Dunstan – Conn Iggulden

Dunstan - Conn Iggulden
Dunstan – Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden’s fictional biography of Dunstan, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, Abbot, Bishop and Archbishop, and – later – Saint,  who lived through the lifetimes of seven English Kings descended from Alfred the Great: Alfred’s grandsons, King Athelstan, Edmund I and Eadred, his great-grandsons Edwy and Edgar, and great-great-grandsons Edward (the Martyr) and Æthelred the Unready.

It’s an era of great change – the emergence of England, Monastic reform and the building of great Abbeys, including two by Dunstan – Glastonbury and Canterbury.

I’m now planning to track down Tom Holland’s Athelstan in the Penguin Monarchs series to read more.

Publisher page: Dunstan – Conn Iggulden

Ravenspur – Conn Iggulden

Ravenspur - Conn Iggulden
Ravenspur – Conn Iggulden

The fourth and final instalment of Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses quartet focuses on the demise of the Plantagenet dynasty and the somewhat surprising success of the Tudors.

With the early death of Edward IV, we move into relatively familiar territory for me – Richard III, the Princes in the Tower, and Henry Tudor (Henry VII to be).

As I was reading at times it felt like Conn Iggulden was running out of steam, or enthusiasm, but having read the Epilogue I wonder if it’s more the unfathomable shift in Richard of York’s behaviour – from supportive younger brother and trusted second in command to Edward IV, to usurper and murderer of his two young nephews – whether by his hand or by another’s, his power-grab to take the throne, and as King rather than as Protector, sealed their fate.

Fascinating too to approach the rise of the Tudors from the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses: vast lands in France lost then thirty years of civil war, battles between ancient houses, leading families wiped out and Kings captured and killed. There had been nothing like it in living memory.

And Henry Tudor’s claim? In most other eras, it would have been too feeble to stand a chance: through his mother, Margaret Beaufort (remarried to Lord Thomas Stanley, which at last explains to me why he, by then Lord High Constable of England, didn’t act in Richard’s interests at the Battle of Bosworth), only child of John, 1st Duke of Somerset, the elder son of John, 1st Earl of Somerset, the younger brother of Henry IV and second son of John of Gaunt,  the third son of Edward III. But after those thirty years of death and destruction, a remote possibility proved to be a panacea for all that had gone before.

Publisher page: Ravenspur – Conn Iggulden

Series: Wars of the Roses, book 4.

Bloodline – Conn Iggulden

Bloodline - Conn Iggulden
Bloodline – Conn Iggulden

The second battle of St Albans, the winter, snowbound mega battle of Towton and the recapture of King Henry VI by Edward IV, the victory of the House of York with the support of their Neville allies led by Warwick the Kingmaker – and the surprising rise of the Woodvilles.

Publisher page: Bloodline – Conn Iggulden

Series: Wars of the Roses, book 3.

Trinity – Conn Iggulden

Trinity - Conn Iggulden
Trinity – Conn Iggulden

August 1453 and the Wars of the Roses slide into violence as the two great families of the far north – the Percys and Nevilles – clash at a Neville wedding.

A mistake by the Percys.

Two years later, the House of York gains control the fate of the House of Lancaster after Richard of York wins the first Battle of St Albans, and becomes Protector of the sleep-walking Henry VI.

Fighting alongside Richard of York were his brother in law, Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, head of the Neville family, and Salisbury’s son, the young Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, whose manoeuvres through the back streets of St Albans were key to the Yorkist’s success in the battle.

These three Yorkist Richards made for a powerful trinity…. but fate is fickle, as Richard of York and his allies discover at Sandal Castle – aka the Battle of Wakefield.

Publisher page: Trinity – Conn Iggulden

Series: Wars of the Roses, book 2.

Stormbird – Conn Iggulden

Stormbird - Conn Iggulden
Stormbird – Conn Iggulden

The Wars of the Roses kick off with the diplomatic marriage of Margaret of Anjou to Henry VI resulting in the abandonment of the English Crown’s possessions in Anjou and Maine, and the English men and women who’d built their lives there including Thomas Woodchurch an archer who’s fought at Agincourt.

Add in Jack Cade’s rebellion and machinations by the Dukes and Earls descended from Edward III, and it’s a rollicking good read.

Publisher page: Stormbird – Conn Iggulden