The Brothers York

A Royal Tragedy


About The Book

Vicious battles, powerful monarchs, and royal intrigue abound in this “gripping, complex, and sensational” (Hilary Mantel) true story of the War of the Roses—a struggle among three brothers, two of whom became kings, and the inspiration for Shakespeare’s renowned play, Richard III.

In 15th-century England, two royal families, the House of York and the House of Lancaster, fought a bitter, decades-long civil war for the English throne. As their symbols were a red rose for Lancaster and a white rose for York, the conflict became known as the Wars of the Roses.

During this time, the house of York came to dominate England. At its heart were three charismatic brothers—King Edward IV, and his two younger siblings George and Richard—who became the figureheads of a spectacular ruling dynasty. Together, they looked invincible.

But with Edward’s ascendancy the brothers began to turn on one another, unleashing a catastrophic chain of rebellion, vendetta, fratricide, usurpation, and regicide. The brutal end came at Bosworth Field in 1485, with the death of the youngest, then Richard III, at the hands of a new usurper, Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, progenitor of the Tudor line of monarchs.

Fascinating, dramatic, and filled with vivid historical detail, The Brothers York is a brilliant account of a conflict that fractured England for a generation. Riven by internal rivalries, jealousy, and infighting, the three York brothers failed to sustain their power and instead self-destructed. It is a rich and bloody tale as gripping as any historical fiction.

About The Author

Photograph by Justine Stoddart

Thomas Penn is publishing director at Penguin Books UK. He holds a PhD in medieval history from Clare College, Cambridge University, and writes for The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. He is the author of The Brothers York and Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 16, 2020)
  • Length: 688 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451694192

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Raves and Reviews

“A gripping, complex and sensational story, told with calm narrative command. It's a story we think we know—but most accounts leave the personnel as frozen as portraits in stained glass. Here, the three  York brothers spring to ferocious life, and you need strong nerves to  meet them. With insight and skill, Penn cuts through the thickets of history to find the heart of these heartless decades.”

– Hilary Mantel

"An epic orgy of colour and character."

– Leanda de Lisle, The Times (London)

"Thrilling. . . . [Penn] brings a novelist’s verve to his telling of events. . . . Penn's history of betrayal, backstabbing and paranoia strikes notes that still resonate today." 

– John Gallagher, The Guardian

"The Brothers York is not just a magisterial work of sublime scholarship, it's a pure page-turner. . . . The wonderful thing about Thomas Penn is that he makes some of the most familiar stories in English history feel fresh and exciting."

– Amanda Foreman, author of The Duchess

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