Edward IV landed at Ravenspur in North Yorkshire, when he returned from France to reclaim his throne from the Earl of Warwick’s puppet, Edward VI. If you think ‘Game Of Thrones, is over the top, you should sample some English history. In the War Of The Roses, the crown changed hands several times between the Lancastrians and Yorkists until it finally settled into the grasping paws of he who became Henry VII, father to the Tudor dynasty.
Conn Iggulden’s book, ‘Ravenspur: Rise Of The Tudors’, is the final in a quartet about these wars and mostly covers the life of Richard of Gloucester who became Protector and then King and was the last king to die in battle. It also tells the story of Jasper Tudor and his ward, Henry, and how he grows up to be king.
The bloody and bitter civil war saw regicide, child murder and accusations of sorcery. There are no dragons in this story but pretty much every other vice that could be thought of. Men lived much shorter lives and always in fear of judgement. Given that life was so fragile is amazing that so much was achieved and often by men who took chances and even tried to do what they thought was right.
As ‘Ravenspur’ opens, all is about to change for the Yorkist king. Edward IV has been on the throne with Henry VI deposed and in prison. The Earl of Warwick is about to make a pact with Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, even though there is no love lost between them. Soon, Edward and the young Richard are on the run for their lives. Waiting for the tide to turn again.
While there is life there is hope. In France, Edward is able to make alliances. Richard, financially dependent on Edward, helps him recover his physical fitness and makes him able to fight again. He feels that Edward is actually better away from the influence of the Queen and her Woodville family. Richard deals with the pain of his twisted back every day, his scourge. All this experience makes him the man who will seize the throne from a child whilst declaring Edward’s children to be bastards.
‘Ravenspur’ is a successful dramatisation of a significant period of English history that affected the world and the future in many ways. None of the events covered had to happen. Decisions made, alliances forged and broken made the world into what it was. Henry Tudor took the throne by force of arms and married a woman who had a better claim to it than he did. It made succession and the production of heirs an enduring problem which lead almost directly to the Reformation of the Church in England and to a more secular society. This novel covers some ground-the whole of the reign of Edward and Richard but that was only fourteen years in a century long ago. It is not history but it has endeavoured to be as accurate as possible allowing some leeway for better drama.
I found ‘Ravenspur’ intriguing and thrilling, filling out the character of Richard III more accurately than the Tudor propaganda of Shakespeare’s play. The most shocking aspect of it was the youth of these people who held the kingdom in their hands. Edward IV died at only 40, Richard was 32 and when Henry Tudor arrived to take the throne he was 28.
Certainly, I would like to read the other novels in the series and it made me go and read a biography of Richard III which set a few things straight also. If you like your history in the raw with some cracking battle scenes and human interest take a look at this series.
(pub: Michael Joseph/Penguin/Random House. 496 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0718181420
check out websites: www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/publishers/michael-joseph/ and www.conniggulden.com/