Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.

Hollow Crown/Wars of the Roses

Chronicling the heraldic rise of the houses of Lancaster and York to the house of Tudor, the Hollow Crown is a tale of glory, betrayal, triumph, sadness, and lastly rewriting history.
Dan Jones wasn’t kidding when he said this is the real game of the thrones. In one of the chapters he includes the gruesome detail of a band of brigands fighting during the English occupation in France, kidnapping, murdering, torturing and raping women and one scene was so vivid that (believe me!) surpasses anything seen on television.

Bishops, archbishops murdered, noses cut off, widows wailing as their loved ones are hacked to pieces and last but not least a mother takes her two children hand in hand as she goes on to plead for the warring Queen, Margaret of Anjou (who has issued warrants against her sons, husband, brothers and nephew) for mercy, trying to escape the danger of the villages near Ludlow as she sees many more women being despoiled of their goods and others of their dignities right in front of her and her two sons, George and Richard. Cecily Neville, Duchess of York had the good fortune of enjoying a good relationship with the Queen yet nothing could save her husband and second eldest son and two brothers when they returned to England and forced parliament and the king to name the Duke of York, Henry VI’s heir.

On December 30, a day that would live in infamy for the Yorkists, their patriarch Richard, his son Edmund and his most important brother in law, the earl of Salisbury and his younger brother, were caught by surprise by Lancastrian forces. The way Dan Jones narrates this chapter is done in such a way that you are in suspense as you are reading of Edmund Plantagenent trying to make his way to sanctuary alongside his tutor and priest, only to be caught by one of the men whose father Edmund’s father killed and in something reminiscent of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, the man (Lord Clifford) stepped down from his horse and sent his dead father’s regards “As your father slew mine” then “drew his dagger thrust it through his heart. The blood debt of St. Albans had been paid”. There are more examples of his merciless bloodshed from Henry VI mysterious death -which was likely murder under the command of Edward IV, to weeks before the gruesome battles that wiped out all the Lancastrian threats -except for one- Barnet and Tewksbury where the King’s cousin and former staunch supporter, the earl of Warwick had been killed and then stripped down of his clothing and paraded naked through the countryside and Edward of Wesminster (who was proving himself to be like his grandfather, the great Henry V) and Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset killed in the latter battle with Edward and his brothers breaking the rules of sanctuary and dragging Edmund and his associates from the church he was hiding in and mercilessly executing him. And yet, the wars of the roses is also a story of great things and good intentions gone awry. Richard Duke of York believed he was more entitled to the privilege and positions bestowed on Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou’s favorites (de la Pole and Beaufort) and that he could do a better job than them, unfortunately his good intentions were lost when he became mad with power and believed that the only way he could rescue England from perdition was by declaring himself king (a bad move which even his closest associates thought was ridiculous); after her partially got what he wanted, Margaret (a formidable woman whose appearance in the book is tremendous, a well educated, and capable leader who had the great example of both her grandmother and mother taking positions of power during her father’s absence or imprisonment, and likewise she wanted to do the same with the same good intentions for her husband’s House) turned the tables on him by defending her only son’s right to inherit his father’s crown and her forces slew him and in his in laws. But this only provoked the Yorkist and what happened afterwards as they say is all history. Likewise, Richard III, proved to be his father’s son. The youngest of Cecily and Richard’s three surviving sons, he believed it was his right to govern the realm in his nephew’s minority and saw the favors bestowed upon the Woodvilles (who, despite their good administration and military leadership) as inadequate and unfair. He was the late king’s loyal brother and had stood by him in all things, when their cousin Warwick and brother George rebelled against him, he didn’t and he had waged war against Scots forces, defending the English borders but his brother’s will (which is now lost to us) appointed the Woodviless to equal positions of power, he was justly angry. He intercepted Rivers and Richard Woodville (Elizabeth Woodville’s second eldest son by her first marriage) and then along with others had them killed but as his namesake he faced a great problem in a king who wasn’t going to bend to his will. 

Richard’s decision to depose his late brother’s brood by declaring the illegitimate through his priest Shaa the previous man was the first of his many acts that mirrored his brother’s ruthlessness of disposing of rival claimants. The princes likely were murdered by Richard, though not by himself, someone closest to him -as they began to be seen less and less to quote from contemporary sources after the summer of ’83 until they disappeared altogether in the autumn of that year. Unfortunately for Richard, this created a lot of hostility towards his reign and after his son and wife died, the way was clear for Henry Tudor who, in ordinary circumstances, would have NEVER been considered as a serious claimant to the throne but Richard III’s accession and the loss of his son and wife changed everything.

The battle of Bosworth fought at Ambion Hill has gone down in Tudor history as a sign of divine providence and perhaps it was but more than that, it was thanks to Henry’s uncle’s supporters in Wales where he had build a power base and angry Edwardian Yorkists, Woodvilles and staunch Lancastrians and of course the Stanleys that helped him win the crown. What came after that was a Tudor creation -the double rose or Tudor Rose. Red and white to symbolize the union of both houses of Lancaster and York and the end of the bloodshed but the bloodshed was far from over. When Henry became more insecure after his son and later his wife and newborn daughter died, he turned his eye on the de la Poles whose Yorkist came through their mother Elizabeth Plantagenet (second eldest daughter of Richard and Cecily Neville) and two of these who escaped were actively engaged in plots against the king whom they had previously served. It wasn’t until his son, Henry VIII that the “White Rose” as the last de la Pole nicknamed himself, was squashed during the battle of Pavia when he fought alongside Francis I . The end of the last “white rose” would have brought stability to the Tudor monarchy had it not been for the religious squabbles that became a large part of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century. The more powerful white rose descendants were through Margaret Pole (daughter of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville) and when they decided to remain loyal to their faith, they came under Henry’s radar and it wasn’t a matter of whether they were guilty or not as Jones supposes, but the fact that their faith and their Yorkist blood posed a threat to the king. They too tasted the cruel fate that befell their previous ancestors when he last granddaughter of Richard Duke of York was hacked to pieces in 1541.

Dan Jones explores the myth behind this artifice of Tudor propaganda, a successful device that conjured the illusion of peace and the union of two warring dynasties. But the truth as he exposes in his book, is that this conflict was far more complex and it did not start at all dynastic. Furthermore, the red rose was never the official symbol of the Lancastrian royals, and the white rose -although it did become for the Yorks- wasn't the only device they used. With these two however, a new term arose:
Dan Jones explores the myth behind this artifice of Tudor propaganda, a successful device that conjured the illusion of peace and the union of two warring dynasties. But the truth as he exposes in his book, is that this conflict was far more complex and it did not start at all dynastic. Furthermore, the red rose was never the official symbol of the Lancastrian royals, and the white rose -although it did become for the Yorks- wasn’t the only device they used. With these two however, a new term arose:
“The exact phrase the wars of the roses does not appear before the nineteenth century but the image is there virtually from the 1480s clear in the Tudor Rose (this red and white rose) that’s supposed to show York and Lancaster united. Is there in the front piece of books in the royal library, it’s there at Elizabeth I’s coronation where she turns to Penchant Street during her procession from the Tower to Westminster Abbey. The first pageant she sees are rosebushes with the red and white roses united, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and the rest of the Tudors as the ones that fixed the wounds of the sixteenth century. So the idea is there ‘the wars of the roses’.” (BBC Podcast interview)

Dan Jones’ style of writing is very provocative starting by his introduction, detailing Margaret Pole nee Plantagenet’s execution to the epilogue when Elizabeth I, proving to be her grandfather and father’s granddaughter and daughter respectively uses the same motif once more for her coronation and has an epic poem telling the crowds that the Tudors are not just the product of the union of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York but a different dynasty altogether favored by God and thus then as the bard would say, they get to tell their tale.

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