Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century by Helen Castor
In a span of thirty years, four kings lost their thrones, countless men lost their lives on the battlefield or their heads on the block, and others found themselves suddenly flush with gold. The Wars of the Roses tore England asunder, yet until now, almost nothing has been known about the ordinary people who lived through this extraordinary time.
Drawing on an incomparably rare trove of letters discovered in a tumbledown stately home, historian Helen Castor reconstructs the lives of the Paston family, who singlemindedly worked their way up from farmers to landed gentry. As they went about their business in a disintegrating society, the Pastons corresponded on topics ranging from politics to love, from shopping to family gossip. A wife writes her husband that she'd rather have him home than have a new gown, "even if it were scarlet." A brother reports that the handless servant, Thomas Stumps, has demanded a crossbow so that he can defend them in a siege. Five hundred years later, these voices still have the immediacy of a conversation overheard on a street corner.
Blood and Roses is a gripping and intimate biography of a family, which traces three generations of births, marriages, and deaths. Castor unravels the story of the family's tur-bulent affairs against the backdrop of civil war, bringing to vibrant life a remote and hazy era.