If you are at all interested in the Wars of The Roses (The Cousin’s War in Britain) – then this is the blog for you! Please let me help you on your journey to find amazingly interesting research materials, novels, movies, TV shows, videos, and podcasts that deal directly with this juicy story. I like to deal in multiple media formats for my research! My goal is to create an ultimate resource for all (FUN!) research materials dealing with the Wars of the Roses and the late Medieval Period. History – you can’t make this stuff up!
*Most recent update: August 14th, 2016*
Some of you know already that I am working on a show based on the women of the Wars of the Roses time period. I am drawing on Shakespeare (not always historically factual, but informatively entertaining), as well as actual recorded history of the times, and biographical history of these ladies. I can’t say too much about the show yet, as it is still early in the process and details are always subject to change (secrets! mystery!), but I did want to share my reading list (and some reviews – sometimes in the form of links to their pages on goodreads).
The Tudor Rose. Culmination of the Wars of the Roses, this one symbol was created to invoke peace in England, by recognizing the union of Queen Elizabeth of York (though only crowned as Consort, hers was the hereditary claim by which they held their throne), and King Henry VII (Henry Tudor) of the house of Lancaster.
I have been doing a massive amount of research since 2013 when I first got hooked on this concept, and I must say it is completely addictive! The more I dig, the deeper I get, and the more little nuggets I find to interest me, which lead me to researching so many different aspects of this story. What is most interesting in all of this is how tightly these women are all woven to each other – both by blood ties and in their regular encounters with one another in which they serve each other, plot together, make marriages and alliances, and how quickly their relationships can change from besties to mortal enemies. I wanted to share my research reading list with you, in case it is helpful to someone else in some way. Reading all of this source material has made me feel, more than ever, that doing so much work that you’re passionate about is made more fulfilling by the sharing of it with others. Maybe other people who are nuts about WATR stuff will find something new on this blog post!
I will attempt to reconstruct my reading list so far in the order in which I have read them. Stay tuned for live updates, as I read more, I will update this blog post. At the bottom you will find my research reading “to-dos” – those books which I have not read yet, but are on my list to get to at some point in my research. Some of these books are fiction, and some are non-fiction. I am creating a theatrical show, so all character research is valid in my pursuit of a story line.
I am also going to include research I did from video in bold italics, if it was extremely informative and had an impact on my research.
Follow my progress on Goodreads! : https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22291362-fallon-burner
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
The book that started it all! I have always been a fan of Philippa’s work, so when I heard she had begun writing a new series, and that they were going to make a television series from it (Starz & BBC’s The White Queen) – I had to get reading. Thus, the seed was planted and my obsession with the women of this familial and national conflict.
The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
Okay, technically, I think I read this one first. My knowledge of and acquaintance with The White Queen was what prompted me to read Philippa’s story of her mother first, after which I had a better premise for beginning the next book (chronologically). I actually read it as an audiobook, and have since (some 10-15 books later) purchased a print copy of the book, and plan to re-read it.
*Okay, at this point, I read lots and lots of Wikipedia articles on every name that was of interest to me. I also researched a ton of family trees, and created several of my own on pieces of paper, including a grand one including everyone I researched – which I’d love to translate into an image for you all one day in the future when I have the chance to make it more clear and legible 🙂 *
The Starz/BBC production of “The White Queen”
A television drama in 10 episodes, based on the Cousin’s War books by Philippa Gregory: the White Queen, the Red Queen, and the Kingmaker’s Daughter. Explores all 3 stories overlapping chronologically together. It also fleshes out in a more satisfying way the sort of sub-characters from the novel of Duchess Cecily, Countess Warwick, Lord Warwick, Isabel Neville, and George Neville, to name a few. Gives a beautiful visual on what it must have been like living at home with the Woodville clan. I highly recommend this series to anyone in general, not lovers of historical costume dramas. My fingers are crossed that Starz will follow through with a series based on Philippa’s The White Princess!!
The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Margaret Beaufort’s story.
Philippa Gregory’s 2-part series “The Real White Queen and her Rivals”
The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory
Anne Neville is one of the trickiest ladies to become acquainted with out of this whole bundle. My tactic with her was to read a fictional account first, then follow up with a historical biography, so that I could make a comparison, without first being overwhelmed by details which were completely foreign to me.
Anne Neville: Richard III’s Queen by Michael Hicks
This was the most authoritative and everybody-backed biography of Anne I could find. Amy License wrote one which was a close second contender to read, but I ended up going with Michael Hicks because so many reviews I found of the Amy License book said she didn’t give very much information about Anne at all, and when she did, it was so conjectural, and frequently wrong. The Michael Hicks book is short, which was a relief, as the information he provides can be quite dense at times. I did still find it very readable, and while I found some inaccuracies (could be due to bad editing? or sometimes even the best historians can make tiny mistakes – hey, we’re all human!), I did like the way the book offered me more people and nuggets to look up. I learned so much more about the family tree and relationships from what I researched outside this book thank I had even known so far!
Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith
About Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy and sister to Edward IV & Richard III. Listened on audiobook.
The King’s Grace by Anne Easter Smith
About Grace Plantagenet, illigitimate daughter of Edward IV, who later becomes companion to the Queen Dowager, Elizabeth Woodville. Listened to on audiobook.
The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy
About Anne Neville. Listened to on audiobook.
BBC’s “The Shadow of the Tower”
About Henry VII, mostly. But there are some good parts in there of Elizabeth of York & Margaret Beaufort. Namely episodes 1, 2, 3, and 13. The acting and overall style is highly dated, if you like that sort of thing. I didn’t, at first, but it grew on me after a while 🙂
Richard II by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part 1 by WIlliam Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
Finishing Shakespeare’s historical tetralogy on the earlier part of the Wars of the Roses felt so good! Chronologically, these 4 plays depict the earlier time period, but actually, he wrote the next 4 in the series (Henry VI parts 1-3, & Richard III) first.
The Goldsmith’s Wife by Jean Plaidy
About Jane Shore, the most well-known mistress of Edward IV, who was publicly shamed by Richard III after the death of his brother.
“Princes In The Tower” film from 2005
Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir
Alison Weir really fleshes her out as a human being. This biography is well researched, well written, well organized. One of the things I appreciated the most actually is her attention to the relationship between Elizabeth and her husband, Henry Tudor. There are a lot of mysteries there, and with the info we have available to us in the historical record, you could have multiple valid takes on the way that marriage went down, and what it meant to both parties. Alison takes the high road, and paints them as a loving pragmatic pair.
The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
About Elizabeth of York… Stick with this one. It is vastly readable throughout, as are all of Philippa’s works that I’ve read, and her attention to research shines though, as usual. Without giving away too much, early in the book, the character of Henry Tudor appears to be painted in a very specific way, one which I wasn’t sure I could agree with at first, and which seemed to lend itself to one-dimensional-ness. But hang in there. She plays out their relationship for what it must have really been: intricately complex, multi-leveled, and one which probably must have changed in quality throughout time, even retracting at some point to its former stages. Way to be brave, Philippa! I’m with you!
“Henry VII: The Winter King” – Based on Thomas Penn’s book. (That’s him behind Hen there!)
Women of the Cousin’s War: The Duchess, The Queen, and the King’s Mother by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, & Michael Jones
3 essays from experts on Jacquetta Woodville (Elizabeth’s mother), Elizabeth Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort.
Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
The second historical tetralogy on the War of the Roses that Shakespeare wrote – now we really get into the meat of it. I believe Henry VI is actually the first play Shakespeare ever wrote, and it remains the one that adheres the most to the poetic and iambic pentameter structure. The writing is beautiful, really.
Margaret Beaufort by Elizabeth Norton
A pleasant and complete biography of Our Lady The King’s Mother. It didn’t tell me a whole lot that I didn’t already know, or change my mind on anything, but it was lovely to get someone else’s opinions and interpretations who has done a great deal of research. The author gave good insight into her marriages with Stafford & Stanley. She also paints a good picture of how some of Margaret’s closest retainers felt about her, personally.
The Queen’s Secret by Jean Plaidy
Listened on audiobook. A fictionalized account of Catherine of Valois, Queen to Henry V, and mother of Henry VI. Her secret marriage to Owen Tudor scandalized her reputation, and makes her the grandmother of Henry Tudor, later to claim the crown as Henry VII.
“Secrets: Richard III” (from the Smithsonian Channel) – This is a documentary based on Philippa Langley’s research and the archaeological dig they did to find him, through the steps the took afterwards to verify his identity through DNA samples, debunking myths, and a facial reconstruction to find out what he really looked like.
It seems so outdated now to still have the brunette recreation bust of Richard here – but I think I’ll keep it for nostalgia. If you’re interested in seeing what changes they made to his visage here and why, check out my blog about Richard’s reinternment at Leicester.
The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
Fictionalized account of the life of Margaret of Anjou, Queen to King Henry VI and the throne of Lancaster, and mother to its heir, Edward Prince of Wales – not to mention arch-nemesis of Richard Plantagenet Duke of York and Richard Neville Earl of Warwick (although in a dramatic reversal at the end of his life they are allies, and he dies fighting for her cause). It was really nice to finally read something that flushes out Margaret of Anjou’s character more. However, I’m not sure I agree with some of the plot choices. I like historical fiction that is based as much as possible, on historical fact. She doesn’t have Jacquetta of Luxemburg in there much at all, when every history book I’ve read says that she and Margaret were probably close. She puts the Duchess of Suffolk there. While I thoroughly enjoy Susan’s blog, and find it a great & helpful resource for mini-biographies that really beef out much forgotten about characters from history, Queen of Last Hopes missed the mark a little for me. I wanted a little more….texture, or something….to Margaret. Perhaps I found it a little fluffy, and wanted it to be more political.
Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare
Sets up the snowballing conflict between the King and his lords, which results in all of the lords choosing sides. What this play also does marvelously well is it captures the independent character and motives of Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI’s Queen.
Kings & Queens of England by Antonia Fraser
Listened to on audiobook. A really nice crash-course run-down of the line of British succession, from the Norman Conquest (1066) all the way to present day Queen Elizabeth II. Keep all your Edwards, Henrys, & Charleses straight 😉
“Medieval Lives: Birth, Marriage, Death by Dr. Helen Castor”
She is lovely…..just, lovely. A scholarly narrative of medieval lives, through the primary source lens of the Paston Letters.
Elizabeth: England’s Slandered Queen by Arlene Okerlund
The author (Arlene Okerlund) makes some very passionate, very well researched arguments defending Elizabeth. She’s got and great quotes in here, too – if I go back and find any, I’ll write them in here. Okerlund attacks some myths and topics about Elizabeth that I have always wondered about – things that other historians seemed to have been overlooking for centuries, taking at face value the propaganda of the Warwick era, and not examining the vast hypocrisies on the other side.
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
A mystery novel about Richard III. Groundbreaking for it’s time, Tey’s novel debunks the classic myths about Richard being downright evil, and begins to humanize his story.
Medieval Dead – 01 – Richard III’s Lost Chapel (on YouTube, licensed under Cineflix?) – This is a great documentary about trying to find out what happened to the chapel Richard III commissioned to commemorate the soldiers lost at the battle of Towton. What’s really the most interesting about this piece is all of the science shown about medieval warfare and wounds that they can amazingly still discern from a SKELETON! They found at least one mass grave of warriors, and it shows the puzzles they solved trying to pick through all of that information.
Richard III: The New Evidence – Channel 4 in the UK did an update documentary about the scientific analysis of Richard’s remains. This is the most facinating documentary, to me. The team found a 27-year-old man with the same scoliosis as Richard III. They train him up and fit him and kit him in medieval armor, then they put him through the tests of medieval battle, to test if Richard really could have been the great battle commander many have written that he was, (given his condition). It is so facinating! Check it out!
“I feel…..like a juggernaut.” – Dominic Smeeton
Time Team Special 46 (2011) – Wars of the Roses – A team examines the REAL Bosworth Field – found to be in a slightly different location than was previously thought. If you’re into Medieval artillery reconstruction, this one’s for you!
War Walks: Bosworth (season 2, episode 2) – I judge this one to be for the true anglophiles. Between the narrator’s accent, cadence, the background music, and overall delicious cinematic-ness of it all, you are sure to get your dose of English scrumptious-ness. I was hooked right in the beginning, with the very Monty Python-esque ride-in of an armoured knight on horseback, galloping past camera. Happy viewing!
History Extra Podcast: http://www.historyextra.com/podcasts
The History Chicks: http://thehistorychicks.com/
Renaissance English History Podcast: http://www.englandcast.com/
The History of England: http://historypodcasters.com/2015/03/30/the-history-of-england-podcast/
Footnoting History: http://www.footnotinghistory.com/
And, well because you need to see this:
Horrible Histories – Richard III Song
After a huge break (I started college again, began working 7 days a week running a theatre company – or theat-er, if you’re of that opinion…):
The Perfect Prince by Ann Wroe
I like the writing style a lot! Ann Wroe is a storyteller, first and foremost; she delivers the facts in a very poetic yet pertinent way. This way of presenting the story I feel is so much more accessible than your average history book, as it illustrates the details in a way that really puts the reader there in the shoes of the character.
*UPDATE! In the Fall of 2015, I took a playwriting class, where I FINALLY created the first 4 drafts of my Wars of the Roses themed show. Not only did I have the chance to have a reading of it done in my Playwriting class, but I also got to put it on its feet with prop swords, choreography, blocking, lighting, light set, and some costuming in one of my theatre classes this same semester. BAM! First go at the show – out there. I am currently (Aug 2016) circulating the most recent draft to some of my inner theatre circle, to get some feedback so that I can proceed to the next round. Hooray!
It was also at this point that I decided that family trees on pieces of paper and web pages are for noobs. I couldn’t afford a wall-sized cork board, so I cut up some of my Amazon boxes (ahem – school supplies), glued them flat so that it was 2-ply thick, set all of my heaviest books on top while it dried – et voila! I had a wall-sized bulletin board, upon which I have been constructing my own WOTR family tree, from Edward III to Henry VIII, with index cards, colored pens, and yarn to tie the marriages together from thumbtack to thumbtack. This has been an incredibly handy reference for me as I continued my research. As questions come up, instead of opening a bazillion tabs on my computer, I can just look at my wall and figure it out.
Back to my research-rabbit-hole on the English Late Medieval period…..
Joan of Arc: God’s Warrior – presented by Helen Castor for the BBC
While I have picked up the book and started reading it, I didn’t get very far in before school started (and as a history major, boy oh boy do I have a lot of reading to do!) But in the meantime, this beautiful documentary on Helen’s latest book subject only took an hour of my time 🙂
Dan Jones’ Documentary for Channel 5, called Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets
History’s Bad Boy has done it again! This four-part series presented by Dan Jones covers the earlier half of the Plantagenet’s reign. Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets aired on Channel 5 in the Autumn of 2014.
Been longing to see Dan Jones in his glasses and a knit sweater, pouring over ancient texts? Well then I won’t blame you if that’s your reason for watching this series, especially if it gets you interested in the historical actors of this subject! (Psst! You won’t be disappointed, on the sweater front.)
Straight Away, I watched the next in this series – Britain’s Bloody Crown, which, if “Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty” is an extension of Dan Jones’ book The Plantagenets, then “Britain’s Bloody Crown” is the extension of Dan’s Wars of the Roses.
The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory
This might be the last of her Cousin’s War series for now, as we are firmly into the Tudor reign. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through, and I have to say I don’t find it as gripping as some of her other books – certainly not as much as the rest of this series. But it is interesting to hear it from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury’s view. She is the daughter of George Duke of Clarence & Isabel Neville, and sister to Edward of Warwick. The story here is that Henry Tudor had Warwick executed so that Spain would let his son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, marry Katherine of Aragon. All of Margaret’s male relatives are then in the line of fire.
Jasper Tudor by Terry Breverton – thanks Cynthia & JoAnn for the Xmas present!
Cecily Neville: Mother to Kings by Amy License
The Third Plantagenet: George, Duke of Clarence, Richard III’s Brother by John Ashdown-Hill
Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor
The Lost Prince by David Baldwin
Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
The Woodvilles by Susan Higginbotham
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Dr. Helen Castor
Hollow Crown/War of the Roses by Dan Jones
Cecily Neville by Amy License
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith
About Cecily Neville
Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
About Jane Shore
To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy
About Henry VII & Elizabeth of York
The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser
Katherine by Anya Seton
The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory