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The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain
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I really enjoyed this read. I've long been fascinated with the complex monarchical history of England, but have been intimidated by it as a reader. Costain's series was popular for a reason: they're accessible, readable, and interesting. I picked up The Three Edwards, the third in the series, because, strangely enough, the rest of Costain's Plantagenet series remains hard to find in the Hennepin County Library System. But I didn't feel lost. This book looks at Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III, with side trips to meet William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Phillip the Bad, and several knights whom, Costain theorizes, served as inspiration to Cervantes as he wrote Quixote. Because of its accessibility, the prose was engaging and the narrative mostly swift (though it slowed down dramatically at the end in the lengthy discussions of "non-Edward" topics, such as the initial stirrings of the Reformation, a couple of towering paladins, etc). The drama of the Scottish wars, of Isabella's machinations to get her feckless husband off the throne, of the Black Prince's heroics, were well-relayed.

I will say that the book lacks a certain rigor of scholarship. A popular history, of course, doesn't require the same depth and meticulous attention to sourcing that a more academic history requires. But Costain makes many assumptions, takes some literary liberties that, while entertaining, made me feel suspicious, and drew some conclusions that I didn't feel were well supported. I'm torn because, as a reader, some of these same sections were among my favorite to read. Anyway, I will be reading the rest of the Plantagenet series, and am grateful to have this easy way to enter into the intricate history of England's monarchy. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
I was surprised by how enjoyable and readable this book was. Within the first few pages Edward I gets stabbed with a poisoned dagger by a treacherous Muslim, and the history stays at that level of excitement throughout. Costain writes remarkably descriptive prose--he uses a whole lot of adjectives--but never delves into fiction. He doesn't put words or thoughts into the historical figures' heads, unlike all too many historians. I was pleased by Costain's breadth scholarship, as well. He spends literally chapters going over every detail of the Scottish wars for freedom, but doesn't leave out the contents of Princess Eleanor's trousseau (and why she would bring a bed of her own, or pounds of white sugar) or the effects of changing fashion. He includes several paragraphs on the invention of buttons!

And yet, despite all this detail, the book is never slowed down. I felt like I got a very comprehensive account of each Edward while also getting a good feel for the times they lived in. Impressive! ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
5281. A History of the Plantagenets The Three Edwards, By Thomas B. Costain (read 2 June 2015) This is the third volume of a four-volume popularized history of the Plantagenets, covering the reigns of Edward I (1272-1307), Edward II (1307-1327), and Edward III (1327-1377). There are no footnotes nor any bibliography, and the author is free with his opinions as to the people involved, though those opinions seem mostly to reflect the usual views of historians. I read the first volume of the series, The Conquering Family, on 18 Nov 1975, and the second volume, The Magnificent Century, on 7 Oct 2004. In this volume the reign of Edward I is looked on mostly affirmatively, the reign of Edward II is viewed with repulsion, and the reign of Edward III is viewed well in its earlier part, the part gloried by Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1354), but less approvingly when Edward III was in his dotage. I think I would have preferred a more academic account and whether i will read the fourth and concluding volume, The Last Plantagenets, remains to be seen. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 2, 2015 |
This 3rd volume in Costain's history of the Plantagenet dynasty in England features the wise Edward I and his flamboyant, uber-general grandson Edward III. Sandwiched between them is the tentative Edward II, who was deposed by his wife and who, rumor has it, died a horrific death (which Costain plays down.) There's a lot about battles in this, which Costain explains lucidly. History which reads like a novel. ( )
  Bjace | Mar 16, 2015 |
Costain continues his saga of the Plantaganet family, starting here with the three kings of England in the middle ages, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, covering all the history involved, the politics, the religious twists, the Black Death, wars, civil unrest, the building and tearing down of castles and more, dusted generously with plenty of intrigue, double-crossings, romance, family squables, tournaments, disappointments, beheadings, desposings. What more could you ask for? And it's all history, straightforward, uncontrived, no conjugated characters. Costain puts it all out there with clarity, simply following history as it happened. Some of it may surprise you, and I'm sure you will learn a lot. Filling in and rounding out this vision, Costain fills in with other players of the times including generous space allotted to Edward the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, John Wycliffe, and lesser known heroes, Leading into its evolution, the Wars of the Roses is clarified. It's possible you might even remember which House was the white rose [House of York} and which one was red {House of Lancaster} because it so simply explained. As it finishes, the Reformation of religious thought looms on the horizon. And young Richard II is heir to the throne of England. However, it is the final chapter that provides an unexpected twist and leaves the reader clamorous for the next adventure. Excellent narrative involves the reader all the way through and anxious to lay hold of the next one. I am thoroughly enjoying these. ( )
2 vote justmeRosalie | Jul 11, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0445085134, Mass Market Paperback)

THE THREE EDWARDS, third in Thomas B. Costain's survey of Britain under the Plantagenets, covers the years between 1272 and 1377 when three Edwards ruled England. Edward I brought England out of the Middle Ages. Edward II had a tragic reign but gave his country Edward III, who ruled gloriously, if violently.

"A thrilling narrative. . .history told with all the interest found only in a great novel." (Salt Lake City Tribune)


(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:13 -0400)

THE THREE EDWARDS, third in Thomas B. Costain's survey of Britain under the Plantagenets, covers the years between 1272 and 1377 when three Edwards ruled England. Edward I brought England out of the Middle Ages. Edward II had a tragic reign but gave his country Edward III, who ruled gloriously, if violently.… (more)

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