Review: The War of the Roses by Alison Weir

Lancaster and York. For much of the fifteenth century, these two families were locked in battle for control of the British 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 longest and most complex in British history, profoundly altered the course of the monarchy.
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 lot of work to not have it read as a text book. It was by no means a fast read, as it's all fact and no dialogue, but boring it was not. Nor was it one of those books that feels like a chore to read.

Weir starts the novel with the early origins of events that would eventually lead to the thirty-year battle for the throne of England, which dates back to King Edward III. The War of the Roses ends after the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Battle of Tewkesbury, fought on what is now known as Bloody Meadow would be the last meeting between York and Lancaster. The future of Lancaster, Prince Edward, was slain, his father King Henry VI had long been in prison (and shortly after this battle, the grave) and Queen Margaret was in hiding, then imprisoned in the Tower of London and finally ransomed by the King of France. For a woman that spent her a majority of her life surrounded by court and it's many minion and was quite comfortable in the role as a ruler, she lived her last days dependent on the meager funds she received from the King of France and died alone.. TWOTR is a sad note in England's history; sons fought fathers, brothers fought brothers, there was rampant betrayal and lies, lawlessness and violence ruled and havoc was wreaked upon towns, such as Towton.

I would recommend this to any history nut! Weir has a great writing style and it was very readable non-fiction. I admit I don't really care for her fiction novels; I thought Innocent Traitor was so-so and I couldn't finish The Lady Elizabeth, but now that I've read this one I'm excited to read the rest of her collection!

What I found most interesting (just shows it was more scheming and waiting to see what the other side will do next than actual fighting):
"There were, at most, thirteen weeks of fighting in the thirty-two years covered by both of the War of the Roses, while the total time spent campaigning amounted to approximately one year. Some of the battles were short, and non lasted longer than a day."

Key Players in The War of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI, Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville and Richard "The Kingmaker" Neville, the Earl of Warwick

An illustration of The Battle of Barnet where Warwick was slain.
Edward IV is the on the left wearing the crown.

The last fight in the War of the Roses: Battle of Tewkesbury at "Bloody Meadow"

Alison Weir's website. Other books by Alison Weir.


  1. Great review Amy! I love history books, but sometimes, I admit they can get a bit dry and unless you're researching something in detail, it can be tedious reading and sometimes boring. But if you say that this is a pleasant non-fiction read that kept you totally interested- I think I'd like to read this one. Thanks!

  2. Amy, thanks for the review. I have possessed this book for some time but have not gotten to the point of reading I will put it to the head of the list. I like Alison Weir's history works in general, she makes complex periods make sense.

  3. This one sound great! I love historical fiction.

  4. Amy, you hit it ont he head with this one. I rad this last year, at the same as a co-worker was breezing through Gregory's novels & I was still laboring with this one. She asked me why I was bothering because it DID look like a chore.. LOL But in my mind it was all worth it & I do plan on reading it again! I read Weir's The Princes in the Tower after this, and Baldwin's Elizabeth Woodville around that time too. Which I do recommend both of those, have you read those yet?

  5. I love Alison Weir!! But I agree that her nonfiction is better than her fiction. But, unlike you, I finished the Elizabeth novel.

  6. I have been waiting for you to review this book. It sounds like I am going to like it when I get around to reading it!

  7. I really want to read this one. I need a book to iron out the convolutedness that is the Wars of the Roses in my mind!


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