With the discovery of Richard III’s bones under a Leister parking lot, the Wars of the Roses are in the news again. Historians and hobbyists alike are arguing the relative claims of Lancaster and York across the media. In Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses. Sarah Gristwood tells the familiar story of the so-called “Cousins’ War” from a new perspective.
As Gristwood points out, most histories of the period echo the “patriarchial assumptions” of the time and focus on its male protagonists. In Blood Sisters, kings and kingmakers take a back seat to their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Some, like heiress Anne Neville, were passed from one royal family to another like pieces of property. Others were actively involved in the politics of the time, using husbands and sons as their path to power. Whether pawns or players, all were caught up in the web of changing alliances, family loyalties and political machinations that defined the war. Gristwood pieces together their stories from their household accounts, their occasional letters, and their appearances in the accounts of others.
At its heart, Blood Sisters is about relationships. Gristwood describes the events surrounding the Wars of the Roses and the resultant rise of the Tudor dynasty as a family saga whose protagonists were tied together in numerous ways. By focusing on the lives of the Plantagenet women, she illustrates the complexities of those ties–creating a larger picture of the Wars of the Roses in the process.
This review appeared previously in Shelf Awareness for Readers.