I’m on a mission. I’m attempting to learn about all the English kings and queens from the Battle of Hastings to Elizabeth II. Why? No idea. It’s just something I’ve become interested in. Probably because of all the shows they’ve been creating about different historical figures. There’s The Crown, The Tudors, Victoria, The White Princess, The Spanish Princess, and my personal favorite, The Hollow Crown.
PBS’s The Hollow Crown is approximately fourteen hours of Shakespeare history plays spanning the Middle Ages from the deposition of Richard II to the death of Richard III at Bosworth Field. (A lot of Henrys in between, by the way.) I guess that’s what got me interested in knowing what the story was, all the kings and the players in between.
That led me to Dan Jones last year. I started with The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. It’s a great overview of the Middle Ages up to the Wars of the Roses. Dan Jones is fantastic at making history palatable for the lay reader. So many non-fiction books are dry, but he definitely has a gift. This volume gives insight into the time and condition in England and explains some of the things I had only glanced over before like the Crusades and the legend of Richard the Lionheart and the stories of Robin Hood. (He wasn’t real, sad to say.) And the stories of the people involved were fascinating. If you can keep them all straight. Between the Richards and the Henrys and the Catherines and the Marys I wasn’t always sure who was plotting against who, but it was a great read. It definitely got the lineage of the monarchy straighter in my head than it’s ever been. The sequel, The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors, was just as good.
I understand not everyone wants to read 1000 pages of Medieval history, but I did. And I thought I would share because there might be some other person out there who wants to make the British monarchy their new obsession. Now all I need is for Dan Jones to get out of the Middle Ages and write a history of the Stewart dynasty and the Georges who ruled in the 18th and 19th centuries because that’s where my gap is right now.
Anyway, whatever literary pursuit you take on next, happy reading, y’all!