Uneasy Lies The Head

Written by Jean Plaidy
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1486. The Wars of the Roses are over. The Lancastrian King Henry VII has married the Yorkist princess Elizabeth and united the two warring houses. But will that be enough to ensure peace? Three Yorkist princes remain alive, each with an arguably better claim to the throne than Henry. The country is bankrupt, so economic stability is a priority, but Henry’s parsimony is not popular, nor is his tax-raising. How long will it be before rebellions erupt?

Plaidy weaves the stories of Henry VII, his formidable mother Margaret Beaufort, his dutiful wife Elizabeth of York, his resentful mother-in-law the dowager queen of Yorkist Edward IV, his elder son Arthur, his younger son Henry, and Arthur’s bride Katherine of Aragon through the book to give us the human angle of this turbulent time.

Originally published in 1982, this is the first in Plaidy’s Tudor series and the author goes to some trouble to elucidate the ramifications of the family tree and the political complexities in a way which engages the reader. It is a tribute to her skill that, in spite of the fact that most of the men are called either Henry, Edward or Richard, and the women Margaret or Elizabeth, I remembered who everyone was. In fact, as a history lesson in who is who and what is at stake, it could hardly be bettered. The characterisation is, perhaps, a touch simplistic, and there is rather too much of the ‘She/he remembered the time when…’, still, it is difficult to see how else one could convey the intricate history of the late fifteenth century.