The Plantagenets by Dan Jones (A Book Review)
In the last 2-3 years I’ve been interested in reading about the Plantagenets, England’s greatest royal dynasty that ruled over England through eight generations of kings from 1216-1399. This is an eight hundred page book, an overview of the Plantagenets, and a very captivating read. I found it particularly interesting that the author tells the story of all eight medieval kings and really puts the family story in context. Each king had a personality, different and distinct from one another yet they share similar family traits. And it was obvious from the stories that the more God-fearing and kindhearted members of the Plantagenet family made truly terrible kings.
While some stories are delightful, others are horrific. The savagery committed by John for instance — killing his nephew Arthur with his bare hands, and starving several of his enemies to death including a story of the wife of one of his barons who tried to eat her own son out of sheer desperation — it’s all very disturbing. The book gave me so much information but not a lot of depth. However, it caused me to look for books about each of the characters that I would really like to find out more about.
Lastly, one thing that caught my attention while reading this book was how a certain pattern repeated itself — the king would gain power, lands, etc., then he defeats his adversaries and seize more power, and just as he seems to be undefeated and is at the pinnacle of his reign, things would start to fall apart and his plans are thrown into disarray. Then it would be up to the next king to pick up the pieces and build it all back up again. I was reminded how this seemingly complicated pattern continues to this very day especially in the current political atmosphere in the UK. We’ve recently seen how former Prime Minister Cameron was forced to resign. Even Prime Ministers Churchill and Thatcher were adored for many years but both experienced a stinging defeat. No one gets to stay in power forever. Kings, presidents, prime ministers — all those in power come and go. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is genuinely interested in finding out more about the Plantagenets.