Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses

B1645

The author has developed a long interest in medieval history and has published articles on many aspects of culture and warfare. He is now coordinator for the Richard III Foundation Inc. With that background, it is to be expected that any book he writes will be authoritative. The medieval period is one of great contrasts and many readers will be most familiar with just one concept, often that of the Age of Chivalry and of Arthurian Legend. English Victorians set the legends of King Arthur in the medieval period, even though the legends are generally accepted now as being based at least in part on a Romano-British warlord of the Fifth Century. The result is that many have an image of the chivalrous armoured knight with full armour that was more accurately jousting armour from the post medieval period of Henry VIII. The reality of the period is rather different and comprises a complex mix of conflicting elements.

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NAME: Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
FILE: R1645
Date: 300811
AUTHOR: David Santiuste
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword Military
BINDING: Soft back
PAGES: 192
PRICE: 12.99
GENRE: Non-Fiction
SUBJECT: arms, armour, 15th century, land battles, civil war, England, Wars of the Roses, Mortimer’s Cross, Towton, Barnet, Tewkesbury, Plantagenet, York, Lancaster
ISBN: 1-84884-549-9
IMAGE: B1645
LINKS: http://tinyurl.com/
DESCRIPTION: The author has developed a long interest in medieval history and has published articles on many aspects of culture and warfare. He is now coordinator for the Richard III Foundation Inc. With that background, it is to be expected that any book he writes will be authoritative. The medieval period is one of great contrasts and many readers will be most familiar with just one concept, often that of the Age of Chivalry and of Arthurian Legend. English Victorians set the legends of King Arthur in the medieval period, even though the legends are generally accepted now as being based at least in part on a Romano-British warlord of the Fifth Century. The result is that many have an image of the chivalrous armoured knight with full armour that was more accurately jousting armour from the post medieval period of Henry VIII. The reality of the period is rather different and comprises a complex mix of conflicting elements. During the late medieval period, England was ripped by the series of civil wars referred to as the Wars of the Roses as the Houses of York and Lancaster fought for dominance and possession of the Crown of England. England was also at war with France in a continuing struggle to maintain control of land in France. In English history, the Kings who have stood out in history have been those Rose warriors who fought major battles in France. Those occupied primarily with the civil wars in England have gone largely unnoticed. The author has put this right by taking Edward IV as his subject in what is a perceptive and engaging study of this English medieval king. In telling the story, the author has demonstrated his understanding of the society and military environment of the period. Knights were the relatively wealthy professional soldiers who provided the heavy cavalry, although English knights more commonly fought on foot, while the bulk of the army was made up of infantry and the famous longbowmen who made such an important contribution to English success against France. The use of cavalry during the Wars of the Roses has produced few records but the description of mounted spearmen suggests light cavalry used
primarily to pursue a fleeing army. Knights may have had notions of chivalry that were established rules of engagement but warfare was bloody and ruthless. Medieval society employed capital punishment for relatively minor crimes and added torture was part of the punishment for what were regarded as more serious offences. On the battlefield prisoners may have been taken and ransomed, but it was as likely that the victors would kill all of the enemy soldiers that they could. When a town was taken the entire population might be killed with great savagery. Bloody as battles between competing nations might be, civil war could be far worse. Across all was the religious fervour of the times when belief in the teachings of the Christian Church of Rome were the fabric of a hard and short life. More than five hundred years later, it is difficult to understand the part of religion in the medieval society, the power of the Church and the blind obedience to its teachings. Descended from Edmund Duke of York, son of Edward III, Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville. Their children included Edward V. Edward IV lived from 1442 to 1483 towards the end of the long running dispute that was eventually terminated when Henry Tudor defeated Richard III. During his life, Edward IV was to establish himself as a gifted military
commander but saw warfare as a means to an end. He was more likely to forgive his enemies than to destroy, but he did fight two ruthless campaigns in 1461 and 1471 where he crushed all opposition. That Edward IV did not achieve a stronger
place in history is probably due to his military prowess being used primarily against his own countrymen. The author has gone a long way to redressing this. He has written a highly readable book that has been well produced by a publisher with a strong historical commitment. There are family trees and battle maps, with some photographic illustration in b&w images that add to the story recounted in text. Those readers who come to this book as Wars of the Roses enthusiasts will bring with them their own prejudices in favouring York or Lancaster. Some may be converted and the author obviously has a commitment to Richard III and his defeated line. For those without such prejudices this should prove a very entertaining and informative account that captures the medieval world very well. For those coming to the period through this book, they
will find that it dispels some of the myths that are in popular circulation about this period of history when England was moving from a collection of elements under warlords into a unified nation that was to expand into the British nation that came to cover half of the world. The ending of the Wars of the Roses was not an end to civil war because the Stuarts would twice come into conflict with the people, but the completion of the Wars of the Roses was an end to continuing civil strife where warfare was almost continuous for decades. A very interesting book. It is also a good point to start into medieval history because the author has the crisp style of an article writer, able to capture the essence of the subject without the pretentious and wordy style favoured by a number of historians addressing this period of history.

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