These six titles span all kinds of royalty, from the mythological founder of Britain, to the rulers of the Roman Empire, to the Tudors, and more.
The Kings and Queens of Scotland
The kingdom of Scots was the last of the non-Anglo-Saxon states of Britain to survive as a political entity. Alone of the ‘Celtic’ nations, it was not absorbed into England by conquest. James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England in 1603, and when union with England finally came in 1707 during the reign of Queen Anne, it was technically on equal terms. This success owed much to the abilities and tenacity of a succession of rulers.
The story of the rulers of Scotland’s constituent states and then of the united kingdom of Scots from Kenneth MacAlpin onwards is complex and often violent. It is full of rapid reversals of fortune, brilliant and incompetent leadership, family strife, and triumph and tragedy closely intertwined. The obscure earlier history is often as fascinating as the better-known stories of the Bruce and Queen Mary, though less familiar. This saga of a thousand years is a tribute to the qualities of Scotland’s rulers.
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Brutus of Troy
Just who did the British think they were? For much of the last 1,500 years, when the British looked back to their origins they saw the looming mythological figure of Brutus of Troy. A great-great-grandson of the love goddess Aphrodite through her Trojan son Aeneas (the hero of Virgil’s Aeneid), Brutus accidentally killed his father and was exiled to Greece. He liberated the descendants of the Trojans who lived there in slavery and led them on an epic voyage to Britain. Landing at Totnes in Devon, Brutus overthrew the giants who lived in Britain, laid the foundations of Oxford University and London and sired a long line of kings, including King Arthur and the ancestors of the present Royal Family.Invented to give Britain a place in the overarching mythologies of the Classical world and the Bible, Brutus’s story long underpinned the British identity and played a crucial role in royal propaganda and foreign policy. His story inspired generations of poets and playwrights, including Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Dickens and Blake, whose hymn ‘Jerusalem’ was a direct response to the story of Brutus founding London as the New Troy in the west. Leading genealogist Anthony Adolph traces Brutus’s story from Roman times onwards, charting his immense popularity and subsequent fall from grace, along with his lasting legacy in fiction, pseudo-history and the arcane mythology surrounding some of London’s best-known landmarks, in this groundbreaking biography of the mythological founder of Britain.
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The Patricians and Emperors
Patricians and Emperors offers concise comparative biographies of the individuals who wielded power in the final decades of the Western Roman Empire, from the assassination of Aetius in 454 to the death of Julius Nepos in 480.
The book is divided into four parts. The first sets the background to the period, including brief histories of Stilicho (395-408) and Aetius (425-454), explaining the nature of the empire and the reasons for its decline. The second details the lives of Ricimer (455-472) and his great rival Marcellinus (455-468) by focusing on the stories of the numerous emperors that Ricimer raised and deposed. The third deals with the Patricians Gundobad (472-3) and Orestes (475-6), as well as explaining how the barbarian general Odoacer came to power in 476. The final part outlines and analyses the Fall of the West and the rise of barbarian kingdoms in France, Spain and Italy.
This is a very welcome book to anyone seeking to make sense of this chaotic, but crucial period.
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An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors
Continuing his exploration of the pathways of British history, Timothy Venning examines the turning points of the Tudor period, though he also strays over into the early Stuart period. As always, he discusses the crucial junctions at which History could easily have taken a different turn and analyses the possible and likely results. While necessarily speculative to a degree, the scenarios are all highly plausible and rooted in a firm understanding of actually events and their context. In so doing, Timothy Venning gives the reader a clearer understanding of the factors at play and why things happened the way they did, as well as a tantalizing view of what might so easily have been different.
Key scenarios discussed in this volume include:
• Did the pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck ever have a realistic chance of a successful invsasion/coup?
• If Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, had not died young, might he have been a suitable King or at least Regent on the King’s death?
• What if Edward VI had not died at 15 but reigned into the 1560s and 70s?
• How might the Spanish Armada have succeeded in landing an army in England, and with what likely outcome?
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Eleanor of Castile
Eleanor of Castile, the remarkable woman behind England’s greatest medieval king, Edward I, has been effectively airbrushed from history; yet she had one of the most fascinating lives of any of England’s queens. Her childhood was spent in the centre of the Spanish reconquest and was dominated by her military hero of a father (St Ferdinand) and her prodigiously clever brother (King Alfonso X the Learned). Married at the age of twelve and a mother at thirteen, she gave birth to at least sixteen children, most of whom died young. She was a prisoner for a year amid a civil war in which her husband’s life was in acute danger. Devoted to Edward, she accompanied him everywhere, including on Crusade to the Holy Land. All in all, she was to live for extended periods in five different countries.
Eleanor was a highly dynamic, forceful personality who acted as part of Edward’s innermost circle of advisers, and successfully accumulated a vast property empire for the English Crown. In cultural terms her influence in architecture and design – and even gardening – can be discerned to this day, while her idealised image still speaks to us from Edward’s beautiful memorials to her, the Eleanor crosses. This book reveals her untold story.
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The Wars of the Roses were a bitter and bloody dispute between the rival Plantagenet Houses of York and Lancaster. Only one man, Jasper Tudor, the Lancastrian half-brother to Henry VI, fought from the first battle at St Albans in 1455 to the last at Stoke Field in 1487 and lived to forge a new dynasty – the Tudors.
Fighting the Yorkists, rallying the Lancastrians and spending years in exile with his nephew, the future first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, Jasper was the mainspring for continued Lancastrian defiance. Jasper was twenty-four years old in his first battle, and fifty-three when he won at Bosworth Field in 1485. Now he could style himself ‘the high and mighty prince, Jasper, brother and uncle of kings, duke of Bedford and earl of Pembroke’. Without the heroic Jasper Tudor there could have been no Tudor dynasty. This is the first biography of the real ‘kingmaker’ of British history.
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