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Wars of the Roses

Sunday June 14th, 2015 in Historical fiction | No Comments »

I’ve just finished listening to The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir ready by Maggie Mash. I don’t know that much about English history apart from being able to name the wives of King Henry VIII, thanks again to Alison Weir’s very good book on the subject. I also once listened to an historical fiction novel about King James’ gardener and may have learned something, or possibly not, it’s hard to tell with historical fiction.

I very much enjoyed The Wars of the Roses, although I became very confused about who was related to who and who they hated. This is where audio books present challenges over book reading, because is is much harder to flip back and check a detail. So I ended up Googling ‘Lancastrian family tree’ a lot. Also, I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember many of the details in a month’s time.

My friend suggested that I listen to The Rex Factor, a podcast reviewing all the kings and queens of England. It’s been going since 2010 so I am very late to board this train. The show rates the monarchs based on a range of criteria such as battleyness and scandal. Then they decide if they have ‘that certain something, that lasting legacy, the star quality…the Rex Factor’. I’ve never seen The X-Factor (I’m sure it’s lovely) but I don’t need to, The Rex Factor is clearly a better concept.

I told my friend the podcasts sounded good and said I might listen to the Lancastrian episodes to help get my head around the Wars of the Roses. My friend was firm. She said, ‘No. Start at the start.’

So I did, going right back to Alfred the Great and the Saxons. And I’m loving it. The podcasts are a good mix of information and amusing, offhand ignorance. Also, they repeat useful details like, ‘He was the one who had the threesome with the mother and daughter’, which are invaluable aids to memory and learning.

I’m up to King Henry III, which means I have a good long way to go and they’ll be keeping me company for awhile. Whether I’ve learned anything in the long-run remains to be seen.


Sunday December 12th, 2010 in Audio books, Historical fiction, History | No Comments »

Via a conversation about Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I ended up discussing English history on Friday night. Well, I say discussing, but actually it was more like receiving an uninvited 15 minutes lecture on the English line of accession to the throne. The person I was with loves nothing more than a monologue.

I’m not generally very good at remembering historical facts but when our self-appointed lecturer got up to the “And after Elizabeth” bit I jumped in confidently and said, “Then it was King James. The gay one.

I know King James was gay because I once listened to a highly-charged historical novel about King James’ gardener who has an affair with one of James’ courtiers. It’s called Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory, read by Steven Crossley.

Anyway, our self-appointed lecturer didn’t like being interrupted and also didn’t believe me. He said, “But James had a son Charles”, bizarrely assuming that producing heirs to the throne is always an act of love. When I tried to explain that I had my information from an extremely reliable source, an historical fiction story tape, he remained unconvinced.

Because I’m not very confident of my ability to remember facts, I let it go. And he moved on to the Charleses. I weakly attempted to turn the monologue back into a dialogue by chipping in with, “Wigs!” but it was basically pointless.

When I got home I looked it up. Although it’s not uncontroversial, the internet confirmed that some of King James’ biographers have concluded that James had homosexual relationships with his courtiers. I feel vindicated not only in this specific instance, but also more generally. Listening to historical romances is an improving activity.