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A highly detailed narrative of 15th-century England's complex dynastic struggles, from their origins in the reign of Edward III to the murder of Henry VI in 1471. From 1455 until Henry Tudor's victory over Richard II at Bosworth Field in 1485, England was rocked by a series of battles for the throne, known as the Wars of the Roses. These battles destabilized the old medieval order and so helped bring about the strong central government of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in the following century. Having already dealt with the second half of these wars in The Princes in the Tower (1994), Weir now goes back to the struggles between the House of Lancaster, in the person of the saintly but mentally ill Henry VI, and the House of York, led first by Richard Plantagenet and then by his son, who eventually seized the throne as Edward IV. Weir describes the many personalities in rich detail. We learn of King Henry's yearlong descent into catatonic schizophrenia and of the struggle between Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, and Richard Plantagenet to take over the afflicted king's duties. We read of ancient families and powerful magnates, like Somerset, Suffolk, and above all the Earl of Warwick, known as the King Maker, who eventually changed sides and secured Henry's brief restoration in 1470. Throughout the story Margaret of Anjou stands out as the power behind her unworldly husband; in the end it is she, with her phenomenal energy, who raises political and military support for his increasingly hopeless cause. Weirs work is well reseamhed and her British style is powerful and elegant, but she tends to pile fact upon fact relentlessly, so that nonexperts will easily get lost in her dense narrative. A complicated story brilliantly told, but with few concessions to the general reader.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1995
ISBN: 0345404335
Page count: 492pp
Publisher: Ballantine