‘A story of adventure, power and influence at the heart of one of the most dangerous times in the history of England.’
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is the wealthiest noble in England. He becomes a warrior knight, bravely protecting the north against invasion by the Scots. A key figure in what have become known as ‘the Wars of the Roses,’ he fought in most of the important battles. As Captain of Calais, he turns privateer, daring to take on the might of the Spanish fleet and becoming Admiral of England. The friend of kings, he is the sworn enemy of Queen Margaret of Anjou. Then, in an amazing change of heart, why does he risk everything to fight for her cause?
Writers from William Shakespeare to best-selling modern authors have tried to show what sort of man Richard Neville must have been, with quite different results. Sometimes Warwick is portrayed as the skilled political manipulator behind the throne, shaping events for his own advantage. Others describe him as the ‘last of the barons’, ruling his fiefdom like an uncrowned king. Whatever the truth, his story is one of adventure, power and influence at the heart of one of the most dangerous times in the history of England.
Warwick: The Man behind the Wars of the Roses By Tony Riches Reviewed May 29, 2021
For a long time, Warwick, often referred to as The Kingmaker, was for me more or less a background figure in many of the books I’ve read, on the order of a major but secondary character. He was important to the main story, but not important enough for me to know much about him other than that he helped Edward IV in his quest for the throne of England, and later turned coat and rebelled against the man he’d once helped. Why did he do this? Because he was supposed to be too arrogant and full of himself was the usual answer. But recently, I’ve started rethinking things, and while this is a fictional version of the man’s life, it has helped me in my reevaluation of the Kingmaker.
The story opens with the long-awaited birth of a son to Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Alice Montagu. They decide to name their first-born son Richard, after his father. It is this Richard who history will later call the Kingmaker. And this is where problems could arise with the story because other family members who play important roles in this story include two more Richards. There’s his uncle, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and his cousin, Richard of Gloucester. (For those of you keeping score, that’s four Richards!) Never fear, though, our author has things well under control and is able to keep us from total confusion with all these Richards hanging around.
Yes, this Warwick is a proud man, but what medieval nobleman wasn’t? From an early age, Richard is taught to be involved in his family’s affairs including their long-standing feud with the Percys. He visits the Percy stronghold in the hopes of brokering a truce. After all, their families are connected by marriage, as so many of the noble families of England were at the time. ‘The king is displeased with the feuding between our families, Sir Henry,’ Richard tells his host, but while both parties agree that they should play nice together, in the end the truce doesn’t last.
It is while still a young man that Warwick finds himself embroiled not just in local politics, but in national politics as well. During this time, Warwick is granted the post of Captain of Calais, a position that will benefit him greatly in the years to come. Tensions are mounting between the ruling House of Lancaster and the House of York (to which Warwick’s family is related) and are to soon erupt into armed conflict.
If you’re reading this review, I’m going to assume you have at least a basic understanding of the events leading to the Wars of the Roses. If you don’t, this book would be a good introduction in an easy to follow manner that is, of course, pro Yorkist. A really, really brief version is that Richard’s uncle, the Duke of York (one of the Richards mentioned above) has a better claim to the throne than its current, ineffectual occupant (Henry VI), but has been increasingly marginalized from being part of the king’s council. When King Henry suffers one of his episodes that might be described as a kind of mental breakdown, it is the Duke of York who is looked to for leadership.
Richard’s father was the first to speak. ‘Who is going to act as Protector?’ ‘Well, certainly not the Duke of Somerset, if there is anything I can do about it!’ Thomas was curious. ‘Who then?’ Richard poured more wine into his goblet and raised it in the air. ‘I would like to propose our uncle. Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York, as Protector of England.’
And so Warwick and his family are front and center in the coming conflicts, sharing in their ups and downs, one of the lowest points being the Battle of Wakefield. Not only does he lose his uncle and cousin (the Duke of York and his son Edmund), but his father and brother.
A few months later, however, Warwick is at Towton, fighting with York’s son Edward. The battle is a complete Yorkist victory, Edward is crowned king of England, and Warwick is at Edward’s side, offering support and assistance. But the wheel of fortune turns again, and when Edward later reveals he’s been secretly married to the widow of a Lancastrian knight, things start to sour.
‘You need to understand, Richard. I don’t have to put up with a dreadful arranged marriage.’ He put his hand on Richard’s shoulder. ‘I love her. I married Elizabeth because I am in love with her. Nothing else matters.’
This is not how a king is supposed to act. A king’s marriage was made for practical reasons – strengthening alliances, furthering influence both at home and abroad – not for love, especially not for the love of a Lancastrian widow of little or no standing.
Just as the Duke of York was increasingly left on the periphery of things during the reign of Henry VI, so too is Warwick with York’s son, Edward. Though he tries to accept the new queen, the king’s continued disregarding of his advice, his refusal to allow his brother George to marry Warwick’s daughter Isabel, and the bestowing of titles and appointments to members of her formerly Lancastrian-supporting family doesn’t sit well with Warwick. Things go from bad to worse, and eventually Warwick feels he has no choice but to rebel against the king he once helped put on the throne.
Warwick: The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses gives us a man who can be self-centered and rash, but who is also the victim of an ungrateful king. The book is filled with adventure and intrigue, with a fair amount of swashbuckling, but there are touching scenes, too, such as when he has his father reburied at Bisham Priory and weeps for the loss of his parents.
“The time had come to honour the memory of his father, who stated in his will that he wished to be buried at Bisham Priory. Close by the Thames near Marlow and once a mystical place of worship for the Knights Templar, the priory had become the mausoleum for the Earls of Salisbury through the ages. A team of masons were commissioned to carve two heavy stone coffins and the bodies of Richard’s father and brother were exhumed from their graves in the grounds of Pontefract Castle and brought to York Minster, where their heads were reverently restored. Richard and John decided this was to be a military funeral, so Richard’s wife Anne and John’s wife Isabel travelled separately to the service.”
Near the end, at the Battle of Barnet where Warwick would lose his life, there’s a poignant moment when he sees the Duke of Gloucester’s banner.
“There in the thick of the fighting was his brother’s banner, still flying. Close by was another, the banner of the white boar. He was saddened to realise that Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who John had taught to fight at Middleham Castle, was now using those skills against his teacher.”
In the end, “Richard sank to his knees, mortally wounded. He pulled off his gauntlets and pressed his hand to the wound. Blood ran through his fingers and he looked to the sky, into the glorious shining sun.”
The characters in the story are all real except for two – his mistress whose name isn’t known but who is known to have existed and was the mother of his daughter Margaret, and his loyal squire, Luke Tully, a composite of all the historical Warwick’s squires, who after Barnet makes his way back to the household of Middleham Castle and ends up wearing the badge of the white boar at Bosworth Field.
Most interesting; this book showed me another side of the fascinating Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, otherwise known as The Kingmaker. I liked Riches' portrayal of him as a man of intelligence and forethought, not just ruthless ambition. Certainly made me see why he was so opposed to Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, too!
I read this hot on the heels of the author's latest book, about Jasper Tudor; it's clear from reading this that it's an earlier book, simply because his writing has improved, as most authors' work tends to; Jasper is something of a masterpiece, whereas this is more of a very entertaining historical adventure. I do enjoy the way Riches writes. He sets the atmosphere of the time so well, and I particularly like reading about the battles. This book gave me a clearer insight into exactly why the Wars of the Roses began and some bits made me smile for personal reasons: Richard and Edward at the ancient fort of Hunsbury Hill in Northampton, for instance; I used to live on Hunsbury, a residential area now built on that site. Also, the mention of King Henry IV being cared for in Delapre Abbey, nearby ~ I was there last year with my father, taking a look at the renovations.
The Wars of the Roses is such a massive subject for any novelist to take on, and Tony Riches has, once again, dealt with it very well. There were some parts of Warwick's history with which I was not familiar, and I didn't find them too confusing! Definitely worth the read, for anyone who wants to know more about this intriguing character.
Finally a book totally about Warwick, known from history as "The Kingmaker". I have a fascination for his figure, and I think books with him as protagonist are much needed. This one is a nice retelling of his story, neatly from birth to death. I won't go in depth in the plot because other reviewers had already done it. What I can say is that is nicely written, much explored when it comes to battles and strategy. What I felt it lacked is his private life. A pity that in a novel entirely focused on him, he doesn't share a line of dialogues with his daughters (who don't have lines at all), or also with his ward Richard of Gloucester, for whom in my opinion he was something of a fatherly figure. The final part was a bit rushed, so much there's actually not lapse between the first and the second rebellion, and no reconciliation between Warwick and George and King Edward. The part about Warwick's mistress I didn't find believable for how it was built. His mistress wouldn't have continued to live in an hut (and hardly she would've been a peasant, I don't know why this Cinderella-and-the-nobleman is so trendy in this kind of fiction, but that's another story); besides someone as Alice Montagu, Countess of Salisbury, wouldn't have needed a peasant to keep her company in her illness, she would have had her own ladies and servants. Overall the book is well researched, there are some mistakes, but nothing big and perfectly excusable. Just a bunch of them I found strange: first the use of white in weddings. All the brides here wear white, but this colour wouldn't be used until XIX century. Second the Duke of Burgundy who comes back to England with Edward after his exile. Third Edward of Lancaster who wasn't executed at Tewksbury, but died in the battle.
This novel was very interesting because the novels that I have read about the war of two roses always put the kingmaker as a supporter character and in this case we can read his history with him as our main character, he was ambitious as most of the nobility but was also smart, strong and determined this book doesn't paint him as a man that is just sick of power but a man who wants the best or what he thinks is the best for his country and family, that takes him to take bad decisions but he never stop fighting and finding his way to be successful, his problems with margaret of Anjou and then Edward IV as many others like percy family are explorer here not just a simple thing but more complex with reasons behind the issues and that's very nice to read in a novel that shows the other side of the story.
The book begins with the birth of Warwick, we know his family environment, but above all the path he has to take as the heir to an important family, which is a privilege but is also a curse, because he inherits rivalries and problems mainly with the Percys, as the years pass and people die Warwick becomes more and more important, inheriting properties and titles mainly thanks to his wife Anne, of course Warwick's importance grows as he becomes involved in his uncle's cause Richard Duke of York, I like how in the book Warwick is an ambitious person but he is also a man who believes in justice and is not afraid to fight for it, so when Queen Margaret of Anjou turns out to be ambitious and evil, he does not hesitate to attack, the same with all his rivals, in many ways the book is favorable to Warwick but recognizes his flaws and also to be fair, Warwick was historically a fighter and a loved man, whose actions unlike his contemporaries were not always driven by money and power, but by honor and respect. That is what led him to rebel against Edward IV, who did nothing but be ungrateful to the one who in many ways put the crown on his head, and I can't be more agree that's why since I started reading more about this I became #teamwarwick . In general it is an entertaining read although quite dry at times and an accelerated ending, Warwick's marriage is not a love match, it is a political union that works well, they likd each other and respect each other, but Warwick falls in love with a commoner and they had a daughter, although eventually he honors his marriage being faithful, and he is not unhappy, yes the fact that Anne can't give him a son is annoying but he loves his daughters, especially Annie who is his favorite, it is true he used them for political purposes but always looking for the best and only the best for them, well Isabel has to spend her life with am alcoholic but that alcoholic is a duke, Annie on the other hand will have a duke and one that she likes and one that is a good man because as I said Warwick loves Annie more.
The only thing why I have 4 stars was because I found silly some points like Megan explanation, she is very independent but instead of talking to warwick for her daughter she goes with warwick's mother and she lives as a village girl despite that wasn't the practice for the mistresses of the great lords, of course the background of that relationship is everything but believable, another thing I felt that warwick was emotionless in some important events for example the book doesn't explain the great hit should have been for him stay in his knee for margaret but in general is a good book .
It was wonderful to read a book about Richard Neville as the main character rather as the supporting one. The story gives great insight to the type of man he was and what motivated him. I also loved Luke Tully - what a delightful surprise. A must read for any Plantagenet fans.
From birth to death at Barnet field in 1471, this novel is the life story of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker.” The author’s focus is on Warwick’s public life, the political intrigues and, particularly, his martial exploits. It is told in a direct and unadorned style. The descriptions of the battles are clear and crisp—sometimes a little too abbreviated as with the Battle of Barnet which takes about a page and a half. It is fast paced, for sure, but often just glosses over events. After returning to England in 1460, for example, Warwick regrets that his uncle the Duke of York had not won over the council or the people when he returned from Ireland. As I understand it Warwick was one of those who was shocked by his uncle’s initial action to claim the crown. Adding this detail might have added some interest.
If you want characterizations with nuance and insight, look elsewhere. The beginning is promising with brief sketches of the personalities of Warwick’s brothers, and the relationship he develops with his young wife. Early on, it is said he turns to his brother John, “aware of the need to restore their relationship.” Huh? Prior to this, I don’t remember anything suggesting that their relationship needed restoring. Then, there is the affair with a woman who gave birth to his illegitimate daughter Margaret. (Interesting fact: Margaret was an ancestor of Fletcher Christian of HMS Bounty fame. ) Warwick rides into a village where the Percy’s had set fire to a barn. He helps put out the fire and then goes to the home of a peasant woman and they jump into bed together. We learn nothing about her and they sure don’t do much talking, but, of course, its LOVE. As for his children he loves his youngest daughter Annie—and blithely believes she will learn to love her husband Edward of Lancaster, but he never talks to any of them. Warwick himself seems to have no introspection. A competent, workmanlike book. Interesting but not captivating.
I truly enjoy reading Tony Riches writing, every single book has held my interest from beginning to end. I am a lover of ancient history and I put his work up with the likes of Sharon Kay Penman and Margaret George and Jean Plaidy. I have read every book he has written with the exception of King Henry and have that cued up next. I can't speak highly enough of his work and it is always a surprise to discover another of his books available. If you are looking for well-written books on the subject of ancient history of the various people who MADE history? Look no further.
ps; I never, ever give away spoilers, that's like telling someone how a movie ends. Not.
Tackling the Wars of the Roses can be a daunting task; I imagine it is even more so for an author. The number of battles and shifting loyalties was staggering. Through an advantageous marriage, Richard Neville became the Earl of Warwick and one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom. During the early struggles Richard managed to stay on top of things until his young protégé, Edward of York turned King of England and took it into his head to marry for love...without telling anyone. Richard got pushed around by the changing factions at court until he was squeezed out of Edward's confidence altogether; by then, things started to turn ugly and he took matters into his own hands.
The author convincingly details Warwick's disillusionment and speculates how he could come to terms with Queen Margaret who is usually depicted as his arch-enemy. I even sympathized with his feelings. However, I felt a bit removed from the story, as though watching from a distance; it was more like reading a book of non-fiction rather than a novel. I rarely felt that I was inside the story and did not get a good grasp of the personalities of the other characters...or even Warwick himself. The time-line had progressed quite a bit before I realized that he had aged several years and was no longer a young man. I had little sense of how long it took to get from one event to the next.
Because I have studied the subject over the years, I was able to keep track of developments and fill in the details from my own knowledge. If this was the first book I had read on the subject, I fear I may have gotten lost along the way. Nonetheless, the book moved along quickly for me without getting bogged down.
In everything I've watched on TV about the War of the Roses I always disliked Warwick, I found him greedy and lusting for power. I wondered if this book would give the same impression.....
This story follows Richard Neville, from a young boy to one of the most powerful men in England. Warwick does what he can at the beginning purely to make his father proud, it later becomes about his family, the country and the way he's been treated by those close to Edward IV who are eager to see Warwick fall from favour. Tony Riches has depicted Warwick as a caring man, who provides for all of those under his care and in his service.
This story made me see Warwick from another perspective and I thoroughly enjoyed that. It is very well written, I love the character of Tully brought in to represent those faithful to Warwick.
As with all of Tony Riches' works he explains which parts are fictional and which are taken from history which I appreciate.
Although we are all aware of the outcome of the Battle of Barnet I found this to be an engaging read, I read it in two days, I just wanted to keep reading and I'm actually a bit sad now it's over.
WARWICK was the fourth book by Riches that I've read. Although I probably shouldn't have read it so close to reading the Tudor trilogy (all the identical names confused me!), I'm glad I did because in was able to see the York side of the cause I'd just spent three books reading of its opposition. Riches carefully danced the line history leaves us to think of when discussing the Kingmaker. Was he a power hungry political glutton, or was he simply incredibly cunning? As far as I can see, I still can't tell!
Another interesting historical story from Tony Riches
The story of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick., the 'Kingmaker' is a fascinating one. A man driven by ambition whose power and wealth was unprecedented. His ascent and position seemed destined to prevail until the rift between him and King Edward culminated in his death at the Battle of Barnet. Tony Riches storytelling is excellent although I found this book less compelling than the previous ones by him that I had read.
This novel stretched over a period of nearly 43 years – from the birth to the death of Richard Neville III (16th Earl of Warwick). He was later dubbed ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ because he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings. The ‘War of the Roses’ was a later reference to the battles during 1455 – 1485. It’s an analogy to the Heraldic badges of the two royal houses – that of the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster.
I have a bit of historic interest, although usually not of this era. What I loved about Mr. Riches book was that he gave it vivid detail and made it so very simple to understand. Instead of a dry history book, it gives life and depth to the people and the time. We start with the birth of Richard. His father, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, was fretting over his wife’s labor. He wasn’t allowed in the birthing room – it was bad luck. He had daughters; he needed a son to carry on his name. Snippet:
“Richard dropped to his knees of the cold stone floor and put his hands together.
‘Please, Lord, let me have a strong, healthy son.’
Almost as an afterthought, he whispered, ‘Dear God, keep his mother safe to care for him.’”
We watch Richard grow and we see him being married (betrothed) at seven years of age to Anne Beauchamp, daughter of Richard de Beauchamp. Marriages were arranged during that time. They felt more like brother and sister growing up. His story is told in chronological order; the beginning of each chapter notes the season and the year so the reader can gauge the historical time period. The pacing was great, although I feel it lagged just a bit toward the end. I rated the novel at 4 out of 5.
As an erstwhile pacifist, I am not a lover of wartime fiction set in any era, and by necessity, any book related to the Earl of Warwick must be centered on The War of the Roses in fifteenth century England. However, in Warwick: The Man Behind The Wars of the Roses Tony Riches manages to create an excellent balance between the battles at the core of the epoch and the humanity of the man himself. While loyalty—or the lack thereof—is a theme masterly woven throughout the book (and through the entirety of Western history), more important to the narrative is the conflict inherent in choosing the course most advantageous to the man and his family.
The most difficult, and most often poorly executed, area of historical fiction is the equilibrium between story and setting. As another historical fiction author, I was inspired not only by the level of detail, the accuracy of the medieval historical context, and the enormous amount of research that must have been required, but also at the humanity of the characters and the use of the wartime setting as context for highly emotional character development. Additionally, the plot itself is a complex blend of the intrigues that exemplified this historical time period, the vagaries that, by nature, exist in a setting where allegiance is constantly tested, and the obligations these place on anyone who would hope to advance his own purpose, as well as the interests of his country.
Warwick was a superlative historical effort, well worth the time and attention of any historical fiction reader.
Hungry for intricate plot development? Then read this!
I always know that I will enjoy a book when the opening paragraphs grab me. It is like watching the first five minutes of a movie; you either buy into the story or get up and leave. Warwick is a detailed piece of historical fiction, in which the content provides an easy yet educational insight into a period in history that I had only briefly read into before. The pacing and flow of the storyline is captivating, and although the story takes a number of twists and turns in relation to the plot, which at times felt a little overwhelming, I was easily realigned as comprehension was achieved through excellent story telling. Tales of knighthood, intrigue, political alliances and war alongside the love and loss experienced in his family and marriage build this into a life like tale set in a complex period of history.
I would highly recommend this book to historical fiction readers who are hungry for intricate plot development delivered in a thoroughly researched historical piece.
This series is great for the historical reader that doesn't mind having the author add conversations, private thoughts, meetings & a bit of poetic license as to the people actually involved in a particular historical meeting. There's a great blend of facts & the author's fiction that creates a believable narration. This book doesn't paint Warwick as a total traitor, nor is he a hero. Warwick was faced with choices & this book shows what he may have been thinking to come up with his decisions. If you've read the Tudor Trilogy, this is the continuation of those books. These books are hard to put down one you start. For a person who enjoys authors like Margaret George, Allison Weir & Michael Stolle, this is an author you'll appreciate. A must read if you enjoy historical fiction.
Very well written, thoroughly researched! This is historical fiction with more of the history and less of the fiction, yet still manages to portray not only politics, battles etc but give the reader excellent characterisations to relate to.
Riches gives you a glimpse into a turbulent period of history and into the life of a controversial figure - Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.
It took me a little while to get involved in this story simply as I found the latter stages of Neville's life more interesting than his early childhood. Although I think those passages are entirely necessary to the work.
If you're a history buff, then you'll probably love this book.
I was given a copy of “Warwick” by the author, Tony Riches, in exchange for an honest review. I really liked this version. I have read several stories about the other players in the Wars of the Roses and this is the first time I have heard his story. Great historical content. A good representation of the politics of the Royal Courts. A Good read. I give it 4 stars and can recommend to European History lovers.
Very dry book. Even the action scenes were somewhat dull. Not much interaction between characters either, and when there was interaction, there were no more than what seemed about 10 word sentences. Just couldn't get into this book.