Book Review: The Castle in the Wars of the Roses by Dr. Dan Spencer

Genre: History, nonfiction
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Pub date: 30 October 2020
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

The Wars of the Roses is one of the most dramatic and fascinating periods in medieval history. Much has been written about the leading personalities, bitter dynastic rivalries, political intrigues, and the rapid change of fortune on the battlefields of England and Wales. However, there is one aspect that has been often overlooked, the role of castles in the conflict.

Dan Spencer’s original study traces their use from the outbreak of civil war in the reign of Henry VI in the 1450s to the triumph of Henry VII some thirty years later. Using a wide range of narrative, architectural, financial and administrative sources, he sheds new light on the place of castles within the conflict, demonstrating their importance as strategic and logistical centres, bases for marshalling troops, and as fortresses

Dan Spencer’s book provides a fascinating contribution to the literature on the Wars of the Roses and to the study of siege warfare in the Middle Ages

The Wars of the Roses is one of the most fascinating periods of British history and I’ve been interested in it for a few years now. Despite my interest I had never really given much thought to how the castles were used during this time.

Dr Dan Spencer provides not only details of transfers of castles throughout the period but also how they were manned, details of artillery and even wages earned by those employed at the properties.

The castles were used for strategic purposes but also as rewards for loyalty, punishments for those deemed disloyal and possibly bribes to change someone’s loyalty and ensure specific areas were protected from and prepared for rebellions. Those granted castles would be responsible for defending them often at their own cost but would also provide wealth and could often be a status symbol.

The battles of the Wars of the Roses are discussed but with reference to the importance of the castles nearby and sieges places on them. The occupancy of castles was an indication of where those loyal to York or Lancaster could flock to if required.

It is a really interesting read and provided me with a lot more knowledge about the Wars of the Roses, an area I am particularly interested in.

I greatly appreciated the appendices which include a brief biography of the key players involved in the Wars of the Roses, a record of sieges including who fought and where possible numbers involved and recorded garrisons including numbers of men along with a great bibliography which I have already noted other books I’d like to read. The photographs of some of the castles were an added bonus and have given me the urge to get out and visit some castles when possible!

This is clearly the result of meticulous research and I would think would be of great interest to anyone interested in the Wars of the Roses whether like me you have a general interest or as study material.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pen and Sword for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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