Tag Archives: Middle Ages

Ireland Day 4: Things go sideways

Mom Camp Day 4: This was one of those days when things just seem to go sideways on you. We spent the night at a rather odd hotel in New Ross (a town founded by the Marshal) and we overslept.  We had a full day’s agenda that had to be majorly altered.  We skipped the Dunbrody Famine Ship as well as Waterford and made our way to the Irish Tintern Abbey.  

We made a trip the parent Abbey in Wales last year, (for those interested in the original Abbey).  For those of you who don’t know, the Irish Tintern Abbey was founded by the Marshal.  He had a pretty rough sea crossing to Ireland.  He pledged to found a new Abbey if he made it to shore.  Thankfully he made it and he was as good as his word and founded the Abbey.

Personally, having been to both, I prefer the Irish Abbey.  The grounds at the Irish Tintern are far more lush and evocative of the past.   Unlike it’s parent abbey in Wales, the Irish Tintern is surrounded by lovely forests and walking paths.  It also features a lovely bridge that crosses over a small river near the abbey.  It is very picturesque!  My only complaint was that we didn’t have more time to spend there!

inside the abbey 

Next, it was off to Kilkenny another Anglo-Norman city. In Kilkenny we stayed in the castle’s old carriage house that has been converted to a hotel.  Very nice.  It had an English style garden between the carriage house and the castle across the way.

Kilkenny also prides itself on maintaining a lot of its medieval history.  They have the medieval mile you can walk and imagine what the city might have looked it. In town there is also a pub that date backs to the 1300s.  Back in the day it was run by a witch!  Of course it’s a tourist trap.  But with two kids, who could skip it?  We were treated to an Irish drum circle lesson.

The Captain also discovered Kilkenny is where Smithwick’s Beer is brewed.  So we stopped into the shop for a t-shirt.

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The Three Edwards by Thomas Costain

The Three Edwards (The Plantagenets, #3)The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For his third book on the Plantagenets, Costain does it again. He continues to tell the story of the English Kings while adding interesting side notes on the period and the people of the realm.

One of my favorite side notes was his discussion of the origin and use of the button!

Additionally although he seems to favor King Edward, Costain does provides a very fair re-telling of the king’s treatment of William Wallace.

I also enjoyed Costain’s discussion of Mortimer’s escape. He took the time to present the story well.

If you like his other books on this famous family, you will enjoy this too.

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The Magnificent Century: A Booky Mom Review

The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets, #2)The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thomas B. Costain’s second book in his Plantagenet series focuses on the life of Henry III and to a large extent Simon De Montfort. The first book runs through Henry II and his sons with solid details, but without spending too much time on any of the people. For me, I was not expecting book 2 to be almost totally devoted to the life of Henry III. Additionally, I just do not find Henry III to be the most interesting of the Plantagenets.

However, Costain does a good job with subject matter again. He covers the key women of the period in a fair manner and gives them their place in the rolls of history. I appreciated this because he is writing prior to the “women’s movement” so his cover of these women is genuine and fair. They have important parts to play and are given credit for their good and bad behaviors because that’s how it happened.

One of the joys of reading Costain are his “tangents” where he discusses the details of time and place or the personal history of other people of the period. In this book we are treated to digressions including discussions of woman’s fashion and the life of Roger Bacon.

The final few chapters are a wonderful summation of the book, so if you get bored reading it— skip to the end.

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Best Book on the Plantagenets Yet!

The Conquering Family (The Plantagenets, #1)The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Originally published in 1949, Thomas Costain’s Conquering Family is a history of Henry II and his family. It is the first volume in a series about the Plantagenet Dynasty and is told from a wonderfully British perspective.

The work discusses the succession problems created when Henry I’s son died in the White Ship crash. He continues through the death of that famously hated king, John.

Costain uses his British style to introduce readers to the Plantagenet’s with detail and an entertaining voice. For example, in describing Richard the Loinheart: Richard was always the knight, never the king.

The author also addresses court rumor and works to help readers distinguish fact and fiction. However, because the book has an older publication date there are a few things that historians have discovered in the past 60 years. It seems history is always coming to light. One example of this is Henry II’s illegitimate son, William. New research has discovered William is not Rosamund’s son– the child of one of Henry’s other mistresses, Ida.

Throughout the work, the author provides useful asides. For example, he gives a good description of Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland, the Robin Hood Legend and the life of a villen during the period. These details help paint a picture of the times beyond just what was happening to the Plantagenet dynasty.

One aspect that maybe tough for new readers to this period of history are the author’s speculations. Every once in while he adds his own opinion of events. I enjoyed his ideas, however, people less well versed in the period my be confused and take his musings as fact. As long as you give the book a close reading, I don’t think readers will be confused.

I was reading this concurrent with The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones. Jones’ book is more recent (2013) but Constain’s book is much better, more entertaining and readable. Over and over I found myself wishing I was reading Costain’s when I was reading Jones’.

Finally, I had the extra treat of listening to Conquering Family on audio and the narrator David Case does a wonderful job. His voice, accent, and timing add a lot to the book!

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