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Britainís Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets

Score: 80%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Athena
Region: 1
Media: DVD/2
Running Time: 188 Mins.
Genre: Historical/Documentary
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH

Features:

  • 12-Page Viewer's Guide
  • Profiles of Plantagenet Queens

Britainís Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets is a documentary that features historian and journalist Dan Jones as he recounts the rise and fall of the most powerful family in the British monarchy. You'll also be treated to reenactments of pivotal moments and you'll follow Dan as he visits some of the same locations mentioned throughout the documentary, so you'll be able to see what they look like today. He's clearly passionate about British history and he conveys that in his presentation, as he offers his own insights into what actually happened as has been recorded in history, as well as some of what may have happened based on stories passed down through the ages.

The Plantagenet line begins with Henry II and ends with Richard II, with eight generations of Plantagenets on the throne and plenty of tumult during that time. In addition to the storied brutality of many of these kings, there are also some great things that arose during their reign that still stand today, such as what is now England's Civil Service, which originated during the reign of Henry II, and the construction of Westminster Abbey, as well as the basis of the modern Parliamentary system, both of which came out of Henry III's reign.

But with the good comes the bad. For example, Henry II and Thomas Becket, once close friends who became bitter enemies when Becket became the Archbishop of Canterbury and began to put the Church before the wishes of the king. Some harsh but flippant words spoken by Henry II result in tragedy when they are taken seriously and Henry II fights to regain the respect of his people for the rest of his reign.

When Edward II ascends the throne following his father's death, he marries a then 12-year-old Isabella of France, but is more excited about the return of his previously-banished best friend, Gaveston, and the supposed wedding feast becomes more of a bro-fest. The king's "friendship" with Gaveston will continue to plague his reign as he runs England into the ground, while his cousin, Thomas Lancaster, fights to rid England of Gaveston and his influence. When Gaveston is finally out of the picture, Edward takes up with a ruthless family called the Despensers, but finds himself creating an enemy in his wife, Queen Isabella, who has always assisted and supported him politically. As she dispenses her own brand of justice, Isabella earns the moniker She-Wolf and Edward dies, possibly in a boring way, but he is more well known for being killed in a much more gruesome and embarrassing way.

Richard II ascends the throne at a young age and endures much horror since England is suffering at the hands of greedy nobles who are running things and the peasants have had enough. The king, then only 14-years-old, single-handedly "crushes" the Peasants' Revolt by bravely meeting them on the field, even when his few troops run in fear. The peasants believe they have the heroic king who will save them, but in turn, Richard II begins a series of executions across the countryside as a reminder to never revolt again... and it works. This is only the beginning of his cruel regime and throughout his reign, he finds himself at odds with his cousin and once childhood friend, Henry Bolingbroke, a seasoned warrior. The two will butt heads and clash swords over and over again, but Richard II will never see the error of his cruel ways, becoming more vicious after the death of his beloved queen. His reign will eventually end of the hands of Bolingbroke AKA Henry of Lancaster who will take the throne as Henry IV, ending the long and storied Plantagenet reign.

While Britainís Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets is a documentary, it is one that is peppered with performances that provide interesting peeks into the history of one of Britain's most infamous royal families, and I have only scratched the surface here, preferring for the viewer to discover all of the Plantagenet secrets and horrors while watching for themselves. While Dan Jones is very fascinating in his retelling of these events, seeing these historical figures come to life really adds a lot to what could otherwise be a typical, dry documentary. As for special features, they are slim, but include Profiles of the Plantagenet Queens, as well as a somewhat detailed Viewer's Guide that unfolds to reveal a map of the Plantagenet holdings, as well as insight into the major players and their reigns.

You'll never mistake Britainís Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets for Game of Thrones, but it is still a fine production and a great way to learn about the dynasty of the Plantagenets. I would be interested to see what Dan Jones had to say about the War of the Roses and the Tudors, should he and Athena decide to take on another documentary.



-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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