Books: The Plantagenet: the Warrior Kings and Queens who made England

large_The_PlantagenetsExclusive interview with author Dan Jones and a review of his book about the longest reigning dynasty in the British monarchy **** Four Stars

By Gabrielle Pantera

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2013/8/11 – “I got into it before Game of Thrones made it popular,” says The Plantagenet: the Warrior Kings and Queens who made England author Dan Jones. “The book came out of a decade or more of interest in the Middle Ages. I studied medieval history at Cambridge in my time there between 1999 and 2002. I specialized in medieval law and society, but always kept an interest in the period in the years that followed. It surprised me how little any of the great events or figures of the middle ages resonated with the general public, while everyone knows just about everything there is to know about the Tudors, Henry VIII and Elizabeth in particular. Yawn. Please. Give us another dynasty.”

In The Plantagenets: the Warrior Kings and Queens who made England, Jones starts with the first Plantagenet king. A realm torn apart by fighting is transformed it into a British empire that successors will spread from Scotland to Jerusalem. Descendants include Richard Lionhearted, King John who’s mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine, Edward II, and more. The Plantagenets created parliament, drafted laws, the Magna Carta, and shaped the British people and the British Commonwealth. There is much in this book that will feel familiar to those who watch Game of Thrones…treachery, love, war and imprisonment. For anyone who loves history.

The Plantagenets was initially conceived as a single biography of Richard II, the last king in the book. “As I sketched out that story, I started to see that in order to makes sense of the disastrous events of Richard’s reign…a massive rebellion in 1381, enormous political and constitutional unrest between king and his nobles played out in parliament, a collapsing position in the French wars, and a tyrannical king eventually deposed…you needed to delve back into the whole history of Richard’s Plantagenet family,” says Jones.

“As soon as I started working on this I realized I must be insane. I was trying to tell an eight-generation family history over more than 250 years in a book that was light enough not to physically hurt you if you dropped it on your foot.”

For his research, Jones did ten years of reading, thinking, talking about the period. “I work in lots of libraries and archives here in the UK, and have visited endless castles, cathedrals and battle sites,” says Jones. “I wanted the book to feel as vivid and engaged as possible, and that comes from having an intimate feel for the places I’ve written about. Southwest London, where I live, is blessed with the most tremendous research facility: The National Archives at Kew.”

As a journalist Jones has written for Atlantic, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, The Spectator, GQ, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The New Statesman, and The Literary Review. Jones estimates he writes 300,000 published words a year. “I write pretty much ceaselessly,” says Jones. “I write a weekly sports column for the Evening Standard, which is London’s biggest newspaper. I come to LA four or five times a year to write profiles of movie stars.”

The Plantagenets is Jones’ second book. His first, Summer of Blood, is a history of the great English tax rebellion of 1381. Jones is writing his third book now, a history of the War of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors due for release in fall 2014. Jones says discussions are underway to option The Plantagenets for film or television.

Jones currently lives in the Battersea are of London, just over the bridge from Chelsea. He was born in Reading, England.

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England                                                                                                                     Hardcover: 560 pages, Publisher: Viking Adult; Revised edition (April 18, 2013) Language: English ISBN: 9780670026654 $36.00

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