Sunday, 22 March 2015

Medieval England - Wars of the Roses

Recently I have been doing an online course on England in the time of Richard III. The six week course was prepared by University of Leicester and is put online on the FutureLearn website. Part of the course covered the period of the Wars of the Roses, a series of battles between the followers of the House of Lancaster and the House of York. One of the features of the course is the forum where participants share information and points of view including recommending books and websites. Some of the titles mentioned are listed below.

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer has the sub-title - A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. Although covering the century before the Wars of the Roses this book provides an informative introduction to the period including looking at life in towns and the countryside, clothes, food and drink, health and hygiene, travelling, the people, literature and the legal system. The author describes what you would see and experience if you were visiting England six hundred years ago.

The Middle Ages: the Illustrated History of the Medieval World by Anita Baker. As suggested by the title this is a well illustrated book depicting life in the Middle Ages in Europe. The text provides an informative introduction to the experience of life during this period with chapters on dynasties and empires, daily life, religion, culture, war and conquest and the dawn of a new age. I purchased a copy of this book to use for background reading about the Middle Ages.

Blood and Roses by Helen Castor. This is the story of the Paston family during the time of the Wars of the Roses. The book is based on a collection of letters written by members of this Norfolk family over three generations.

The Women of the Cousins' War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Michael Jones. What makes the Wars of the Roses particularly confusing is the relationships between the main protagonists who are descendants of Edward III with many of them descended from John of Gaunt. This is a biography of Jacquetta of Luxembourg who married Richard Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort. Jacquetta was originally married to John of Gaunt's grandson, John, Duke of Bedford (son of Henry IV). Margaret Beaufort was great grand-daughter of John of Gaunt. Elizabeth Woodville's second husband was Edward VI. Margaret Beaufort married Edmund Tudor and their son was Henry VII. In the introduction Philippa Gregory writes about writing historical fiction and creating a story from available facts.

Lancaster and York: the Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir. The book sets out to investigate the main characters on both sides of the conflict - a series of battles throughout England between 1455 and 1487. The author is also interested in the role of the women - the wives and mothers of the main protagonists - who were often also powerful players in the story.

A number of  historical novels have been set in this period including:
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman is a novel about the life of Richard III. At more than 900 pages the author imagines what Richard's life may have been like as she portrays a picture of life in medieval England in this historical romance.

The King's Sister by Anne O'Brien is the story of Elizabeth of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster and the sister of King Henry V1. At the age of seventeen Elizabeth entered a political marriage with eight year old John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. The marriage was annulled when Elizabeth became pregnant after commencing a relationship with John Holland, a half brother to Richard II. This romantic novel deals with the political intrigue in the family politics involving those connected to the factions in this civil war.

 Obviously I now have a selection of reading to keep me occupied. I have also ordered from the library copies of a number of other titles listed in the forum. All I need is time to read them.

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