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4.5 out of 5 stars50
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on 4 October 2011
Having previously read two of Derek Wilson's books: In the Lion's Court & The Uncrowned Kings of England, I was expecting a well-written book about the Plantagenets. What I received is a well-written, sumptuously illustrated, coffee table size book about the Plantagenets.

The text is in the nature of a primer on the dynasty, making it ideal as an introduction to them. Wilson leading the reader on a straightforward, factual journey from 1154 to 1485 and a little way beyond. The more knowledgeable reader, and all points in between, will want this book because of the wonderful illustrations on every page. Extracts from (mainly) contemporary illuminated books, coins, seals, treaties, portraits and maps bring the period to life, encouraging further reading into the history of this turbulent often brilliant family.

For further reading, may I suggest:
A Great and Terrible King (Marc Morris)
The Norman Conquest (Marc Morris)
King John (Marc Morris)
Becket (John Guy)
My Heart is my Own, Mary Queen of Scots (John Guy)
The Empress Matilda (Marjorie Chibnall)
Agincourt (Juliet Barker)
Conquest: The English Kingdom of France (Juliet Barker)
King Stephen (Edmund King)
Towton: The Battle of Palm Sunday Field (John Sadler)
Bosworth (Chris Skidmore - be aware, poorly edited)
Winter King (Thomas Penn - modern riff on Henry VII)
Leviathan (David Scott - a love letter to English history and the English)
Tales from the Long 12th Century (Richard Huscroft - a look at the all too brief Angevin Empire)

Watch out for John Guy's new book: Elizabeth:The Forgotten Years, May 2016
and Matthew Strickland's Henry the Young King also May 2016
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on 1 January 2012
Derek Wilson has produced a wonderful history of the Plantagenet monarchy, from Henry II to Richard III.

To the Plantagenet novice like myself and to children the book offers a nice introduction. I read it immediately after reading Susan Doran's 'The Tudor Chronicles 1485 to 1603' and immediately noticed Wilson's far superior writing to Doran's. Wilson's flowed very nicely from event to event while Doran's was rather clunky at times, in my opinion.

For those well-read in Plantagenet history, what is offered is nothing new, however. Being rather well-read in Yorkist history I did find the final part of the book from the Wars of the Roses to the death of Richard III a little rushed.

Furthermore, the book is filled with beautiful and clear illustrations; an inviting coffee table book if ever there was one.
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VINE VOICEon 26 September 2011
I have had a few books on this period in the past which have been excellent in their own way. Where this particular book differs, is in the accessibility of the information, the clarity of the timeline and sequence of events and openess of the writing.

What also adds to the attraction of this book are the sheer number and richness of the illustrations incorporated (many from works of art/portraits of the time)which help put faces to names and an 'atmosphere' to the whole historical period. It's a great coffee table book in its own right but also an excellent exploration of the importance of these monarchs in bridging the period from the Norman Conquest to the Tudors. Very well worth acquiring.
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on 10 May 2013
Coffee table book, beautiful, stunning. For history, I suppose it's better to read Dan Jones's version of The Plantagenets, but this book contains also the Lancastrians and Yorkists, and covers the Cousins' Wars. The 'amount' of history and the presentation makes this a book that I believe would capture everyone's attention, and I found that in collecting this, Wilson has put great effort to try and collect interesting details (Eleanor Cobham's poem for example) and also includes snippets and portraits etc of the personnel related to certain kings. The book also quotes letters (or pictures them here and there) and chronicles to keep it interesting - this approach might mean that this book falls short on certain more well known historical facts, or doesn't detail much e.g. Richard III's ascension (referring to the other review) but Derek Wilson tried to create a book that serves its purpose - to keep on your coffee table for your visitors to get lost in (while you busy yourself in the kitchen with their dinner) or simply to showcase your interest.
It's not the book you read like you would read novels, forget that - or again, here is Dan Jones' excellently researched and written book: The Plantagenets and for Lancaster/York, I would recommend this: The Road to Bosworth Field: A New History of the Wars of the Roses: The Struggle Between Lancaster and York 1400-1487 and this: Blood Sisters: The Hidden Lives of the Women Behind the Wars of the Roses These cover the wars and what lead to them from the usurpation in 1399 and detail things as, how Richard III ascended (or in the last one, how he wanted or didn't want to marry Elizabeth of York, even.) Derek Wilson's is a 'statement book'. Even for the fanatics, this is a book to keep going back to simply because it's beautiful, flawlessly printed colorful high quality.

The only negative point would be Richard III on the cover when it could've been any of the more successful, important or loved Plantagenet kings. I would've picked Edward III, or even better, maybe the painting of the Black Prince standing over King John's corpse at Crecy, since the gain/loss/gain/loss of French territories and the arguments and wars with France defined the Plantagenets much more than the Cousins War (regardless of the latter ending their reign.)
This favoritism of Richard III is obviously due to the recent finding of his remains but since he reigned for around 2 years the most during which his brilliance in government did not manifest, it's an inaccurate choice.
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on 3 November 2014
A concise history of a period of English history vital to the development of society as we know it today. The characters of the Kings really come to the fore and this is a good basis to go forward and read more about the people featurEd in individual books.
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on 19 June 2015
Having recently listened to an audiobook about The Vikings, I skipped the Norman invasion of Britain and rejoined our history with William The Conqueror's descendants still ruling at the beginning of the Plantagenet era. Derek Wilson's book is another overview and covers three hundred(ish) years from Henry II until the ascension of Henry Tudor in 1485. There are interesting snippets throughout the book including the Plantagenet name being the result of a sprig of broom, 'planta genet' in latin, worn in Geoffrey d'Anjou's hat. I learned that the Robin Hood era kings, brothers Richard (the Lionheart) and (bad king) John were actually remarkably similar characters, their historical remembrance as polar opposites the result of biased medieval Christian scribes - Richard only murdered and robbed Muslims overseas, John robbed Christian clergy within England. Plus ca change, plus le meme chose!

Huge social changes took place during the Plantagenet era such as the writing of Magna Carta (one surviving example of which we saw in Lincoln), the beginnings of Lollardy and individual religious freedom, the Peasant's Revolt, and the horrific plague years which saw the peasant class finding themselves with glimmerings of real power for the first. Unfortunately, Wilson gives these only brief mentions as most of the book, regardless of which King is on the throne, is a ceaseless round of war after war after war. The Plantagenets were essentially Normans who spoke French and saw their Kingdom as stretching from the Scottish borders straight down to southern France. The French disagreed, as did the Scots, Welsh and, on occasion, the Castilian Spanish, resulting in a merry-go-round of battles over the same bits of land that does make for dry reading, especially when sons are named for fathers. I frequently found myself with deja-vu!

Much of the military information in The Plantagenets I know has failed to sink in and I had to force myself to keep reading at times. For this reason I wavered between two and three stars, eventually setting on three as the history is well-written in itself. I just would have preferred more about the Kings' and the peoples' day-to-day lives.
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on 5 January 2015
This is great read. It covers the era from Henry II, to Richard III. Obviously, when covering such a large period, it wont go into detail on the specific areas, although I found it to be a great summary and introduction to this fascinating period in English history, which has since sparked further reading about areas that interested me, for instance the War of the Roses. The book itself is well written and contains numerous good illustrations. Well worth a read.
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on 20 April 2013
This is a very lovely, top-quality book; well produced and with wonderful illustrations. It is certainly a thing of great beauty that represents good value for money as an object in itself but the historical content is a sketchy precis of events. For instance, I was disappointed to read of Richard III's 'callous' usurpation and the comment that he could not have seized the throne if Edward V had been alive. Edward's proven illegitimacy was not examined and the usual Tudor myths are not refuted but, if anything, reinforced by that one damning word alone. If you want a lovely book to display on your coffee table, this is certainly for you. If you want a well argued and thoroughly researched history book, forget it.
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on 4 July 2014
As an introduction to this remarkable dynasty, this book is just the thing. It covers the main events of their 300 year rule and give a clear overview of the people and events which have shaped the constitutional and political development of England.
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on 28 June 2014
I'm really enjoying this book. Very well written for the layman.It is about a very interesting period of history and laid out in a straightforward way so that it is easy to read
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