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Any Kings or Queens who have ruled before Henry VIII I'll admit I am a little bit shakey on. I tend to find that even the smallest amount of knowledge can help understand the basics of a Jean Plaidy novel but in this case I was a complete void. Shameful really when it is largely to do with the war of the roses. Lancaster against York. A subject which I can distinctively remember being taught. Nevertheless being an avid reader of Jean Plaidy I brushed aside any concerns.
Henry VI has been a King since he was 9 months old. Despite the fact that he's now well into his twenties it's obvious he'd rather be living a somewhat quieter life. With an ongoing battle with the French he is expected to be able to control his subjects yet he is weak when it comes to fighting. He would rather pray for peace than do anything about it. Much to the disdain of others. Richard, Duke of York, is certain that he could do better. Especially when he is convinced that crown is rightfully his anyway. With the aid of the Earl of Warwick they set about trying to dis-plant the King. Not an easy task when he is well loved amongst the public.
Things start to come to a head when the King marries a French woman. Hoping that this could be the start of peace with the enemies of England. A truce is what it really is, the real enemies being shown with his subjects. Each battling and willing to kill for what they feel should be theirs.
Although the story is largely set in England it begins with the introduction of Margaret. (Henrys future wife) Her Father is reckless when it comes to money but her Mother is a strong willed woman as is her Grandmother. Someone who she will spend many years living with. Through these settings you begin to notice what certain traits Margaret might inherit from these ladies in high standing. Clever and somewhat scheming they both know what should be done in times of trouble. Although unfortunately for Margaret she also has a good deal of hotheadedness inside of her. Something which will later on be disastrous when her ambitions take over rational thought.
At first I felt that she was quite an appealing character. A slight sympathy towards her when the English public hate her just because she is French. Through no fault of her own. This eventually changes though. She comes across as a ruthless woman. With a lust for battle she pays little heed towards what her husband may wish. On occasion blatantly ignoring what he commands despite him doing it for the good of his country. It's as if she cares little for any aside from her son and her native land. Even when Henry lapses into madness, whilst she is at his side caring for him there is still that aspect of wanting to be in full control. Plaidy is very keen however to keep reminding us that she does to a certain degree have fond feelings for the King.
Henry VI is a pitiful man. I did like the way he is portrayed though. Wanting all the wars and fighting to end. Seemingly more suited to living in a monastery than a castle. Wearing a hair shirt rather than a crown. Sometimes you get the impression that he might well of been better off if he hadn't of married Margaret.
I think that you are supposed to dislike the Duke of York straight away however I failed in this matter. He wants to be King, there's no doubt about it but he's also claimed to wait until Henry is dead. Not that this will ever be accepted by Margaret. It turns out that he is harmless compared to all the other traitors who surround the King and Queen. No amount of running makes any difference when you have mankind willing to destroy you for that extra bit of power.
There are a lot of killings in this book, the majority of them being decent people. Because of this they all need to be mentioned before they die. Earls, Dukes, Lords, nephews, sons. Otherwise there would be no connection or understanding as to why they are there in the first place. And for what purpose.
Personally I feel that this is one of Plaidys better books which does surprise me slightly as it's not this period of history which really interests me. It's a fast paced book so if you do need to hold a deal of concentration. Once you get started it's not easy to put down but in places it can drag a little. As it is the war of the roses being written about you can expect there to be lots of talk of battle which is fair enough. However there is a lot of talk before the battle about the battle. Then afterwards a lot more talk about that battle, before talking about the next battle. It gets tedious after a bit!
If you like your historical novels then once again this could be something you might like to read. Jean Plaidy has always been very good at bringing the past to life. Making history more interesting than what I remember it to be at school. You can still get it in bookshops for £8.99 however on Amazon it's available for £6.98. However like myself you might be able to find it in a library. Overall this was one I really enjoyed, I know little of this era to comment how much it might be bulked up with fictional events all I'm aware of is that if you like Jean Plaidy then it is a book to be read.