The Castle in the Wars of the Roses

My latest book, The Castle in the Wars of the Roses, was published last month by Pen & Sword. I am hugely excited to be able share the fruits of my labour with other people. It is has taken years of research and writing to get here, but it is great to see the finished product.

In this blog post I am going to explain what motivated me to do write it and briefly summarise the contents of the book.

There is no shortage of books on the Wars of the Roses (just go into any bookshop and typically there will be a whole shelf/section on the subject). It is without a doubt one of, if not the most, popular topic of medieval history in the UK. So why did I decide to write a book on the subject?

Well, despite this abundance, there is a distinct shortage of any research on castles in relation to the Wars of the Roses. Therefore, when I was approached by the publisher to write a book on this subject, I leapt at the chance.

Years earlier, whilst carrying out research for my first book, The Castle at War in Medieval England and Wales, I realised that there was a gap in the historiography on castles and warfare for the second half of the fifteenth century. Due to time constraints I was unable to explore this topic in as much detail as I would have liked at the time, so was glad to have the opportunity to investigate this further in my third book.  

Thankfully, I found some fascinating material in various archives including The National Archives, the British Library, and the National Library of Wales, which had been overlooked by previous researchers. My speciality is in studying financial documents and by poring over a large number of these accounts (many of which had nothing of any interest) I uncovered some intriguing details, including previously unknown sieges and other activities associated with castles. By combining this evidence with other much better-known types of sources, such as chronicles, I had enough material to write the book.

It is primarily a military history of the role of the castle in the various campaigns of the Wars of the Roses. However, it also explores other aspects including castle ownership, construction, and architecture.

The book has a narrative structure, with seven chapters, and three appendices:

Chapter 1 – provides an overview of castles in England and Wales up until 1450

Chapter 2 – discusses the build up to the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 and its aftermath

Chapter 3 – explores the civil war of 1459-61, finishing with the victory of Edward IV at Towton

Chapter 4 – examines Lancastrian rebellions from 1461-8 against Yorkist rule, especially in the north of England and Wales, ending with the capture of Harlech Castle

Chapter 5 – traces the turbulent years of 1469-71, when Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne before Edward regained power

Chapter 6 – looks at Edward’s ‘second reign’ from 1472 to 1482, which includes the Anglo-Scottish war of 1480-2

Chapter 7 – concludes the story by examining the rise to power of Henry VII up until the Battle of Stoke in 1487

Appendix A – consists of brief biographies of the key figures mentioned in the book (there are rather a lot of them so hopefully this helps to distinguish between different people!)

Appendix B – details all recorded and possible sieges between 1455 and 1487

Appendix C – lists all recorded garrisons in the same period

The book is also illustrated with some fantastic maps, plans and photographs. I am really grateful to all the great people who helped me with it. If you want to find out more then check out this link to the page on the publisher’s website.

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