Helen Castor is a Fellow in History at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge. Fifteen years in the making, Blood & Roses is her first book. Among various appearances on radio and television, she has talked about the Pastons on Radio 4’s In Our Time and most recently on Channel 4’s Seven Ages of Britain. She lives in London and is available for interview.
Blood & Roses
Helen Castor has created an original and intriguing family biography based on the unique letters of the Paston Family. This is the first time that the letters have been brought to life as biographical material. When they were first discovered in the 1700s the literary connoisseur Horace Walpole recognised their importance and correctly predicted that they would be a best seller:
I have brought you back your manuscripts myself, for I was afraid of keeping them they are so valuable, especially the Paston Letters, which are the most curious papers of the sort I ever saw, and the oldest original letters I believe extant in this country. The historic picture they give of the reign of Henry VI makes them invaluable, and more satisfactory than any cold narrative. It were a thousand pities they should not be published, which I should be glad I could persuade you to do.
This extraordinary account of medieval family life is centred on correspondence that was never meant for outsiders’ eyes. The Paston letters are a private insight into a period that is so frequently dominated by the very public, political tensions of civil war. The result is a fascinating and dramatic record of a family whose fortunes rollercoaster with the unsettling events of their time.