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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Last of the Barons", 10 Mar 2013
This review is from: Warwick the Kingmaker: Politics, Power and Fame : Politics, Power and Fame (Hambledon Continuum) (Hardcover)
Like many of my generation my first encounter with many of the great characters of history was through the Ladybird series of historical books from the 1960s. Richard Neville Earl of Warwick was the subject of one of the series which I avidly collected and which are still up in the attic. Childhood visits to Warwick and Middleham Castles kept the flame of interest alive until in the VIth form I read Paul Murray Kendall's biography of Warwick as part of my study of 15th century England. Thereafter I have been unable to resist reading anything that I come across about the man and indeed the period of the Wars of the Roses.

Professor Pollard's book is one of two biographies of Warwick which have been published in the last decade. The other is by Professor Michael Hicks. Professor Hicks' book already has a couple of reviews from Amazon customers. So I thought I would provide a little information about this book to even the balance. I will add a link to the Hicks volume at the end.

Professor Pollard's book is subtitled "Politics, Power and Fame". Not surprisingly the book is divided in three sections dealing with each in turn.

The first section on the politics is a considered and accurate account of Warwick's role in the politics of England. The book does not concern itself with Warwick's childhood. There is a brief description of the dynastic background that leads to Warwick emerging on to the political scene as the premiere Earl of the realm. He does this as heir to the Beauchamp estates and titles when Anne Beauchamp (not the Anne Beauchamp who Warwick married but the little daughter of Henry Beauchamp last male heir of the family) dies in 1449. In this first chapter we see Warwick and his father (Earl of Salisbury) move away from the traditional Neville allegiance to the House of Lancaster and become the main supporters of the Yorkist faction. Then we deal with the early phases of the wars of the Roses from 1455 to 1460. Then on to the zenith of Warwick power between 1460 and 1465. Then his fall from favour with King Edward IVth whom Warwick has been at least partially instrumental in putting on the throne. Then we get an account of the positively Byzantine twists and turns of the years from 1465 to 1471 when the wheels of fortune are turning as if driven by hamsters on speed. The story ends on the field of Barnet on Easter Sunday 1471 with Warwick and his brother John dead on the field. All this is taken a good pace . The story of Warwick's political life is dealt with in 66 pages but there is nothing of essential importance that is left out. The trajectory of Warwick's meteoric passage through 15th Century history is all here. The twists and turns of the campaigns of 1459 through to 1461 are adequately covered here although the military cut and thrust of the civil war is not the main theme here. If you are looking for a book with principal focus on the military aspect of Warwick's career look elsewhere. Hicks is better on the military details although his book is also not brilliant on the military history of the multiple phases of the Wars of the Roses.

Then we come on to what for me is the meat of the book. This is the section on Warwick's power and power for a 15th century nobleman meant his landed estates and the wealth he derived from them and also how he exercised his lordship. Usually lordship was exercised in two ways through the retention of men of knightly or gentry rank and through influence in the local governance of a county or region. Professor Pollard is exemplary in examining this crucial aspect of Warwick's position as lord of what after 1462 were the lands and lordship of what had been four Earldoms and of course with that came the concept of his "worship". This word sits ill to 21st century ears which thinks of worship in terms of religion.It meant something quite different in the 15th century. When men spoke of a man's worship they meant his reputation, how he was valued by his peers, followers and social inferiors.

Professor Pollard gives us a careful assessment of Warwick's wealth (£7,000 a year at its height after 1462 when the last of his mother's inheritance comes to him). We are given a thorough analysis of his exercise of Lordship in key areas where he had substantial holdings (North Yorkshire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands and in East Anglia). We review the extent of Warwick's retaining of men of knightly and Esquire rank (200 at its height).

This leads Professor Pollard neatly on to an assessment of Warwick's reputation with his contemporaries, with historians down the centuries after his death and indeed how he is viewed today. Pollard concludes that Warwick should not be seen as just another of the nobleman involved in the dynastic conflict between York and Lancaster. At his height he was a quasi autonomous operator. He could raise 8,000 fighting men to serve under his banner. This with his wealth as well as his affinity (his retained following of men of consequence) made him quite exceptional in England at the time. No British private individual since has possessed anything like the power or resources exercised by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. This alone makes a study of the man worthwhile. This book makes that study a pleasure.

Here's the link to Michael Hicks' biography Warwick the Kingmaker

Here's a link to the Paul Murray Kendall biography Warwick the Kingmaker

and for the sake of nostalgia here a link to the Ladybird book I remember so fondly from childhood Warwick the Kingmaker (Ladybird -An adventure from history)
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 May 2013 07:31:12 BDT
Excellent review that has ensured this book a place on my list of essential reads.
I'm curious to learn, from the reviewer (Mr Raynes):
Which of the Warwick bio's he considers the most worthwhile?
Which other War of the Rose's era books he finds indispensable?
Is he inclined towards Ricardian revisionism (Paul Murray Kendal, et al) or traditional views (Charles Ross)?.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 May 2013 14:22:21 BDT
M. Raynes says:
Dear J Spittle/Juno, thank you for your comments. You ask some interesting questions.
As to which biography of Warwick is most worthwhile reading I would have to slightly hedge my bets. For me it is Paul Murray Kendall who most convincingly evokes the personality of the man. Michael Hicks' encyclopaedic knowledge of the era makes his book the most detailed and perhaps the one that academic historians would prefer.
In terms of histories of the era, I think the ideal one volume book for the enthusiast is "Lancaster and York" by Alison Weir. The author presents us with an excellent narrative history which takes us through the serpentine story with a clarity that I think no other author equals. There are other aspects of the period worthy of study and Michael Hicks again offers us an excellent up to date analysis of the cause of the wars and how and why they unfolded the way they did.
Charles Ross' biographies of Edward IVth and Richard IIIrd are well worth reading as is his brief survey of the wars: The Wars of the Roses, A concise History".
Paul Murray Kendall's "Life in the Yorkist Age" is well worth a look.
I also liked Michael Hicks' biography of Anne Neville, Warwick's daughter and Richard IIIrd's wife.
In terms of how I see the Yorkist kings I see them as forerunners of the reformed and more powerful monarchy of the first couple of Tudors. In terms of Richard I think that he was king for so short a time that in the long run he did not have great influence on the country. An intriguing, unlucky but not a historically important king would be my judgement on Richard.
I have to confess that I am not a Ricardian although I have naturally been fascinated by the recent discovery of his remains and firmly of the view that they should receive a proper and dignified interment fitting a monarch of the house of Plantagenet. I would like to see a table tomb carved with a gilded effigy and heraldic adornments and perhaps replica heraldic "achievements" (something in the style of Richard Beauchamp's tomb at Warwick or the Black Prince's at Canterbury would be appropriate).

Posted on 6 May 2013 15:38:21 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 May 2013 15:38:38 BDT
M. Raynes says:
Just a quick further word on books on specific campaigns of the Wars of the Roses. Osprey Books have two excellent volumes in their "Campaigns" Series (96 pages beautifully and lavishly illustrated) dedicated to 1) the 1461 Towton campaign and 2) the 1471 Tewkesbury Campaign. Also from Osprey is a short (96 pages) summaryof the Wars of the Rosesd in their "Essential Histories" series from the seemingly ubiquitous Michael Hicks.

Posted on 6 May 2013 17:06:53 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 May 2013 17:39:20 BDT
M. Raynes says:
Dear J Spittle/Juno, I have just had a further thought. Michael Harriss' "Shaping the Nation,England 1360 to 1461 is a superb book of academic history that gives the reader a superbly rich and nuanced view of England as it was in the century leading up to the Wars of the Roses.

My other throught is that it is often interesting to enrich one's understanding of a period of history by listening to the music of the era. 15th century England was awash with music (sadly the majorityof it was lost as a result fo teh Reformation and especially the Dissolution of the Monasteries) I would suggest that you might try some John Dunstable or some of the other English music in "La Contenance Angloise" (The English Manner)

La contenance angloise
Try the song "O Rosa Bella" off the second album and imagine yourself back at the Court of the Yorkist age.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2013 17:18:27 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 May 2013 19:42:07 BDT
Thank you so very much, Mr Raynes.

For the last few years I've mostly read about the Tudors and I am now attempting to study the earlier kings (after 1066). At the moment I am reading about EDWARD I and II, ROBERT the BRUCE and WILLIAM WALLACE but collecting a good few W o t R era titles. It is my plan to read many opinions and try to form a 'balanced' view for myself.

I didn't buy Alison Weir's 'York and Lancaster' because there is no hardback edition (Shallow, I know, but I do enjoy the appearance of a shelf full of hardbacks) However I will buy a copy, on your recommendation and also because I really enjoyed her 'Princes in the Tower'.

UNREAD (but waiting on my bookshelves) include the titles:
'EDWARD V' by Michael Hicks and a copy of "False, Fleeting, Perjured Clarence"
P M Kendal's 'RICHARD III'
A J Pollard's 'RICHARD III'
and Anne Crawford's 'THE YORKIST'S'.

I have prioritised Charles Ross' biographies of EDWARD IV and RICHARD III.
Also BOSWORTH:THE BORTH of the TUDORS by Chris Skidmore and Leanda De Lisle's "Tudor: The Family Story" mainly because her first two books "After Elizabeth" and "The Sisters Who Would be Queen" were wonderful (especially the book about the Gray sisters) so I expect her third effort to be well worth buying.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2013 20:40:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 May 2013 06:29:18 BDT
I've never really been a fan of military history or books that deal with specific battles/campaigns. Shameful considering I live inbetween Towton and Wakefield!
I much prefer the politics of power.

As for 15th century music....i'm a complete know nothing.
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