Review: This Sun of York: A Biography of Edward IV by Mary Clive

This Sun of York: A Biography of Edward IVThis Sun of York: A Biography of Edward IV by Mary Clive

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This Sun of York is actually quite decent and provides a surprising number of tidbits of information that don’t appear elsewhere. I suspect that this book might not stand-up to rigorous academic scrutiny. However, in my opinion, this biography is more than acceptable for anyone who is fascinated by this enigmatic monarch or this period.

Even though Lady Mary Clive first published This Sun of York in 1974, the book and its research hold up reasonably well today. Plus the book is a surprisingly easy read, even when she covers complex material. It isn’t quite in the same narrative-driven style of a modern popular history book. But, I think This Sun of York is quite readable.

Lady Clive does an excellent job of orienting the reader. At the book’s beginning, it provides family trees, helpful summaries of key characters, and maps. The prologue gives a simple, interesting introduction to the period right before Edward’s rebellion (1400-1459). Included in the prologue is basic information about Edward’s father, Richard of York, the major issues, Margaret of Anjou’s background, and a few other topics.

The second chapter explains the significance of Calais in the late 1450s. Lady Clive divides the book chronologically, but the chapter name reflects the theme of the period. For example, Chapter 3 is named “Capturing the Crown: 26 June 1460 to 28 June 1461.”

Her treatment of the readeption (1469 rebellion) is fair and moderately easy to understand. She touches on Edward’s trading activities and his religious life.

Here’s a quick summary of her table of contents:
1. Ludlow Castle
2. Calais
3. Capturing the Crown
4. England’s neighbors
5. The New King
6. Margaret and Henry VI
7. Edward’s Marriage 1464
8. Dangerous Years 1465-1468
9. Open rebellion
10. Fluctuating fortunes 1470
11. Edward’s return
12. Edward resumes his reign
13. The invasion of France
14. Peace and Prosperity 1475-1482
15. Edward’s Last Years 1480-1482
16. Edward’s death 1483

Clive’s method is to essentially retrace Edward’s steps and as a side-effect she provides numerous unique details. She’s also surprisingly succinct given the scope.

For readers looking to get a good holistic view of Edward’s reign or pick up tiny details, this is an excellent book. I think it provides more balanced, albeit shallower, coverage than Ross’ Edward IV, which tends to treat specific topics in more depth.

I can’t compare it on a historiographical basis to Ross because it has been a while, admittedly, since I read This Sun of York. Likewise, I can’t tell you how much Lady Clive draws from Scofield.

Incidentally, I googled “Mary Clive” to try to learn more about her and I discovered that she only died three years ago at the age of 102. Her biography, in The Telegraph‘s obituary, is fascinating. The daughter of an earl who became a journalist, she almost seems like she stepped off the set of Downton Abbey. The Guardian favorably describes her historical works as the product of a spirited amateur and notes she was likely educated by governesses.

By Jamie Adair

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