Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown: The Kings and Queens Who Never Were. J.F. Andrews. 2020 [January] Pen and Sword History. 200 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: William the Conqueror died on 9 September 1087. He had held England in his iron grip for almost twenty-one years, wiping out the old aristocracy and causing untold misery and suffering across large parts of the realm as he went. He had seized the throne by violence in 1066, but he did not want his own death to result in another Hastings, or in a revival of any Anglo-Saxon claims; no, he would create his own AngloNorman dynasty, which would rule England by blood right. With this in mind, he made it clear that the English crown should pass to his son … his second son. Naturally, his eldest son had a few thoughts of his own on the subject, and thus began four centuries of bloody disputes as the English monarchy’s line of hereditary succession was bent, twisted out of shape and finally broken when the last Plantagenet king fell in battle in 1485.
Premise/plot: This book focuses on the "lost" heirs that never reigned or ruled England. (The book begins with the death of William the Conqueror and ends with Henry VII on the throne.) The reasons WHY the "lost" heir never got the crown vary from person to person--as you'd expect. The author states the premise quite clearly, "This book will tell the stories of all of these people and more; the many medieval kings–and the occasional queen–who could have been but never were. It features a very distinct group of people: it does not include illegitimate children who had no expectation of ruling; nor those who sought to invade and claim the throne by conquest...Instead it focuses on those who were genuinely considered to be next in line to the throne and who expected to be crowned but who–for a number of different reasons–never made it to the top. Very few of them reached old age; those who did went to their graves disappointed or imprisoned, and those who did not were in many cases the victims of violence or murder."
My thoughts: Does this book have an audience? YES. Is it probably a SMALL audience? YES. But that small audience I'm guessing is ENTHUSIASTIC and a bit OBSESSED. I did a little squeal when I read the description of this one. Why? Because not only did I know it would appeal to ME as a reader and lover of history and all things royal. BUT because I know it would make my MOM super-happy. I'm hoping that the library will order a copy. Mom reads and rereads books about the medieval royals ALL THE TIME. She almost always has a book checked out on the subject.
So I loved how each chapter started with a family tree. I loved how clearly it was written and organized. The genealogy of the royal family COULD be a super-tangled mess, but, the author was great in keeping the flow going and explaining how all the pieces fit together. I loved the stories.
One of my favorite time-wasting daydreams is imagining the PERFECT book that I'd love to read. It would be a series of novellas or short-stories possibly. Each would be set in an alternate world with a different what-if question answered. It would span the centuries. Each what-if would be based on a matter of succession/rule. I've been imagining this book for years now--probably five or more. So when I saw this book, it was like HALF a dream at least had been realized.
If the book has a flaw, it would be that the author believes Richard III guilty. (He so wasn't!)
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews