebook page, as well as some of my own. These couples are in chronological order, not by favorites, and the first two couples are before the time that we would call “Wars of the Roses” but they are still important. I did have to narrow down this list quite a bit so if you don’t see a couple that is on this list, let’s discuss it.  I hope you enjoy!

1.) John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford

200px-johnofgauntJohn of Gaunt, the son of King Edward III and one of the wealthiest men in Europe, and Katherine Swynford, the woman who was the governess to John’s children. It seems like an unlikely match, but these two made it work. Of course, when these two lovebirds first met, they were both married to other people, John of Gaunt to Blanche of Lancaster and Katherine to Hugh Swynford. When both Blanche and Hugh died, rumors began to fly that John and Katherine were having an affair. John decided to quite these rumors by marrying a second time, to Constance of Castile. This marriage was one for political gains, not of love. His hope for marrying Constance was to become King of Castile, similar to how he became the Duke of Lancaster after marrying Blanche of Lancaster, but it ended up being a disaster. After his father’s death, John’s nephew Richard II became king and John gave up his claim to the throne of Castile. While he was married to Constance, John began to see Katherine and they had 4 children out of wedlock. Constance would die in 1394.  John would marry Katherine in 1396 and their children would be given the name “Beaufort”. Their children would be considered legitimate, but they could not inherit the throne. John would die 3 years later in 1399 and would be buried beside his first wife Blanche. John and Katherine’s love for one another lasted decades.

2.) Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois

Catherine_of_France.jpgThe Dowager Queen of England marrying a man who worked in her own household. That is the gist of the love story of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois. Catherine of Valois was married to King Henry V of England and in return, under the Treaty of Troyes, Henry V and his descendants became kings of both England and France. A really great deal, except Henry V, died of dysentery a few months after his son and heir Henry VI was born. Catherine was 21 when she became the Dowager Queen and there was a real concern that she would marry again so Parliament passed a bill that stated that if Catherine wanted to remarry, she had to ask Parliament’s permission to do so. Well, she didn’t listen to this bill at all. She met and fell in love with a Welshman named Owen Tudor, who worked for her as either as the keeper of her household or her wardrobe.  They would marry sometime between 1428 and 1429. Later, in May 1432, Owen was granted the same rights as an Englishman.

To say this match was totally taboo would be an understatement, but for them, it worked. Catherine and Owen were willing to risk everything for their love. They would have anywhere between 4 to 6 children Two of their children would become famous during the Wars of the Roses, Jasper and Edmund Tudor. Catherine would die on January 3, 1437, and would be buried beside her first husband Henry V.   After Catherine’s death, Jasper and Edmund would receive titles and meet their half-brother King Henry VI, but Owen would face jail time. Owen would later be captured and executed after the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross on February 2, 1461.

3.) Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg

Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. Another story of a wealthy woman marrying a man well below her station for love. Jacquetta was born in France during the height of the Hundred Years War. Her first husband was the brother of King Henry V, John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford and they were married in April 1433. Their marriage was controversial because John’s first wife Anne died only a few months before they were married. The couple moved back to England and in a matter of weeks, Jacquetta was given the rights of an English woman. In 1434, she was made a member of the Order of the Garter, a huge honor. Their marriage would not last long as John would die a year later in France.

Jacquetta was a widow and Henry VI wanted her sent back to England so he sent  Sir Richard Woodville, a knight, to bring Jacquetta back. This backfired spectacularly as Jacquetta and Richard fell in love and got married in secret while on their way back to England (just like another couple on this list). Henry VI was furious and fined the couple 1000 pounds, but on March 23, 1437, Parliament recognized their marriage as valid. Jacquetta and Richard were happily married and had 14 children, including Elizabeth Woodville, who would become Queen of England.  Jacquetta and Richard were with Margaret of Anjou as she made her way to England and to her marriage to Henry VI and the birth of their son. They were together when their daughter, Elizabeth Woodville, married her first husband and he died in battle when she met and married Edward IV, and Jacquetta was there for the birth of her first granddaughter Elizabeth of York. Jacquetta’s world came crashing down when Richard and their son John were captured and executed on August 12, 1469, after the Battle of Edgecote Moor. Jacquetta was arrested by Warwick and charged with witchcraft, but the charges were dropped. Jacquetta would die only a few years after Richard, on May 30, 1472. Jacquetta and Richard’s marriage lasted through decades and hardships, but it was full of love and a large family, the Woodvilles, that would change English politics forever.

4.) Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

edbe20edb2d4ed4682369c7eb997b6dfKing Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of a soldier and a mother of two young boys. In a way, their love story is like a Cinderella story. Elizabeth Woodville was the eldest daughter of Richard and Jacquetta Woodville. She was a maid of honor for Margaret of Anjou and because of her high position at court, her parents arranged a marriage for her to Sir John Grey of Groby in 1452. The couple would have two sons, Thomas, and Richard Woodville. Their marriage would not last long as Sir John Grey was killed at the Second Battle of St. Albans in 1461.

The story of how Edward IV met Elizabeth is often embellished. The story goes that Edward IV met Elizabeth under an oak tree at her family home at Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire, where she pleaded with Edward to help her get an inheritance for her two sons. It is very unlikely that they met underneath this oak tree, but they did fall in love and would eventually get married in May 1464. Edward then told his Parliament, including the man who helped him the most Warwick “the Kingmaker”,  that he couldn’t marry any of the women that they suggested because he was already married. Elizabeth’s large family was given advantageous marriages and titles that helped shaped English politics, much to the chagrin of those who were already in power. Elizabeth was crowned Queen consort on May 16, 1465, and the following year, she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Elizabeth of York.

Things went downhill as politics took their marriage for a rollercoaster ride. Warwick decided that he was going to switch from York to Lancaster and placed Henry VI back on the throne, sending Edward IV into exile. Elizabeth Woodville was forced to seek sanctuary where she gave birth to their first son, the future Edward V. Edward IV would come back with a vengeance and defeated Warwick, reclaiming his crown, and found his wife and children in sanctuary. The family was reunited and happy. Their second son, Richard Duke of York, was married to Anne of Mowbray and they had arranged a marriage for their eldest daughter Elizabeth of York to the Dauphin of France. Elizabeth Woodville’s world came crashing down when her beloved husband, Edward IV, died on April 9, 1483. The crown passed to their young son Edward V, but before he was crowned king, Edward and his brother Richard were sent to the Tower of London, never to be seen again.

Elizabeth would arrange a marriage between her daughter Elizabeth of York, with the son of Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor. On August 22, 1485, Henry Tudor was able to defeat Richard III and become King Henry VII. He would marry Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Woodville would be present for the birth of her grandchildren Arthur, Henry, Mary, and Margaret. Elizabeth Woodville would die less than a decade after Edward IV, on June 8, 1492. Edward and Elizabeth are buried by each other in St. George Chapel in Windsor Castle. Their love was something of legends and even though people did not agree with their union, they made each other stronger.  

5.) Henry VII and Elizabeth of York

89947Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, and Elizabeth of York. The couple that united the houses of York and Lancaster and started the Tudor Dynasty. This is the only couple on this list that was arranged to be married to each other, but they made it work extremely well. Henry Tudor was the son of Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor who would go into hiding after the Yorkist believed he would be the one who could bring back the Lancasterian cause in the Wars of the Roses. After Edward IV died, Edward V and Richard Duke of York were sent to the Tower never to be seen again, and Richard III became king. Elizabeth Woodville and the Yorkists loyal to her did not like Richard III and knew something had to be done in order to end his reign. In order to bring an end to the Wars of the Roses, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort agreed that their children, Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor, would be married if Henry could invade England successfully and overthrow Richard III. Henry and his uncle Jasper tried to invade in October 1483, but it failed. In December 1483, Henry made an oath in Rennes, France to marry Elizabeth of York.

Finally, in August 1485, Henry and Jasper Tudor made their way back to England, and it worked. They met against Richard III’s forces at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, where with sheer luck, and the forces of Lord Stanley ( Henry’s stepfather), Henry was able to defeat Richard and become King Henry VII. Henry kept his promise and married Elizabeth of York the following year, on January 18, 1486. A few months later, on September 20, 1486, Henry and Elizabeth welcomed their firstborn son, Arthur Prince of Wales. They would have more children including Henry Tudor (future Henry VIII), Mary and Margaret Tudor. Things started off relatively stable for the first few months of Henry’s reign, but that would change in 1487.

1487 was the year that a young boy named Lambert Simnel claimed to be the earl of Warwick, Elizabeth’s cousin. This was a lie and Henry met Lambert Simnel at the Battle of Stoke Field on June 16, 1487, where Lambert was defeated in the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. Lambert would be a first in a long line of pretenders, trying to usurp the throne from Henry. One of the biggest pretenders was Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard Duke of York, Elizabeth’s younger brother. This may have been a recipe for a disaster between Henry and Elizabeth, but it actually strengthened their relationship. Elizabeth believed that Perkin Warbeck was not her brother. Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on November 23, 1499.

The last few years of Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage was filled with joy and heartache. The couple had arranged advantageous marriages for their children Arthur and Margaret. Margaret was arranged to be married to King James IV of Scotland, to unite England and Scotland under the Treaty of Perpetual Peace.  Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, on November 14, 1501, uniting Spain and England. The following year, on April 2, 1502, Arthur died unexpectantly, leaving Elizabeth to console her husband and to remind him that they were still young and that they could still have more children. Elizabeth did give birth to a daughter Katherine on February 2, 1503, but she would not live long. Elizabeth of York would die on February 11, 1503, leaving Henry alone in his grief. He never married again and when Henry VII died a few later on April 21, 1509, he wished to be buried next to his beloved wife. Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage may have been arranged, but they developed a deep love for one another that endure many hardships and created the Tudor Dynasty.

6.) Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor

Mary_Tudor_and_Charles_BrandonCharles Brandon and Mary Tudor. A Tudor knight who fell in love with the dowager Queen of France and the sister of the King of England. Their love story is one for the ages. Mary Tudor was the youngest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and she was very close to her brother Henry VIII. She was known as the most beautiful princess in Europe. Her first marriage was to the King of France, Louis XII, who was much older than she was and had been married two times before. Their marriage did not last three months as King Louis XII died and they did not have any children. The new King of France, Francis I, tried to arrange a new marriage for Mary, but Henry VIII sent an envoy to collect his sister, which included the charming knight, Charles Brandon.

Charles and Mary probably knew each other their entire life since Charles was a close friend of Henry VIII. While they were on their way to England, the couple decided to get married in secret on March 3, 1515, and to tell Henry later. Henry was angry, at first, and fined the couple 24,000 pounds and the remainder of Mary’s dowry. It was an enormous amount, but the couple took it in stride and their marriage was recognized later that year with an official ceremony on May 13, 1515. This was not Charles’ first marriage as he was married two times before and had two daughters by his first marriage, Anne and Mary. Mary accepted both daughters and raised them along with her four children that she had with Charles. The couple would make their opinion about politics clear to Henry, especially when it came to Henry’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn, which they were not thrilled with the idea.

Mary, who suffered from illnesses all of her life, died on June 25, 1533. Charles would marry again, this time to his ward Catherine Willoughby who would give him two sons. Charles died on August 22, 1545. Although both married other people before they married each other, one can sense how much Charles and Mary truly loved one another.

Who are your favorite couples from the Wars of the Roses or the Tudor Dynasty?

 

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”.   

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

17830079The Wars of the Roses is often remembered for the battles that were fought in England. Bosworth. Towton. Barnet. Tewkesbury. These battles and the names of the men and women like Richard III, Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI, Richard Duke of York, Edward IV and the Tudors are etched into the history of England. However, what started this conflict was not on the battlefield, it was inside the English Court.  The decisions of a few men led to revolts that swept throughout England. So what was life like during this tumultuous time in English history? That is one of the questions that Conn Iggulden wanted to explore in his book series, “Wars of the Roses”. The first book in the series is called “Stormbird” and it explores the time after Henry VI marries Margaret of Anjou as well as Cade’s Rebellion, which wanted to tear England apart.

Conn Iggulden begins his book with the death of Edward III and his sons around his bedside, wondering what would happen to their beloved England. The sons of Edward III would become the patriarchs of some of the most important houses during the Wars of the Roses, York, and Lancaster. The story truly begins 66 years after the death of Edward III and young Henry VI is on the throne. Henry needed a truce with France and it was up to men who he could trust to make sure this happened. One of these men was William de la Pole, Duke of Somerset. The other, at least in “Stormbird”, was Henry VI’s spymaster Derihew “Derry” Brewer. Derry Brewer is a unique and complex character who works in the shadow to make sure that his king and his country are well protected. That includes arranging a marriage between Henry VI and the young Margaret of Anjou.

Margaret is portrayed as a caring and loving wife to Henry VI who will do anything to make sure her husband is taken care of and their young son is strong.  Their marriage seems happy, however, there are those who live outside the royal court who are suffering. With a weak leader and men who help the king lead making things worse,  the common people take it the hardest and they decide to do something about it. Led by a man named Jack Cade, the Cade’s Rebellion decides to march on London to overthrow the government.

In his Author’s Note, Conn Iggulden explains why he decided to focus a lot of his book to the riots and unrest in England:

Historical fiction sometimes involves filling in the gaps and unexplained parts of history. How is it that England could field fifty thousand men for the battle of Towton in 1461, but was able to send only four thousand to prevent the loss of Normandy a dozen years earlier? My assumption is that the unrest and riots in England put such a fear into the authorities that the major armies were kept at home. Jack Cade’s rebellion was only one of the most serious uprisings, after all. Rage at the loss of France, coupled with high taxes and a sense that the king was weak, brought England close to complete disaster at this time. Given that Cade breached the Tower of London, perhaps the court and Parliament were right to keep soldiers at home who could have been used to good effect in France. (Iggulden, 479).

“Stormbird” is a fantastic first book for Conn Iggulden’s “Wars of the Roses” series. It is filled with tons of battle scenes and intrigue. There were quite a few scenes where the amount of gruesome details made me cringe, but I wanted to read more. Iggulden was able to make this time before the actual Wars of the Roses come alive. Seeing both sides of the unrest, the commoners and those who served the king, really was intriguing. This was my first time reading a book by Conn Iggulden and I loved it. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and to see how he approaches the Wars of the Roses. If you want a great historical fiction book that is engaging about the unrest in England before the Wars of the Roses, I highly recommend “Wars of the Roses: Stormbird” by Conn Iggulden.