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Carpe Librum

Reviews and bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.

If I am lost, you will find me in medieval England.

You can also find me - and my books - on my blog.

Historical Novel Society

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Review: Last White Rose by Desmond Seward

The Last White Rose: Dynasty, Rebellion And Treason   The Secret Wars Against The Tudors - Desmond Seward

Putting to rest the idea that Yorkist resistance ended at Stoke Field, Seward reveals the decades of animosity between the Tudors and the Plantagenet remnant. Both Henry VII and VIII lived in almost constant suspicion of those with any trace of royal blood, leading to the "legal murders" of dozens of members of England's nobility. Last White Rose is a comprehensive analysis of the final death throes of the Plantagenet dynasty.

I enjoyed this chronological study of the plots, real and imagined, to put a White Rose back on England's throne. The beginning of this book covers the fairly well known story of Perkin Warbeck and the efforts of Margaret of Burgundy to displace the usurper Henry Tudor, despite the fact that he was married to her niece, Elizabeth of York. While these events are covered with great skill, it was the lesser known efforts against the Tudors that I got completely caught up in.

It is difficult to read about Richard de la Pole and not wonder how England would have benefited had he become king rather than the volatile Henry VIII. Portrayed as the ideal medieval man, Richard IV seems a title that would come naturally to him. If not Richard, then Reginald Pole as consort to Princess Mary seems an ideal Yorkist solution. Unfortunately, neither of these possibilities comes to pass, and the reasons they fail are explained in captivating detail.

Other reviewers seem to have expressed two main concerns: assumption of knowledge and anti-Tudor narrative. I will agree with the first of these, though I did not see it as a negative. The fact that this book delved into some lesser known historic detail was exactly what I loved about it. As for the second, I will agree that Henry VIII is described as a tyrant who arranged the execution of any who spoke against him, but facts are certainly presented to support this characterization. Having little interest in romanticized pictures of the past, I had no issue with this.

I found this book to be a valuable resource for research and a captivating read, if one that does require some previous knowledge of the Plantagenet family to fully appreciate.