Tuesday 9 March 2021

The Brothers York

Finished March 5 
The Brothers York: A Royal Tragedy by Thomas Penn

This history book covers the years 1461 to 1485 and looks at the British monarchy during this time, specifically the House of York. The book has a helpful family tree so that you can see where the royalty at this time fell within the larger royal lineage in Britain. 
As the book opens Henry VI is king, the last of the Plantagenets, but he is a weak king, addled in mind, and with only one child, a son that came later in life. 
Throughout this time, and beyond, questions are raised about whether the children in the official marriage of the king are actually his, and this is definitely one of the things that was raised with Henry VI. Henry's cousin Richard was not making a claim for the throne at first, but was attempting to rule in his stead due to his mental instability. It was Richard, who was Duke of York, whose three sons are the subject of this book. His oldest son became Edward IV, and his second son Edmund was killed when he was, before most of the action takes place. The third son, George, Duke of Clarence was never king although he had ambitions, and the last son became Richard III. 
All three of the brothers taking lead roles here, Edward, George, and Richard are strong-willed, ambitious men, but they had different ways of going about their public and private lives. 
This book is heavily researched, and goes into the details of their relationships with each other, with other European rulers of the time, and of the upper classes within England, who played decisive roles in the determination of who had control at any time. Coming late to a battle, or not showing up at all despite promises made, had impacts that were far-reaching.
It was also interesting to see how each handled the finances of both the nation and their personal household, and what their relationship was to Parliament. Although they didn't rule during this time, the women in the royal family also have decisive roles, whether it was bearing heirs or holding court while the king was absent. The women's reputation also impacted the reputation of the king for good and for bad. 
I enjoyed getting to know this part of history better than I had and seeing the ways that politics has changed so little over the centuries. 

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