Guest post by Trisha Hughes
So with those words ringing in my ears, that’s what I decided to do. I told a story of kings who struggled to keep their throne, of horrendous bloody battles, of tiny boys becoming rulers, of ruthless usurpers and of queens who proved to be more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined. I wrote of invading armies, of rival family members, of conspiracies and I wrote of the vain, the corrupt, the adulterers, the swindlers and the cowards. These people all had one thing in common: during their own lifetimes they were the most powerful people in the land.
My story started when Britain was just a race of people struggling to survive, well before the Romans or the Vikings invaded Britain and I continued through to the end of Queen Mary I’s reign when Queen Elizabeth I stepped up to the throne. Very soon, the first book in my ‘V 2 V’ trilogy, ‘Vikings to Virgin – the Hazards of being King’, was complete.
If you ask most people which part of history they find most interesting, the answer is often the Tudors. Their dynasty began in a bloodbath when Henry Tudor, who barely had a drop of royal blood coursing through his veins, usurped the throne. His descendants weren’t a shy lot and they followed on with gusto.
But Henry’s dynasty wasn’t the only one that started with brazen usurpation. Britain’s history goes back much further than that. First there were the Romans, then the Saxons followed by Sweyne Forkbeard and the Vikings who invaded England in 960 AD. In 1066 AD, the Normans led by William the Conqueror took over and from there, the Plantagenet dynasty soon surfaced in violence and brutality after the throne see-sawed between King Stephen and Queen Matilda. Finally it settled with Matilda’s son Henry II, the first of the Plantagenet dynasty.
There’s no doubt about it, the Plantagenets were powerful. They were rough masters and times were violent. Heroes were born but so were villains and their names echo through history. Early Plantagenet years were full of savagery and cruelty but by the end of the dynasty, they had transformed England into a sophisticated revered kingdom. But it was a long hard struggle during which the War of the Roses emerged.
These two royal houses, the symbolic red rose of the Lancasters and the equally symbolic white rose of the Yorks, were both making a claim for the throne.
It ended up being a long and bloody battle with sporadic periods of extreme violence and bloodshed and an unprecedented number of attempts to usurp the throne. It was a dangerous period in history full of unfathomable brutality, shifting alliances, murders, betrayals, plots and the savage elimination of other direct descendants of the Plantagenets.
These uprisings were dramatic and the dubious logic of revenge worked well for all sides. In actual fact, it was a power struggle that comes across as blue-blooded gangsterism with the prime antagonists being members of the landed gentry. Many of them controlled huge estates with powerful alliances, all trying to improve their political position and their own personal lot in life.
The conflict began after the dreadful reign of Richard II and it’s truly understandable why people were glad to see the last of him. But whether Henry IV was any better than Richard and whether people who lived in those times knew the tragedy that was about to unfold is anyone’s guess.
We can probably blame Edward III for all of this. He and his wife had 13 children including 5 strong-minded boys who all reached maturity. He arranged solid marriages for all of them with English heiresses and created the first ever Dukedoms of Cornwall, Clarence, Lancaster, York and Gloucester. Their descendants were the ones fighting each other fiercely for the throne.
Like most families, differences and intrigue slowly emerged and it wasn’t until 1455 with the first Battle at St Albans that anyone even knew there were two sides. This period in time seems to have been an experiment in monarchy as king after king came and went in very quick succession. But as with most rebellions, it left both sides vulnerable since it usually meant that battles were fought ‘to the bitter end’, leaving fewer contenders alive after every battle.
When it comes to brutality, historians point their fingers at Richard III as the one surpassing the rest. Richard III, after all, was the last of the Plantagenet kings who is believed to have placed his nephews in the Tower and ordered their murder to gain the thrown. But for me, much like King John’s dreadful reputation, I’m not convinced that reputation is truly deserved. There were extenuating circumstances for both kings and as with Richard, there were many others who had good reason to want the young princes removed. For instance, there was Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry Tudor who would prove to be ruthless beyond imagination. And let’s not forget that if the princes were indeed alive, both Richard and Henry would have wanted them out of the way.
It’s been suggested by some historians that Richard had stashed the princes in the Tower of London for safe keeping while he ruled in peace. It has also been suggested that it was in fact Henry Tudor, when he was King Henry VII, who had the princes executed between June and July of 1486 when his stepfather, Lord Stanley, (who was married to Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort), was High Constable of the Tower two years later. Richard was long gone by then. It was only after this date that orders went out to circulate the story that Richard had killed the princes. This could easily have been to cover up Henry’s own involvement in their murder. It has also been suggested that Elizabeth Woodville knew that this story was false, and so Henry had to have her ‘silenced’ by confining her to a nunnery where she died six years later.
The story of the kings and queens of England is a wonderful drama and far more surprising than you might think. Times were brutal and the royals felt the need to take certain measures into their own hands. It was hard enough to snatch the throne for themselves. Keeping it was even harder. In this first book of my trilogy, ‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of being King’, I tell the story of British Monarchs from the early Vikings to Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, as they walked, ran, stumbled and bled through the centuries.
And I’ve loved every minute of it.
About the Author
Trisha Hughes started her writing career with her autobiography ‘Daughters of Nazareth’ eighteen years ago. The debut novel was first published by Pan Macmillan Australia and became a bestseller in 1997 beating the current Stephen King book to the top 10 bestsellers at the time. Since then she has discovered a thirst for writing. She’s written crime novels but her latest book, the first in her ‘V 2 V’ trilogy, ‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of being King’ is her passion and due for release on 28th February 2017. She is currently working on the second in the series ‘Virgin to Victoria – The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.’
Connect with Trisha
Trisha’s Website: www.trishahughesauthor.com