Bicheno (Battle Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1440-1462, 2016) continues his work on the War of the Roses.
A quick glance through the family trees, charts, maps, timelines, and cast of characters (20-plus pages) will encourage British history buffs who know the connections and love the extras. Other readers, however, will need to refer frequently to the detailed charts just to keep the story straight. Even those with a strong knowledge of this internecine war may stumble while trying to remember the familial relations and many interconnections and allegiances. The author turns upside down some of the most common myths about the war, especially regarding the Woodville family. Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville, came with a whole gang of siblings as well as a couple stepsons for Edward to favor. Bicheno asserts convincingly that Edward was much too strong a character to kowtow to his wife. A strong queen, she immediately usurped and made an enemy of Edward’s mother, Cecily, who furiously spread it around that Edward was a product of adultery, thereby making his brother, Clarence, the rightful heir. Unfortunately, Clarence’s only value was as a puppet to Richard Warwick, the kingmaker, who won control over the apparatus of government but had no true authority. He felt he made the king and should be able to dictate policy to him—so much so that he used Clarence to lead a failed rebellion. Edward’s reign must be known as much for the granting, revoking, attainting, and regranting of titles and lands. He knew that assigning lands to men with proven followings would secure territorial claims and establish peace. England then enjoyed 12 years of relative political stability and rising prosperity, which ended with Edward’s early death. For academics researching the period, this book is a godsend; it not only allows, but demands consultation with all the provided background information. For general readers, it may be too scholarly and confusing.
A well-written conclusion to a history perfectly suited to scholars and students.