In his sequel to the best-selling The Wars of the Roses, Desmond Seward reveals the secret conflict that continued throughout the reigns of both Henry VII and Henry VIII.
Contrary to popular belief, the Wars of the Roses did not end in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. While the country reeled from the unexpected defeat of Richard III, Henry Tudor attempted to unify the two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet by marrying Elizabeth of York, intending to nullify the threat of the White Rose while silencing doubts regarding the Tudor claim. However, in this engrossing account, Desmond Seward reveals how the war against the White Rose continued in secret, seeding insecurity, fear and even paranoia behind the Tudor facade of stability, magnificence and power.
‘Despite the apparent security of his regime, with the current White Rose firmly under lock and key, Henry did not feel safe. There are indications that, after decades of fighting off Yorkist pretenders, his paranoia had grown so intense that he began to see his own son and heir as a potential rival. Ironically, the hope of the Tudors was kept under close surveillance, guarded so strictly that he was all but under lock and key. (Perhaps his father, no mean judge of character, realised that his son was a very dangerous young man.)’
Throughout their reigns, both Henry VII and Henry VIII had to contend with conspiracies hatched by those who sought to rid England of their dynasty. Henry VII, labeled by many a ‘legalised usurper’, suffered from ‘moles perpetually working and casting to undermine him’, according to Francis Bacon. The plots were many, from the outrageous to the sinister: the imposter Perkin Warbeck gained significant support from foreign powers when he posed as the lost Duke of York, the younger of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, while one elaborate assassination attempt involved an ointment which, if smeared on the king’s doorway, was ‘guaranteed to turn anyone passing through it into a murderer who would kill him’. A more serious threat came from William Stanley, the man who handed Henry victory at Bosworth by turning on Richard III, but who eventually turned back to the White Rose and conspired against the king. Ultimately, years of foiling Yorkist plots would lead Henry VII to see conspiracies everywhere, and he would in turn pass this paranoia onto his son, ‘in whom it festered until it became mania’. The second half of Seward’s book tackles Henry VIII – a man known for his rages and his terrible cruelty – and the ongoing struggle against the Yorkist threat that would facilitate his transformation into a ruthless tyrant.
‘A vivid and compelling account of a neglected aspect of Tudor history’
Desmond Seward continues the story told in his Richard III and The Wars of the Roses, skilfully uncovering the machinations of the Tudors and the White Rose conspirators. With his engaging style he brings to life all the characters that make the Tudor period one of the most fascinating in English history: Richard de la Pole, Margaret of York, the Lady Mary, Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey – all men and women with hidden and not-so-hidden agendas.
Included are 12 pages of colour plates of the key characters, including Holbein’s imposing painting of Henry VIII and a pensive portrait of Margaret of York, Richard III’s sister. The binding has been designed in series with The Wars of the Roses.
In his new foreword, Seward details how the elaborate spy network created to deal with the Plantagenet threat was eventually refined into a tool for imposing a religious revolution.
Desmond Seward is a historian. Born in Paris, he was educated at Ampleforth and at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he was an Exhibitioner in History. He is the author of many books, the best known being The Monks of War (1972; revised edn by The Folio Society, 2000), The Wars of the Roses (1995; The Folio Society, 2011), Richard III: England’s Black Legend (1982; revised and updated by The Folio Society, 2014) and A Brief History of the Hundred Years War, which has stayed in print since publication in 1978. His most recently published books are The Demon’s Brood: The Plantagenet Dynasty that Forged the English Nation (2014) and Renishaw Hall: The Story of the Sitwells (2015).
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Review by anon on 6th Jan 2017
"Even if you feel you are suffering from a surfeit of Tudors this book is a delicious treat to savour. A different approach, an engaging narrative and a beautiful edition combine in a feast for all who..." [read more]