Britain's Bloody Crown takes a look at a turbulent time in English history that came to be known as The Wars of the Roses. This four-part series from Acorn Media is a mix of narration by historian Dan Jones and re-creations of events and battles from that unstable time in history, with several interesting historical documents thrown in for good measure.
The root of the trouble can be summed up with the title of Episode One: The Mad King. Henry V had been a strong and vibrant ruler, who defeated and ruled most of France. His son, Henry VI, was decidedly less regal and had no interest in messy things like battles. That was fine while the Duke of Suffolk was alive to keep things in check, but after his death in 1450, the country was on the verge of collapse. When a band of rioters breech the walls surrounding London, Henry flees the city. His no-nonsense wife, Margaret of Anjou, takes control of the situation, along with Lord Somerset, who lost a lot of territory in France and came home to England. The king's cousin, Richard, Duke of York, decides he is the man to run the country and comes to London with a small army to demand the king make him Protector of England. There is something of a power struggle between the two factions of Queen Margaret and the Duke of York. This continues off and on for many years -- the nobles don't want to be governed by a French woman, but the Duke of York tries to raise money by forcing the rich to give up some of their land, which doesn't endear him to Parliament, either. Eventually the Duke of York is killed after chasing Margaret to Scotland and attempting to capture her. While it would appear the Queen's side won, the divisions had already been sown that would result in more bloodshed over the next quarter century.
One of the most tragic events in English history is played out in Episode Three, The Princes Must Die. After King Edward IV was returned to the throne, England enjoyed a period of stability. Unfortunately, this didn't last. When he died in 1483, there was yet another power struggle. While his son, 12-year-old Edward V was the heir to the throne, the late king had apparently asked in his will that the boy's uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, be named as protector of the country until young Edward came of age. The queen, and her Woodville clan, want the young king to be crowned immediately. While a coronation date for the young king is set, in the meantime Richard sets about grabbing power himself. He has young Edward and his brother imprisoned in the Tower of London, attempts to have them declared illegitimate, accuses loyal allies of treason and executes them, sets about killing the most troublesome and powerful Woodvilles, etc. The young princes disappear and Richard can now have himself crowned king, but there are forces at work to challenge his claim.
I enjoyed seeing the people and events of this historical period come alive, and it was very interesting to hear the somewhat irreverent comments of Dan Jones as he explained the motivations that drove the various people to commit seemingly unthinkable actions "for the good of the country." Jones argues that most of the people were motivated by the desire to protect England and to ensure that peace and stability were restored to the land, but the violence that occurred seemed to always get out of hand. I was a bit surprised by some of the events (no doubt my lack of historical knowledge contributed to this!). For instance, whenever someone wanted to challenge the sitting king or ruler, they would just throw together an army of 5,000 or 10,000 men and march toward battle. I had to
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Britain's Bloody Crown from Acorn Media in exchange for this review
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