Alison Weir has taken some splendid leading characters, a large cast, the shifting alliances and fortunes of the Wars of the Roses, and turned them into an exhilarating book.
The first half of Lancaster & York explains the tangled background. The Lancastrian Henry IV usurped his cousin Richard II’s throne, leaving the way open for future dynastic challenge. His son, Henry V, popular hero though he was, showed terrible cruelty. At the siege of Rouen, his harsh treatment resulted in 120,000 women. children and old men dying from hunger and exposure.
However, the book’s real story is the reign of Henry V’s son, Henry VI, and the first phase of the wars between Lancaster and York, lasting from 1455 to 1471. (The author’s earlier book, The Princes in the Tower, covered the struggle between the houses of York and Tudor from 1483 to 1487.)
One thinks that warfare during that period was continuous, but in fact, during both phases of the Wars of the Roses, the total campaigning amounted to about one year. Just thirteen weeks of actual fighting took place, some of it horrendous. The Yorkist king, Edward IV, who deposed his cousin