A few months ago I reviewed the book Queens Consort, about the various wives of England's kings from Matilda of Flanders through to Elizabeth of York. One thing this book highlighted, for me, is that I also know very little about the Kings themselves. My history is mostly the ancient world, and what I learned at school was distinctly more modern, covering both world wars and the Russian revolution.
While I was wandering around Waterstones at the beginning of the month I spotted a book called The Plantagenets by a man named Dan Jones. As the title suggests, it covers the Plantagenet line of Kings in England, starting with Henry I and finishing with the usurped Richard II.
This book is big, it has to be since it's covering quite a lot of history. But it's also a good read. It is split into seven parts, each one then divided into much smaller chapters. It's easy to cover a couple of chapters on your lunch break, so you feel that you're actually getting somewhere and have easy stop-off points when you need a break. It's written in a way that makes it quite easy to read, key players are mentioned without you getting confused between multiple Lord Williams and Lord Edwards.
Probably my biggest gripe with it is that sometimes the focus is a little too narrow. For some Kings their problems were exacerbated by the relationship between their Queens and the public, but this is barely touched on. Except to mention the popularity of weddings as festive occasions, and the births of heirs and subsequent children, consorts and families are rarely mentioned. Obviously this isn't a huge problem, this book is about the Kings not their wives, but I can't help but feel that it would have helped give a bit more context to the problems each ruler faced.
The second biggest annoyance with this book is that my copy has completely fallen apart! All I did was read it at home and transport it to work in a backpack, but the first page through to page 357 have completely come away from the spine and the rest of the book. I'm rather disappointed by the quality, I have vintage books over a hundred years old that survived better than this, but hopefully I simply got a dud copy and all the others will be fine.
Frankly I think Dan Jones needs to do a Part 2, he finished with Richard II, but the line continued in a more muted form with Richard's cousin who became Henry IV, and the Wars of the Roses that eventually followed. Despite my problems reading a broken book, it really was a very good read and something I'd highly recommend to someone who wants to learn more about the Royal family in the medieval period but doesn't want to get something that will make them feel bogged down in details.
Have a nice evening!