The best books on histories of medieval families

Sharon Bennett Connolly Author Of Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey
By Sharon Bennett Connolly

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by history my whole life and have now published 4 non-fiction history books. My fourth and latest book, Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey, tells the story of the Warenne earls over 300 years and 8 generations. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, I have studied history academically and just for fun. I even worked as a tour guide at a castle! I also write the highly popular history blog History... the Interesting Bits, and I am also a feature writer for All About History magazine. My TV work includes Australian Television's Who Do You Think You Are?


I wrote...

Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey

By Sharon Bennett Connolly,

Book cover of Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey

What is my book about?

In the reign of Edward I, when asked Quo Warranto - by what warrant he held his lands - John de Warenne, the 6th earl of Surrey, is said to have drawn a rusty sword, claiming “My ancestors came with William the Bastard, and conquered their lands with the sword, and I will defend them with the sword against anyone wishing to seize them.” John's ancestor, William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, fought for William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. He was rewarded with enough land to make him one of the richest men of all time.

Defenders of the Norman Crown tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England.

The books I picked & why

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The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown

By Nathen Amin,

Book cover of The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown

Why this book?

The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown is a masterpiece of historical writing. Nathen Amin has written the story of a family from its very beginning, highlighting the heights of their success, and the depths of their failures. Covering almost exactly 100 years, the book provides a fascinating insight into a family who lived close to the crown but looked like they would constantly be denied it.

Nathen Amin’s passion for the Beauforts comes across on every page. His persuasive, perceptive arguments are all supported with ample evidence and explanation. These arguments and insights are balanced and reflective, even in the divided loyalties of the Wars of the Roses.

Comprehensive and compelling, this is a book that should grace the shelves of any fan of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, of the royal Houses of Lancaster and York, and the Hundred Years War, or even for a simple lover of medieval history.

The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown

By Nathen Amin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The House of Beaufort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Wars of the Roses saw family fight family over the greatest prize - the throne of England. But what gave the eventual victor of these brutal and complex wars, Henry Tudor, the right to claim the crown? How exactly did an illegitimate line come to challenge the English monarchy?

While the Houses of York and Lancaster fought brutally for the crown, other noble families of the kingdom also played integral roles in the wars; grand and prestigious names like the Howards, Mowbrays, Nevilles and Percys were intimately involved in the conflict, but none symbolised the volatile nature of the…


Crusaders and Revolutionaries of the Thirteenth Century: De Montfort

By Darren Baker,

Book cover of Crusaders and Revolutionaries of the Thirteenth Century: De Montfort

Why this book?

There are so many reasons to love Crusaders and Revolutionaries of the Thirteenth Century: De Montfort by Darren Baker. The foremost reason is that it is a fabulous, enjoyable, and entertaining read. Darren Baker has fast become the ‘go-to’ historian for all things De Montfort. His research is thorough, and the story is recounted in an accessible manner that draws the reader in. Told in chronological order, the narrative flows freely, drawing the reader into the lives of this incredible family.

The second reason is the cover. If there ever was a cover to attract a reader, this is it. It is stunning! And the artwork was done by a de Montfort descendant, Rosana de Montfort. It epitomises the ethos of the medieval barons, their sense of duty, and dedication to the crusading ideal. It is a wonderful book for anyone interested in medieval history, either for leisure, research, or study. The narrative is so eminently readable that you find yourself forgetting it is not a novel.

Crusaders and Revolutionaries of the Thirteenth Century: De Montfort

By Darren Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crusaders and Revolutionaries of the Thirteenth Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the families that dominated the thirteenth century were the de Montforts. They arose in France, in a hamlet close to Paris, and grew to prominence under the crusading fervour of that time, taking them from leadership in the Albigensian wars to lordships around the Mediterranean. They marry into the English aristocracy, join the crusade to the Holy Land, then another crusade in the south of France against the Cathars.

The controversial stewardship of Simon de Montfort (V) in that conflict is explored in depth. It is his son Simon de Montfort (VI) who is perhaps best known. His…


Red Roses: Blanche of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort

By Amy Licence,

Book cover of Red Roses: Blanche of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort

Why this book?

With this book, historian Amy Licence has excelled herself. Red Roses is a thorough and comprehensive examination of the lives of the women of the House of Lancaster, from its inception with the marriage of Blanche of Lancaster and John of Gaunt to its crowning glory, with the regency of Margaret Beaufort for her 17-year-old grandson, Henry VIII.

I was amazed at the detailed research involved in creating this book, and the little extra snippets of information that the author has found, but which had eluded earlier historians. There are several new pieces of information brought to light.

This is a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the lives of the Lancastrian women, told in an engaging and entertaining manner. Amy Licence tells the story, not only of the individual women, but also of a dynasty; and how that dynasty was held together by the wives and mothers essential to its survival, continued existence, and eventual success. She also takes care to demonstrate how responsibilities and perceptions changed through time, affected by events and changing circumstances.

Red Roses: Blanche of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort

By Amy Licence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Roses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Wars of the Roses were not just fought by men on the battlefield. Behind the scenes, there were daughters, wives, mistresses, mothers and queens whose lives and influences helped shape the most dramatic of English conflicts.

This book traces the story of women on the Lancastrian side, from the children borne by Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, through the turbulent fifteenth century to the advent of Margaret Beaufort's son in 1485 and the establishment of the Tudor dynasty. From the secret liaisons of Katherine Swynford and Catherine of Valois to the love lives of Mary de Bohun and…


The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings

By Sarah Bryson,

Book cover of The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings

Why this book?

In telling the story of Henry VIII’s best friend, Charles Brandon, and Charles’ forebears, Sarah Bryson writes with a passion that draws the reader in from the very first pages. Sarah Bryson starts the story at the beginning, with the first known head of the Brandon family, Sir William Brandon, born in around 1425. The Brandons rose to prominence during the unsettled times of the Wars of the Roses, their fortunes turning with the tug-of-war between York and Lancaster. Sir William Brandon’s son – also William – was killed at the Battle of Bosworth while protecting the future king, Henry VII. It was this William whose son, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, took the family to its greatest heights, going so far as to marry Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France and King Henry VIII’s beloved baby sister. It is a fabulous history.

The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings

By Sarah Bryson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Brandon Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Four generations of Brandon men lived and served six English kings, the most famous being Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, best friend and brother-in-law to King Henry VIII. Yet his family had a long history tied closely to the kings of the Wars of the Roses back to Henry VI. Charles Brandon's father, Sir William Brandon, supported Henry Tudor's claim on the throne and became his standard bearer, dying at the Battle of Bosworth. Charles's uncle, Sir Thomas Brandon, was Henry VII's Master of the Horse, one of the three highest positions within the court. Charles's grandfather had ties with…


On the Trail of the Yorks

By Kristie Dean,

Book cover of On the Trail of the Yorks

Why this book?

A combination of history book and travel guide, On the Trail of the Yorks looks at the House of York from Richard, Duke of York through his children, including Edward IV and Richard III, to his granddaughter, Elizabeth of York, queen of Henry VII, highlighting the many historical locations associated with the family. The book is laid out in an easy-to-follow format, with each main character of the Yorkist dynasty getting their own chapter. The chapters then follow a loosely chronological manner, based on when the locations were used or visited, by the person in question. Kristie Dean always gives a history of the association between the Yorks and the historic site, while also giving a general history of the location. The book acts as a practical guide for each historic site; giving not only useful contact details, but also travel information and what to look out for while you are there.

On the Trail of the Yorks

By Kristie Dean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Trail of the Yorks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard III is probably the House of York's best-known figure, but the other members of the family are just as intriguing as the king who fell on Bosworth Field. These include his father, the Duke of York, who held a claim to the throne that would eventually topple a king; his older brother Edward IV, a warrior cast in the mould of a true Plantagenet; and the resilient Yorkist queen Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York, the latter of whom would eventually unite the family with their longstanding rivals, the Lancastrians, and become the mother of the most…


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