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Britain's Bloody Crown

Score: 89%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Athena
Region: 1
Media: DVD/2
Running Time: 188 Mins.
Genre: Historical/Documentary
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH

Britain's Bloody Crown is another fascinating documentary by Dan Jones, the same man behind Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets. This four-part series can be seen as a sequel to The Plantagenets and focuses on The Wars of the Roses and the eventual rise of King Henry VII, the first Tudor king.

The first episode focuses on the inept rule of King Henry VI, his wife's attempts to keep the country together, and the machinations of Richard, Duke of York who felt he had other ideas of the best way to run the kingdom. The ultimate result of these initial conflicts was Richard's heir, Edward, dethroning Henry and becoming King Edward IV.

The second episode focuses on Edward's reign. While Edward IV does seem to bring stability to England during this period of in-fighting, it seems that his greatest foe was the man that help to put him on the throne, his good friend, the Earl of Warwick. Before Edward's reign ends, Henry VI will once again assume the throne for a period, but when Edward takes it back, he will do everything he can to make sure Henry and his loyalists don't get another chance to dethrone him. When Edward dies, he has two young sons, one of whom should be the next King of England, that is, if it wasn't for Edward's younger brother, Richard.

While typically portrayed as a villain, thanks in no small part to Shakespeare, Jones shows the events that lead to Richard III's assumption of the throne and why it appears he was forced to make the decisions he did, including the one that led him to arresting and apparently eventually killing his nephews, Edward's sons. The third episode not only focuses on Richard's rise to kingship, but also his time as king and how he dealt with Edward's widow, Elizabeth Woodville, not to mention the rest of the Woodville family, who had grown in favor during Edward's reign.

While each of these first three episodes are fascinating, it is clear that Jones intended for these to be merely the build up to Britain's Bloody Crown's last episode, the one that focuses on how Henry Tudor replaced Richard III on the throne. Interestingly enough, this episode doesn't really focus on the future Henry VII, but on his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. Since Henry's father died three months before the future king's birth, Lady Margaret found herself in a difficult situation. She had her family's money, but as a woman, she had very little power. Jones shows that throughout the Wars of the Roses, Lady Margaret maneuvers her way around the other nobles, not for the hopes of one day gaining the throne for her son, but simply to protect him since the changing of the crown between the Yorks and the Lancasters puts young Henry's life in danger one way or another. It isn't until Richard III takes power that Lady Margaret decides the only way for Henry to be safe is if he is king himself.

Dan Jones' documentaries are interesting and the format in which he unfolds the events of the time goes a long way to keeping the material from feeling dry, a problem I always had with history classes. While Jones will visit the various locations that events took place, these scenes are interspersed by actors portraying the various characters and showing, more than telling, what happened. While the actors don't have many speaking parts (most of the talking is done by Jones himself), a lot is conveyed in what little they say or how they act. It really does feel like a good balance between a basic talking-head documentary and a dramatization of the events. Jones used the same style in Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets and seeing where he ends Britain's Bloody Crown, I have hope that his next venture delves into the Tudors.

If you have any interest in the Wars of the Roses, or the British monarchs around this time, then check out Britain's Bloody Crown. While shows like The White Queen and The Tudors are a lot of fun, stepping away from the historical fiction genre and delving into an actual documentary can be a good way to get an even deeper insight into the characters being portrayed.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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