The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. And what a bloody lot they were!
This very readable history book is by Dan Jones and he promises he has a sequel in the works. I can hardly wait. Don’t know why those exalted beings fascinate us so when in reality they had stinky feet like everybody else. Still, I’m fascinated. What impressed me most was seeing this notion of the Great Men Shape History theory in conjunction with Circumstances Around the Great Men Shape History.
Again and again through the centuries, Jones describes a couple of great kings, father and son, followed by a real stinker of a grandson who botches everything and loses hard-won territory and offends every social institution trying to blossom into being. Those examples make you think the country’s health depended solely on the monarch who either tried to improve the lot of England or tried to run the country into the ground. (King John was just as bad as the old Robin Hood stories painted him. In recognition of which, not a single monarch since has been named John.)
But then there were other factors, like the Black Death. Ruinous weather that destroyed crops and caused famine. Invading armies. Evil barons rubbing their hands together and cackling as they plotted nefarious schemes. Makes you think of Franklin Roosevelt trying to govern while in the midst of the Great Depression, or Obama struggling with a hostile House. Only so much an individual can do sometimes. Like nature vs. nurture, both the Great Man theory and Circumstances theory are true.
Jones begins with Henry II, the first Plantagenet (born 1154; his father was the Duke of Anjou and that family’s sign was broom, a plant that’s spelled planta genista in Latin) and ends his account when Henry IV takes the throne. The Fourth is counted as a Lancaster, but if you’re just looking at DNA, The Fourth is as much a Plantagenet as the others but was not descended from an eldest son. In fact, British monarchs have had some Plantagenet blood in them all the way down through a thousand years. (Not counting Oliver Cromwell as a monarch.) Even Elizabeth I has a few drops of Plantagenet in her bloodstream. And so does her new great grandson.
This is a really good read. Hope you enjoy it too.