The history of a bloody battle and its context in mid-15th-century England.
The war between York and Lancaster heralded the end of the era of chivalry. In earlier battles, noblemen were taken for ransom; however, in the War of the Roses, no prisoners were taken. Henry VI was not only ineffective but also incompetent; he “did not exhibit the personality of a king.” Crowned as a child, he was indifferent to his task of ruling. When he fell into catatonic schizophrenia for the first time, Richard, Duke of York, was named to “protect” the king’s person and duties. Subsequent bouts of madness finally drove the Yorks into a war of usurpation, and Henry’s queen raised an army to save the throne, proposing herself as regent. Civil war is always devastating, and this was no exception. It was especially horrific as no quarter was given to any combatant. Nobles were slain in revenge and as insurance against further uprisings. Goodwin, a member of the Towton Battlefield Society, provides detailed background, hoping to clarify the jumble of English nobility. It is always a challenge to sort out the players, and thankfully the author provides family trees and two Dramatis Personae, which list the salient members of each side. Goodwin’s descriptions of the battles leading up to Towton, as well as his attention to detail, are impressive, and he lays out each side and the movements that affected the outcome simply and comprehensively.
Well-told stories of historical events that should lead readers to further study of the period.