Desmond Seward : The Demon’s Brood (Review)

Desmond Seward is one of Britain’s best known popular historians, often regarded as a successor to Christopher Hibbert. He has been writing professionally for over fifty years and is author of nearly thirty books. These range from studies of our medieval kings and the Wars of the Roses to a comparative biography of Napoleon and Hitler.

He was born in 1935 in Paris where his father was managing director of Timken Français S.A. (taper-bearing manufacturers) into a family of Anglo-Irish origin who had been wine merchants at Bordeaux since the 1870s, a background that instilled a lasting love of France. He is a fondateur of the Association de Lassaye, dedicated to preserving a fifteenth century château at Lassaye-les-Châteaux near Mayenne, which is owned by French cousins.

Educated at Ampleforth and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge where he was an Exhibitioner in History, he has published twenty-eight books of history and travel. Unfashionably, harking back to Gibbon and Macaulay, he believes history is literature, and that readability and accessibility are an essential part of the historical process, but is equally convinced that there is no substitute for a first hand study of primary sources.

In 1991 (in a book of essays on Brooks’s, edited with Philip Ziegler), he unveiled the true identity of the model for the great anti-hero Widmerpool in Anthony Powell’s novel A Dance to The Music of Time.



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Book Description

A Plantagenet galllery, from Black Fulk to Bosworth Field.

From the Inside Flap

We come from the Devil and we’ll end by going to the Devil.‘ Richard the Lionheart

The extraordinary Plantagenet dynasty, who reigned over England from the accession of Henry II in 1154 until Richard III’s death at Bosworth in 1485, included some of the most magnificent kings ever to rule England – and also some of the most unworthy. During their time on the throne, they hammered out what became our nation, presiding over the fusion of French-speaking colonists and conquered Anglo-Saxons into one race, over the emergence of the Common Law and parliamentary government.

However, bloody rebellions and bitter family rivalries often had terrifying consequences for them. Of fourteen Plantagenet sovereigns, one was shot by a crossbowman, four were murdered, one was deposed but regained his crown, two came very close to deposition and the last was killed by rebels on the battlefield. The dynasty finally destroyed itself in the ferocious bloodbath later known as the Wars of the Roses.

In this single volume, acclaimed historian Desmond Seward brings each one of the Plantagenets to vivid life, recreating the dramatic history of medieval England. Drawing on the major chronicles of the period and on the latest research, he offers fresh perspectives.

The Demon’s Brood is a short, readable and easily accessible account of the longest reigning dynasty in English history – providing an invaluable overview.


I don’t often read non fiction, not because its badly written, just because i don’t have time with all the great fiction out there. Yet now and again a book will come along and something will click and make me pick it up. This is one of those books, a non fiction account of the Plantagenet Dynasty

I in no way ever claim to know that much about history, im one of those who remember the broad strokes but not the dates and often not the names. So this is a fantastic book to read and fill those gaps with detail, i have read so many fictional books set against this dynasty and wondered at what liberties may have been taken or not, this book helps set lots of that straight in my head, one king at a time down the Plantagenet line.

There is so much to learn in the broad strokes of this book, but also so much more in the little details, the small nuggets of research, couple this with the elegant turns of descriptive phrase that the author uses, makes this a really engaging book.


Click the below for someone who puts this much better than i do….

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