I had heard of the book History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill, and the title alone fascinated me. As I am desperately trying to educate myself, I knew I had to read it. It’s probably one of my favorite history books up to this point. But this time, I read it a little differently than I read most books. While I always take notes and write up a summary, this time, I used Susan Wise Bauer’s suggestions for how to read a history book. She includes over 20 questions to ask yourself as you read the book. So I did that and this summary took quite a bit longer. But I think it was worth it for the depth I feel I gained in doing so.
After the Norman invasion and the establishment of the Plantagenet line of kings, Churchill answers the question, “Why did England decline?” Edward II, the son of Edward I, was a weak and ineffectual king. He lost Scotland at the battle of Bannockburn. And it’s possible he was gay. For this he was rejected by his French wife. She took his son to France where she and her lover conspired to have Edward II removed, killed, and replaced with Edward III.
Churchill’s next question seems to be, “How and why did this period of internal fights end?” In order to “protect” the young boys, Richard had them secured in the Tower. Within two years, they disappeared. Everyone assumed Richard had them killed in order to secure his position as king. Richard III worked hard to be a good king, but he could never be forgiven the murder of his nephews. When his only son and heir died, Richmond Tudor, who could trace his lineage back to Edward III, was the obvious claimant. Richard was killed in battle and and Richmond married the daughter of Edward IV. “The marriage of Richmond with the adaptable Princess Elizabeth produced the Tudor line, in which both Yorkists and Lancastrians had a share. Richard's death also ended the Plantagenet line. For over three hundred years this strong race of warrior and statesmen kings, whose gifts and vices were upon the highest scale, whose sense of authority and Empire had been persistently maintained, now vanished from the fortunes of the Island.” (p. 499-500) This marks another turning point in the history of the English-speaking peoples. The next volume will undoubtably pick up here.