This is an unusual approach to medieval history, looking at the lives of those people who could reasonably have expected to inherit the throne of England, but for whatever reason never made it to the throne. This includes several princes who died before their father, such as Henry the Young King or Edward of Middleham, some whose claim was never really taken that seriously, such as Edward Mortimer, and those who were simply usurped, most famously the Empress Matilda.
One interesting trend to emerge from this book is how the nature of the succession changed over this period. In the earlier part of the period it was clearly understood that being the acknowledged heir didn’t guarantee you’d get the throne. The new monarch’s reign really only started once they’d had their coronation and been acknowledged as king, and on several occasions the crown went to the person who was nearest to the centre of power when their predecesor died (most famously King Steven at the start of the Anarchy, but this wasn’t the only case). Over time this changed, and the assumption is that the next in line would automatically succeed to the throne. This really stands out at the death of Henry III in 1272 -. His son and heir Edward was actually on crusade at the time, and didn’t return to England until the summer of 1274, and yet his reign was considered to have begun on the death of his father.
It is refreshing to read a straightforward account of the fate of the famous Princes in the Tower – Edward V and his brother – which comes to the fairly obvious conclusion that they died soon after disappearing from public view, either murdered on the orders of their uncle Richard III or died of natural causes after being imprisoned and deposed. The previous chapters, looking at the fate of Richard of York and Henry VI’s son Edward, make it clear that this was a period in which killing a rival, even one who might be a close relative, didn’t cause much soul searching.
This is an interesting approach to the history of the English monarchy, and a reminder that this was a ruthless period, in which failure to secure your inheritance could be fatal!
1 – Robert Curthose and William Clito
2 – William Adelin and Empress Matilda
3 – Eustace, William and Mary of Blois
4 – Henry the Young King
5 – Arthur and Eleanor of Brittany
6 – Edward the Black Prince
7 – Edward Mortimer
8 – Richard, duke of York
9 – Edward of Lancaster
10 – Edward V, Edward of Middleham and Edward of Warwick
Author: J.F. Andrews
Publisher: Pen & Sword History