“The Demon’s Brood” by Desmond Seward

A day spent at the auto dealership having my car repaired provided the opportunity to finish off Desmond Seward’s “The Demon’s Brood.” It’s subtitled “A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty,” which gives you an idea what it’s about.

The “House” of Plantagenet ruled England from 1154 (Henry II) to 1485 (death of Richard III). There are some who will argue that Henry Tudor/Henry VII was a continuation of the house as a Lancastrian offshoot but Richard III is generally considered the end of the line, which had been shredded by the splitting of the house into the Lancaster and York branches and, henceforth, the Wars of the Roses.

“The Demon’s Brood” lightly chronicles the English monarchs and leading personalities from Henry II-Richard III. It’s not encyclopedic nor is it quite novelistic. It freely skips large portions of many lives, some of which often get more treatment from other writers. He gives some kings such as Richard II and Henry IV more attention than they often get . Seward is a big fan of Edward III.

Seward repeats some debatable history (a few too many people simply die of fright and intimidation) and yet also makes good use of quotes from old texts that are often quickly dismissed or don’t always get publicity. He offers his opinions on many of these excerpts and other things. Take those for what they are — the tip of Seward’s pinky toe knows more about the Plantagenets than I do — even if I question his conclusions and analyses occasionally.

An excellent (and quick) supplemental read for those already familiar with the Plantagenets or English medieval and Renaissance era history. It could also help the beginner by providing them with enough information for them to decide on a monarch to learn more about.

I only have a few mistakes to note:
Page 21 – Geoffrey took over Brittany, not Maine (the preceding segment of the sentence assigning it to Henry is correct)
Page 280 – the word “him” should probably be added – “then had him beheaded in the yard outside.”

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