There are periods in history when things are seen dimly as through a veil. Such were the years from 1377 to 1485. During this time the Chronicles were silent and the sources of information few. And yet these were eventful years, filled with important, strange, colorful and sometimes mystifying events. The Wars of the Roses were fought; a few men began to preach and a nation began to listen to new beliefs; the stout men of the soil rose against feudal injustices; and the greatest of mysteries grew out of the deaths of two princes in the Tower of London.
This is the period covered by Thomas B. Costain in THE LAST PLANTAGENETS. It is not claiming too much to say that here the veil has been raised and that throughout the book a bright light plays on this century of excitement and romance and stories stranger than fiction.
Here we read of a king who devoted much of his reign to revenge; of the same young monarch riding out boldly to face the peasants demanding a fairer deal; of the winning of Fair Kate of France by the spectacular warrior king, Henry V; of the emergence of a commoner known in history as the Kingmaker; of a ruler who condemned his brother to death and the carrying out of the sentence, according to public report at the time, by drowning the prince in a butt of wine.
By way of climax to the saga of the extraordinary Plantagenets with their brilliant successes, tragic reverses and wild extravagances, the last section of the book is devoted to a summary of the case of Richard III. Was Richard the villainous hunchback of stage and story who had his nephews murdered to clear his way to the throne? Or was he the whipping boy of history, whose voice could not be raised in defense from the grave and whose friends did not dare speak out?
All the evidence in this unsolved mystery is gathered up and the author achieves in the telling a mounting tension which has never before, perhaps, been reached. Readers today might well raise their eyes from the perusal of newspaper murders to find in this case the strangest and most gripping story of all.
This is the fourth, and last, volume in what Thomas B. Costain originally intended to be a history of England. The three earlier volumes were published under the titles The Conquerors, The Magnificent Century and The Three Edwards. Some time in the future the publishers may combine the four, with some necessary additions, to be issued as a history of the Plantagenet kings.
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