Book Review: Thomas Penn ~ The Brothers York: An English Tragedy (2019)

Thomas Penn’s day has come! Who’d have thought an academic work on the York brothers would be of the moment? Well he has Hilary Mantel to thank. She’s turbo-charged medieval history into a central position with her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Will Penn win the same glittering prize for his work on the York dynasty? No. However he’s in with a chance of a much wider readership than he might have had a few years ago.

Penn’s book focuses entirely on the three York brothers. Edward IV was the eldest and a 15th century version of Henry VIII. He looted, raped, murdered and was a consummate thief (he stole money collected for a crusade!). He had his brother, the duke of Clarence, murdered in a rigged court for treason using him as a visual aid for anyone else feeling unenthusiastic about him. Edward had two sons and therefore his youngest brother, Richard, was doomed to be thwarted in his ‘destiny’ to be king.

Needless to relate Richard didn’t take kindly to being thwarted. On Edwards’s death Richard consigned the two princes to the Tower of London – for their safety(?). They never emerged. Richard became king and a civil war erupted shortly afterwards. The battle of Bosworth Field is remarkable for Henry Tudor being successful but also for a breathtaking act of treachery. In full view, on the battlefield, Lord Stanley changed sides.

If you like the Soprano’s, Hilary Mantel and non-stop action this book is for you. It’s also lavishly illustrated and doesn’t have any staged conversations, which are designed for the TV series/film.

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