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The Wars of the Roses

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,661 Ratings  ·  377 Reviews
Lancaster and York. For much of the fifteenth century, these two families were locked in battle for control of the English throne. Kings were murdered and deposed. Armies marched on London. Old noble names were ruined while rising dynasties seized power and lands. The war between the royal houses of Lancaster and York, the most complex in English history, profoundly altere ...more
Paperback, 463 pages
Published July 25th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 27, 2011 Madeline rated it liked it
"This story begins in 1400 with the murder of one king, and ends in 1471 with the murder of another. One murder could be said to have been a direct result of the other. The story of what happened between 1400 and 1471, which is the story told in this book, answers the question: how?"

Having now finished the book, I can provide the condensed version of the answer to Weir's question: because illegitimate kids throw one hell of a wrench into people's succession plans.

Well, obviously it's more compl
Amy Bruno
Feb 27, 2009 Amy Bruno rated it it was amazing
If I was given the choice of writing a novel on a certain historic event, you can bet the event at the bottom of my list would be The War of the Roses. I don't think I could deal with such a convoluted, tangled story, with an ungodly amount of characters to keep track would likely drive me mad. But, thankfully Alison Weir was of a different mindset and took the monster head on. And what a supurb job she did! Weir merged enjoyment and learning expertly and I can see how it would take a lo ...more
Jamie Collins
Very nicely written overview of the Wars of the Roses. It's not for beginners to English history; I was reasonably familiar with all the players and still had trouble keeping track of everyone. There are lots of Richards, Edwards and Henrys, and multiple people are referred to as "York" or "Somerset" as titles pass between generations. The genealogical charts are not as helpful as they should be: they're cramped and printed in tiny, handwritten scrip, and the generations are not clearly lined up ...more
Tony Riches
Oct 19, 2013 Tony Riches rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are three main problems for any historian trying to tell the story of the Wars of the Roses. Firstly, where to start in the complex set of social and political circumstances that led to the conflict. Secondly, how to separate the web of myths, half-truths and legends from the historical facts and thirdly there are the significantly differing historical accounts to be reconciled. Alison Weir has produced a very readable narrative that deals comfortably with all these problems. I can’t remem ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Xenia0201 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english-history
You cannot deny that Weir puts forth a great deal of effort in fully researching the history of and behind the Wars of the Roses. I enjoyed this because not only does she present the facts as they are, she goes back an additional 100 years to give the full background on where the conflict exactly started...with the sons of Edward the III and the weak reign of Richard the II. You can look at several instances that helped fuel the fire between Lancastrians and the Yorkists made in each reign up to ...more
Greg Strandberg
Nov 22, 2015 Greg Strandberg rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I first picked this book up way back in middle school in the mid-90s. I liked the cover, liked the idea of old England.

What was most appealing to my young self were the introductory chapters explaining the world of the 1400s. You get a good look at the battles that pitted the Yorks against the Lancasters, and the two princes that were killed.

Weir goes into the latter much more in her other book. I wish she'd write more on events, but alas, she's basically settled on personages.

Good read on thi
Oct 29, 2014 Rindis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, kindle
The Wars of the Roses is the second book by Alison Weir I've read, and it definitely tells me there's no need to stop here. The writing is good, and gives a great overview of what is a legendarily confusing period of English history. This actually a successor/prequel book to her early book, The Princes in the Tower, which is about the final act of the Wars of the Roses; the contest between Richard III and Henry VII (née Tudor), and the fate of the children of Edward IV.

Therefore, this book is ac
Alison Weir is certainly my favorite historical author. In fact, I might as well call her Professior Weir and start paying her she has taught me about 80% of what I know about queens, mistresses, Tudor England, the Wars of the Roses, etc. Long live, Alison Weir!

Sadly, this was one of my least favorites accounts of Weir's. I literally had to skip a couple chapters in the beginning because it felt too dragged. I knew when the juicy parts (in my opinion) began since I have done a large amount of re
John Carter McKnight
Dec 08, 2013 John Carter McKnight rated it really liked it
A strong general-audiences history, with a largely fluid and engrossing style. Definitely not a military history, but a straight-up political narrative.

There's an obvious challenge in writing about the period: everybody is named either Richard, Henry or Edward, and a string of people succeed to noble titles, so keeping track of who's who is a challenge. The author's tendency to switch back and forth between proper names and titles does add to the confusion of "is this one person or two? has the
Apr 07, 2013 Bill rated it it was amazing
A scholarly but eminently readable book about on of the most contentious times in England's history (House of York-white rose v House of Lancaster-red rose). This is a history of knights, captured castles and a time when 19 year old kings fought alongside their men. It was incredibly violent time and there are a lot of beheadings, drawing and quartering of the nobility. The most amazing story is that of Margaret of Anjou the wife of the sometime mad King Henry VI. She was the Terminator of her a ...more
Really great book and I love the history. I love how Alison got very intimate in regards to the lives and personalities of those during the time period.
Thanks to this very approachable history, I think I'm finally starting to get a handle on the Wars of the Roses. Next up: The Princes in the Tower, though after being thoroughly convinced by The Daughter of Time I'm afraid I won't be happy with Weir's solution to the mystery...
Paul Pensom
There was an article in The Guardian today about the lamentable gaps in the History syllabus in Britain. A report complained that all our children were learning was a thin diet of 'Hitler and the Henrys', which sounds rather like a punk band to me.

I think they may have a point. History was one of my favourite subjects at school. What I learned in those classes has stayed with me for life, so I'm certain that I haven't simply forgotten large chunks of the curriculum. I'm fairly sure, for instance
May 25, 2011 Aaron rated it it was amazing
I have always been drawn to the histories and biographies written by Alison Weir. She is a specialist in late-Medieval/Enlightenment English history. I decided to read this book because I realized that I had very little knowledge about the Wars of the Roses and I wanted to learn more after watching a documentary series called Monarchy that takes viewers through the whole history of the British royal houses.

The first third of the book provides background history about the ruling kings prior to th
Joanne Moyer
Forget The Game of Thrones, this is the real thing. Hacking/slashing battles all over the place, decapitations galore, old king being deposed by a usurper, old king deposes usurper and gets his crown back ...and loses it again. I found it interesting that in a time where women were pretty much thought of as property, there were a couple of very strong women running things. Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI's wife, ran the country when he was in a comatose state for a couple of years and later when he ...more
Sep 25, 2009 Claire rated it liked it
This was a decent read, however I found Weir a often rushed to accept the veracity of contemporary sources without fully qualifying their motives or possible agendas. I was most turned off by the line on the last page that stated: "Gloucester emerged the victor from this, imprisoned the boy king, deposed him, and had himself crowned Richard III, all within three months. He then almost certainly arranged for young Edward and his brother to be murdered in the Tower of London". This glib statement ...more
Exceptional account of this most confusing period of history. Comprehensive but lively, a true page turner. Weir provides us with a broad scope of events that begin during the reign of Edward III and stretch all the way to Edward IV. (For those who are interested she continues the story with The Princes in the Tower although I have heard that some of her theories or whatnot are groundless and biased. Not recommended for those who remain Pro-Richard).

Sooo much fun. I might even read this one agai
Holly Blackstone
Oct 06, 2014 Holly Blackstone rated it really liked it
Not my favourite Weir book, but it tackles a difficult and confusing period of English history, and licence has to be made for that.

There were a few times I wished she had gone into more detail, explained her conclusions a bit more thoroughly, or referenced original source. That being said, a lot of the tome does have mentions of contemporary chroniclers, and the book goes to great lengths to try and lay out families and their inter-relationships and loyalties so that you can then understand the
May 31, 2015 Clare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am so happy to have finished this - I think one of these stars is purely down to the joy I feel!
There was loads of historical detail, and I have to admit to skimming chunks of text (and then having to go back and read it properly, because I'd missed something relevant). This isn't a 'short cut' of a book. It is a period in history that has always fascinated me, and I have read some historical fiction surrounding this time, but I wanted to read something that didn't mirror a period soap opera
Apr 15, 2015 Erin rated it it was amazing
Alison Weir presents a multi-layered historical narrative full of rich detail about the Houses of York and Lancaster and other distinguishing English families. I had to keep reminding myself that this was not a story. Weir writes in such a way that these men and women of long past spring to life and for the most part she is unbiased( maybe with the exception of Elizabeth Wyville and her family). This is a prequel of sorts to The Princes in the Tower which I also would recommend people reading. ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Maitrey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The War of the Roses was a straight-up political history of England during the civil war known as the War of the Roses in the 15th Century.

I'd not read anything by Alison Weir before but I know she's one of the most popular historians around. After finishing Schama's A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? 3500 BC-AD 1603, I decided to read more about the War of the Roses.

A few pages in, I realized why most histories give this war a wide berth (including Schama's). The esoteric genealogi
Sara Steger
Dec 12, 2015 Sara Steger rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Weir is a great historian. She brings to life the era, and keeps the right balance between detail and interest. She manages to make what could be dry and boring, intriguing instead.
Even better than I remember. ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Pearl rated it liked it
Note to self: Don't bother reading anymore histories by Alison Weir. Actually this is the second time I've told myself this; but I was going on vacation, wanted something to read, and was able to download this on my Kindle for $1.99. Definitely worth that.

It's not that Weir is dull exactly (although a bit) or that she's an unreliable historian (she's not); it's that instead of making history come alive she inundates you with detail. In her account of the War of the Roses you'll get all you ever
Apr 16, 2015 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors. She makes history accessible and easy to understand. The first book I read by her was "The Six Wives of Henry VIII," which started me on my Tudor history obsession. I bought "The Wars of the Roses" once it came out in the U.S. I like to keep it handy when I watch Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" - it helps me keep track of the characters, though there are some differences.

Henry V was England's warrior king, victor of Agincourt, portrayed by Laurence Olivier
I tend to find battles and military history difficult to concentrate on - all I really need to know about a battle is who won, who died, who was injured, who was captured. So you might wonder why I would read a book on the Wars of the Roses. I assumed it would be filled with much more than battle scenes - there would be character assessments and lots of political intrigue too. And I was right, it was incredibly fascinating and I feel I understand this time period and conflict much better.

I stil
Steven Peterson
Dec 20, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
Alison Weir's works are noteworthy for the detail provided and the care with which she considers uncertain issues. She notes speculation where it is speculation and certainty where there is a reasonable degree of certainty. This book, in her own words, serves as something of a prequel to "The Princes in the Tower." The focus there was on the struggle between the houses of York and Tudor. In this volume, the focus is much more on the time frame of 1455 to 1471 as well as the years of Edward IV's ...more
Jul 01, 2010 Myles rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The Wars of the Roses is such a fascinating time, modern toys of warfare had yet to intrude on men sealed like aluminum cans waving weapons and galloping over all the poor people with quarterstaves - and the INTRIGUE! It was all very romantic and many a novelist has become "inspired" by these turbulent years for their fiction.

Alison Weir is more of a popular historian, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - her research appears to be top-notch, and her reading broad and thorough. I simply find my
Jul 31, 2010 Erik rated it really liked it
Yeah, I’m on a roll here. Tudor history via Henry VIII and his heirs not only has me jonesed for my imminent trip to the UK in mere weeks, but also his immediate predecessors on the English throne – whether they be Tudor, Yorkist, Plantagenet, or otherwise. While Weir does an admirable job keeping us on track with the mushrooming multitude of Henrys, Richards, Edwards, Marys, and Elizabeths on all familial branches that claimed royal blood and rights of usurpation in fourteenth century England, ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Ben rated it liked it
A very good introduction to The Wars of the Roses. I came in knowing nothing and feel like I have a good sense of it. I was a little perplexed because the author seems to dwell on arguing for certain interpretations of events without spending a lot of time on establishing why it's worth arguing over (that said, professional historians like her have a lot more at stake in historiography than a lay reader like myself). Those who know more about the events described here will probably glean more fr ...more
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European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, chapters 13-19 9 75 Oct 09, 2014 04:45PM  
European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, chapters 7-12 8 32 Dec 29, 2012 01:41PM  
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European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, overall 2 25 Nov 19, 2012 02:16PM  
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European Royalty: This topic has been closed to new comments. The Wars of the Roses epub required 14 96 Oct 11, 2012 06:50AM  
  • Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen
  • The Wars of the Roses: Through the Lives of Five Men and Women of the Fifteenth Century
  • Royal Panoply: Brief Lives of the English Monarchs
  • Richard the Third
  • The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation
  • Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes
  • Queen Emma: A History of Power, Love, and Greed in 11th-Century England
  • Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
  • Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty
  • Blood Sisters:  The Women Behind The War Of The Roses
  • Henry II
  • A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
  • The Wars of the Roses: England's First Civil War
  • Blood & Roses: the Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses
  • Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alison Weir (born 1951) is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens. She currently lives in Surrey, England, with her two children.

Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her
More about Alison Weir...

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“The Burgundian chronicler Philippe de Commines thought the English a choleric, earthy, and volatile people, who nevertheless made good, brave soldiers. In fact he regarded their warlike inclinations as one of the chief causes of the Wars of the Roses. If they could not fight the French, he believed, they fought each other.” 6 likes
“As their forces broke, the Yorkist cavalrymen raced to the horse park behind their own lines and mounted their steeds to give chase. As they thundered past, the King and Warwick, flushed with victory, yelled, ‘Spare the commons! Kill the lords!’ Their words went unheeded.” 1 likes
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