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The Wars of the Roses

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,283 ratings  ·  499 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 ...more
Paperback, 463 pages
Published July 25th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1995)
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Steve Kinnard Dan Jones's book is a relatively easy read with a very polished narrative for easy consumption. Jones, however, in his attempt to tell a "story"…moreDan Jones's book is a relatively easy read with a very polished narrative for easy consumption. Jones, however, in his attempt to tell a "story" rather than an academic historical account, tends to gloss on a fair number of things. His book tends to have a bit of a "York wasn't such a bad guy" tone to it, and in doing so he doesn't really dig deep into any of the nuance and motivations for York's actions, nor the terms of his (repeated) punishments for what was essentially treason.

Weir's book is a lot more academic. I also think it's a good place to mention Michael Hicks' Wars of the Roses. It's probably the "best" in terms of historical research and analysis, being far more critical of the contemporary sources (mostly written in Edward IV's reign) than either Weir or Jones, but it's a little clumsily written (a fair amount of repetition and the occasional reference to future events that somebody unfamiliar with the time period may get confused by) and ponderous at times, so might only interest people really interested in the topic.

I'd pick from between the three, depending on whether you want the Easy (Jones), Medium (Weir), or Expert (Hicks) difficulty version of the story. (less)

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Bradley
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All right. First of all, no amount of quick re-telling can ever do actual history any justice, but suffice to say, The War of the Roses was a ROYAL MESS.

Literally. You can trace its roots back to Richard II when Henry IV deposed him, setting up the later battles between York and Lancaster, but this is somewhat disingenuous. People loved Hal, later to become King Henry V, and they were all amazed at how much of France he had won for England, capping off a truly heroic entry and the close end of
...more
Madeline
Nov 27, 2011 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
...more
Chrissie
NO RATING - DNF
This book covers only the first part of the Wars of the Roses (all of which lasted from 1455 to 1487). This book covers only the wars between the Lancasters and the Yorks (1455-1471). The second part of the Wars of the Roses (1483-1487), the fight between the Yorks and the Tudors is presented in the author's book The Princes in the Tower.

After four hours of twenty-two I am calling it quits. This is just a string of names. I really don't care anymore who gets to be king. I have
...more
Trish
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a mess! Seriously! I know quite a lot about history and about armed struggles but the tug-of-war presented here is staggering!
I must admit to never really having been interested (except for a few cornerstones) in this period or English aristocracy but since the Tudor dynasty was quite entertaining, I thought I should know about this too (thanks, St. Mary's).

So what was the Wars of the Roses (WotR) all about?
Well, one was king, the other wanted to be king, a lot of poverty resulting from a
...more
Amy Bruno
Dec 29, 2008 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 of...it 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 ...more
Carolina Casas
Very detailed giving background to the origins of the conflict that have become known as wars of the roses and more recently "cousins wars" going back to Edward III and his five sons and what they and their descendants meant to the succession. Of course Edward III's grandson (son by his firstborn) inherited the throne but when he was deposed by Henry IV "Henry Bolingbroke" this changed everything. Henry IV altered the succession many times giving precedence over himself an his heirs since they ...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 ...more
Rindis
Jul 09, 2012 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
...more
Tony Riches
Oct 19, 2013 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 cant ...more
Xenia0201
Oct 21, 2011 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
Jul 07, 2014 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
...more
Alannah Clarke
I don't know a lot about the wars of the roses, but I have always wanted to study it, when the opportunity came up for me to do so, the tutor in my university decided to take the year out for research. I have read a bit of fiction concerning the War of the Roses but obviously as someone who studies history knows to take that with a pinch of salt as authors love to manipulate history to fit their storylines. Even though I have a small understanding of the War of the Roses, I could probably tell ...more
Susan
From the first time I heard about War of the Roses 🥀 I have been obsessed with this fascinating and deadly conflict. This is the story that inspired George R.R Martin to write his ASOIAF.

This book is perfect for those who have a sound understanding of the conflict, time period, historical and political context. I wouldnt recommend this to someone who is new and wants to learn more.


I absolutely loved every minute reading this and honestly cant wait till I can read more about this period. Whether
...more
Orsolya
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
...more
Sara
Oct 22, 2014 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.
Arun Divakar
In my rudimentary understanding of the British monarchy, I have always imagined the crown to be an unshakable and fixed image of royalty. That statement I made needs to be clarified a little : what I meant here was that I always assumed that once the crown is fixed on the brow of a man or a woman, it stays so until the end of days arrives for the person. But then I was wrong, there are challengers to every crown and nothing stays the same forever, especially not royal status. Beyond the ...more
Brian
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alison Weirs The War of the Roses is a book for someone who already has an interest in the subject matter. The text itself will not create one in you, you must come to it predisposed to lap up the material it contains. And it contains a lot.
The first chapter of the book sets the general historical scene and gives insight into the daily English life and structure of the 1400/1500s. It is a nice way to ease the reader into the immersive world this text contains. The War of the Roses is written in
...more
John Carter McKnight
Dec 08, 2013 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
...more
Robin
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
...more
Bill
Feb 05, 2013 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 ...more
Claire
Jul 16, 2009 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
Shan
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...
Deborah Pickstone
I can't put this on my 'riccardian' list because it is anything but. Weir is one of the worst, most biased purveyors of half-clad 'truths' and unsubstantiated statements I have read. Not one of her books are exempt from this charge. She states she is objectively looking at the facts and then gives her opinions but calls them facts. Perhaps she doesn't know the difference? Just read the final page and see what I mean - it's indicative of the tone of the rest of the book and lacks any attempt ...more
Reborn
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As always, Alison writes nonfiction as though she's writing a great novel. This is a complicated history with a lot of characters, places and events so it was abit difficult to follow at times, but worth the effort.
Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass
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.
Deirdre Metcalf
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
Wonderful true historical account of the War of the Roses. Alison Weir writes in a way that makes you forget you are reading nonfiction. The storytelling was amazing that I kept on turning the pages.
The War started in 1455 and basically was between the house of Lancaster and the house of York. They were essentially cousins as both houses descended from King Edward III. Both were fighting for the crown.
The first half of the book really gives the background and lead up to the War. There were a
...more
John
This is a pretty good introductory narrative history of the wars of the roses.
Aaron
May 25, 2011 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
...more
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
Erin
Apr 11, 2015 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
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which is the best book on wars of roses?? 4 42 Feb 15, 2019 01:26PM  
European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, chapters 13-19 9 79 Oct 09, 2014 04:45PM  
European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, chapters 7-12 8 34 Dec 29, 2012 01:41PM  
European Royalty: War of the Roses, Chapters 1-6 20 83 Dec 21, 2012 04:44AM  
European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, overall 2 26 Nov 19, 2012 02:16PM  
European Royalty: The Wars of the Roses, chapters 20-End 1 11 Nov 16, 2012 03:41PM  

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Alison Weir is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens, and of historical fiction. Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her formal training in history at teacher training
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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.” 9 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.” 4 likes
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