Margaret Paston died. She married into the Paston family, an example of mid-level Norfolk gentry during the Wars of the Roses. She is chiefly remembered for the detailed correspondence she left behind her. Totalling around one hundred letters, it provides a superb insight into daily life during the Wars of the Roses. Most 0f the letters are to her husband Sir William Paston, who was often absent from home on court business. However, while the Paston Letters are a superb resource, they should not be taken as providing a typical picture of gentry life during this period. The Pastons were quite closely involved in local and national politics and in that they were by no means typical of the time. The Paston Letters can usefully be contrasted with the Stonor Papers in this respect.
If you love medieval history in general and the Wars of the Roses in particular then it will be almost impossible not to like this extremely funny, witty and well-polished romp through the political and military events of the years 1455-87. Alianore wants nothing more than to be an ordinary knight’s lady but circumstances keep getting in the way as she finds herself acting as a spy for both King Edward IV and his brother Richard. Wainwright’s use of modern language and idioms may take some getting used to but overall they add considerably to the story’s pace and humour. For example:
“You ain’t just whistling Greensleeves, honey, I nodded. Let’s hit the trail, before Tudor and his bunch of oiks start knocking on the door.”
or: ‘Roger wore his collar of golden Yorkist suns to show that he was one of the King’s knights, ludicrous piked shoes to show that he was fashionable, and a massive codpiece to show that he had a vivid imagination.’
Even die-hard anti-Ricardians will find an afternoon absorbing Alianore’s irreverent recollections time well spent as she offers her unique personal take on the key players in the Wars of the Roses:
‘Even King Edward wasn’t above having a crack at me himself. However, once I’d given him a friendly punch in the groin he recognised that the game wasn’t on. He never held it against me again.’
The one downside to this book is that some basic knowledge of the Wars of the Roses is needed to get the sly in-jokes that crop up in the text. Even with that, it remains a real treat – a sound four out of five stars.