Review: The Reign Of King Henry VI

The Reign Of King Henry ViThe Reign Of King Henry Vi by Ralph A. Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the definitive biography on Henry VI. However, it is incredibly dry. I frequently refer to it, but only if I really really have to. For hard-core Wars of the Roses (WOTR) buffs, especially ones examining the 1450s, it is a must have. However, for people who do not have those requirements and are looking for an entertaining read, I do not recommend it.

This book does bust some stereotypes. For example, if memory serves, Griffiths writes that the Henry VI was not as pious as the propaganda and many modern historians depict. He was more interested in academia. He also wasn’t always cowering in the corner afraid to act.

Unfortunately, however, most books discuss Henry VI, they simply gloss over him as an incompetent, excessively pious, nervous wreck. This exhaustive book discusses the early parts of his reign. If memory serves, it does not discuss Margaret of Anjou that much. (I’m sorry to be going off of memory, but hopefully other reviews will balance this out.)

The book is the only *book* I’ve read that, in my opinion, gives _some_ decent insight into the anarchy and “issues with justice” in the 1440s and 1450s. After reading it, I could better visualize what historians meant when they describe the lawlessness of this period. (Think: retainers and household members getting into impromptu battles (skirmishes) over boundary disputes between their lords, archers lounging in the back of court rooms for property dispute cases like gangsters might today to intimidate witnesses, violence/intimidation of another lord’s tenants, etc.) Most of the worst violence, “lawlessness,” and justice issues centered around property disputes and attempts to grab land from other lords.

This concept isn’t necessarily a large part of this book, but it is one of the few resources I’ve found that discusses it somewhat, albeit not comprehensively. (I’ve seen justice discussed in some academic journal articles, that’s why I emphasized book.)

I’ve given it four stars simply because of the caliber of research. However, it can really drag in places.

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