The price of living with more settled times with regards to the monarchy, is that Shakespeare would have very little history play material. Tales of Prince Phillip’s racism, Prince Andrew’s private flight expenses, not to mention all the tabloid marriage stuff wouldn’t exactly pack out the theatres for centuries to come. They just don’t make royal families like they used to, which is probably a good thing, but a bit dull.
Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets is a an immensely readable account of the family that starts with the wrecking of the White Ship and the loss of the heir, and ends with Rory Kinear chucking Ben Wishaw off the throne, with a Robin Hood villain in between.
It’s an exciting and illuminating wander through history from 1154 to 1485, with atmospheric passages like this –
Tapers flickered in the king’s chamber throughout the night of 12 October 1247. It was the eve of the feast of the translation of St Edward…The kind knealt, deep in devout and contrite prayers. He had been fasting on a pauper’s diet of bread and water. He was preparing himself with a sleepless night night of devotion amid the rich smoke thrown out by the candles, for a ceremony of profound royal divinity.
I’ve never been one for waving a miniature flag at a woman wearing what looks like a birthday cake on her head, and I once found myself seriously questioning a dating choice when as a teenager I found myself in the bedroom of a boy who had among his shelf of trophies and models, a Charles and Diana commemorative plate, but I do like the long term documentation of a family. They are living history, and I like seeing the facial features move along the portraits. I like that it was a DNA sample from Prince Philip that was used to identify the remains of the Romanovs. I also like that these people no longer go about executing folk or can suddenly impose huge taxes to fund their international land grabs, and it definitely makes for entertaining reading when it can no longer impact us.
I bought this book ages ago and due to its size, and of course, all the other books hanging about the house shouting to be read, it has been neglected. But, if I had known it would evoke that same feeling in me that reading any deeply entertaining book does, by making me want to go to bed early or take it with me to work so I can step back into that world, I’d have got to it sooner.
And *tenuous link alert* we mustn’t forget the other Plantagenets, those created by Rumer Godden. And even after all these years, boo Marchpane! You snobby cow! Boooo! Tottie may just be a glorified clothes peg, but she’s worth ten of you!