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*** The Wars of the Roses ***
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown," is a quote from Shakespeare's play Henry IV Part II, which is where the idea for this book's title comes from.
It is also especially appropriate to King Henry VII, who this story is about, who took the crown by force by winning the battle of Bosworth Field.
At the front of the book are the family trees of the Houses of York and Lancaster, whose emblems were different coloured roses. The author, through the storyline, then tries to give the reader a succinct overview of the politics of the wars of Roses. Despite this, I believe that readers, who previously knew nothing of this period, could still be confused by the complicated, inter-mingled family histories. However, as long as a reader appreciates that there were stronger claimants to the throne than Henry VII, that is enough to appreciate the story. His connection with royalty was having the same mother as Henry VI, but as Henry VI inherited the crown from his father, this is not a strong claim.
Even without fully understanding these complicated family histories, they still clearly demonstrate the importance of having a strong healthy, wisely educated, male heir to the throne, who has reached maturity, before the king dies. This also helps readers appreciate the later seemingly obsessive concern of Henry VII, and Henry VIII, for more than one male heir to ensure the continuity of the Tudor reign.
*** The First Tudor Sovereign ***
The bulk of the book is about the reign of Henry VII, who is constantly worried about threats to his crown from those who say they have a better claim to it. Some of the claimants he makes laughing stocks of, but others have to be taken very seriously.
All of the plot overview I give appears near the beginning of the book, so there is still plenty for a reader new to the Henry VII story to learn.
Lancastrian Henry married Yorkist Elizabeth soon after he came to the throne, hoping that this would unite the two warring families. As heirs are so very important, we learn about all of Henry VII's children, who are seen either as physically weak or strong from soon after their birth. Henry VII is also extremely concerned that all his children marry with the good of the country in mind. Considering that getting healthy children is so important to the plot, there is very little talk of sexual activity. But then the whole of the book is written in an old-fashioned style. Despite the style, "I doubt not" that most readers will still find it easy to understand.
Despite her royal family background, I think his wife is only the second most important lady in Henry VII's life. If you don't already know, I will leave it to you to find out the identity of this most influential women, 14 years his senior, who out-lives him.
*** Author ***
Under the name of Jean Plaidy, the author wrote over 100 historical fiction books before she died in 1993, and also found time to write with different styles under various pseudonyms.
The nine Jean Plaidy books that I have so far read have all been in a similar style. Although I think her style is good, what I feel is unnecessary repetition, does make me deduct one star from the ratings. In this book the most repeated observations are those referring to the wish that the second born son had been the first born, and I was relieved when, two-thirds of the way through the book, these references stopped.
Uneasy Lies the Head is the first of twelve novels about the Tudor period re-printed in 2006 by Arrow in paperback. As with the author's other historical fiction books, the plot closely follows historical fact. Because of this, if you know Tudor history well the plot may bore you, but if you only know about the most famous Tudor, Henry VIII, you may not realise how interesting the story of his father can be, in the hands of a good author.
This is the full list.
Uneasy Lies the Head (about Henry VII)
Katherine the Virgin Widow (about Katherine of Aragon part 1)
The Shadow of the Pomegranate (about Katherine of Aragon part 2)
The King's Secret Matter (about Henry VIII's first divorce)
Murder Most Royal (about Anne Boleyn)
St Thomas's Eve (Sir Thomas More)
The Sixth Wife (about Katherine Parr)
The Thistle and the Rose (about Henry VIII's oldest sister)
Mary Queen of France (about Henry VIII's youngest sister)
Lord Robert (about Lord Robert Dudley in Elizabeth I's time)
Royal Road to Fotheringay (about Mary Queen of Scots life part 1)
The Captive Queen of Scots (about Mary Queen of Scots life part 2)
There are significant differences between Jean Plaidy's storylines, including those in Uneasy Lies the Head) to those featured in the most recent BBC series about The Tudor's. The differences that struck me most were the ones surrounding Henry VIII's sisters. It is Jean Plaidy's version of the lives of the sisters that is consistent with the views of most historians.
Watch the BBC's version of The Tudors for entertainment, not historical accuracy.
The most obvious "fiction" in Jean Plaidy's novels is that she uses direct quotes from the characters, where their actual words aren't known. Even if they were known, the English used at that time was sufficiently different from our contemporary language to make it difficult to understand now. So I assume that most readers would prefer Plaidy's interpretations to original quotes.
Give Jean Plaidy's Tudor novels a try, starting with Uneasy Lies the Head, as it is the first, if you like historical fiction based on fact, and don't mind a slightly old-fashioned, but easy to understand, writing style.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New Ed edition (2 Feb 2006)
In the aftermath of the bloody Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor has seized the English crown, finally uniting the warring Houses of York and Lancaster through his marriage to Elizabeth of York. But whilst Henry VII rules wisely and justly, he is haunted by Elizabeth's missing brothers; the infamous two Princes, their fate in the Tower forever a shrouded secret. Then tragedy strikes at the heart of Henry's family, and it is against his own son that the widowed king must fight for a bride and his throne...