Posted in 15th Century Articles Tudor Wars of the Roses

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower Novels

There are three “Princes in the Tower” novels that have intrigued me over the years: To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell, Figures in Silk and Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett. All three make use of a background character’s view of events, some fictional–such as Bennett’s Isabel Lambert and Maxwell’s Nell Caxton–and others who were indeed on the fringes of the court during the era–Elizabeth of York, Jane Shore and Meg Giggs. While To the Tower Born and Figures in Silk are set during the era, Portrait of an Unknown Woman is indeed a Tudor novel set in the 1520’s, but has roots that lead back to 1485 via Thomas More, known for slandering Richard III in his book The History of…

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Posted in 15th Century Articles Wars of the Roses

Eleanor Hibbert: Letter about Jane Shore in The Goldsmith’s Wife

Just days after the announcement that confirmed Richard III’s remains were found, I received this correspondence (purchased from a document seller on eBay) between Eleanor Hibbert (Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Ellalice Tate, Anna Percival) and a reader from the University of Illinois English Department on Jane Shore, and along with her a mention of “the enigmatical Richard III”. This prompted me to compare my 1950 edition of The Goldsmith’s Wife with my 1979 edition, in which an Author’s Note had been added. Did this inquiry have anything to do with the curious addition to later printings? Re-reading the Author’s Note, it does not seem as though she had added any further thoughts relating to Mr. Harner’s questioning,…

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Posted in 15th Century Wars of the Roses

review: A Rose for the Crown

A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith It’s difficult to write a synopsis for this book because it is long and the main character’s situation changes many times. Kate began a poor farmer’s daughter, spent her early years as ward to a wealthy cousin, was wife to two very different men, and finally mistress to Richard of Gloucester, later known as Richard III. I believe that is as short and vague as I can make it; the rest of this review will be more detailed and contains spoilers. I wasn’t overly impressed with Kate in the beginning. Of course, her peasant speech had much to do with it, and she lost it fairly quickly when she moved to Ightham Mote. The time she…

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Posted in 15th Century Reviews Wars of the Roses

review: The Sun in Splendour

The Sun in Splendour by Jean Plaidy Elizabeth Woodville is the focus of this detailed account of the Wars of the Roses, beginning with her auspicious meeting with King Edward IV, where she boldly asked him to favor her with the return of her deceased husband’s estate, but ultimately won the crown of England for herself and her family. Cold and calculating, Elizabeth masked her true feelings behind a perpetual charming façade, enslaving her husband with her acceptance of his amours and other faults, in exchange for titles, lands and boons for her family members, placing the Woodvilles as the highest family in England. The great Neville family, specifically Warwick the Kingmaker, hated the Queen and her relations and schemed to bring them down—to his…

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Posted in 15th Century Reviews Wars of the Roses

review: The Queen of Last Hopes

The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France… Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible; Thou stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless. ~Henry VI, part III Shakespeare is just one of the sources that has maligned Margaret of Anjou throughout history, and so we have a very interesting protagonist in The Queen of Last Hopes. Margaret, well-educated and prepared to do her duty, came from a happy home and was not aware of what awaited her in England. As a direct result of the Hundred Years War, she was met with sour faces and grumbling from her new subjects, and was never accepted into their hearts as their Queen. The people’s attitude coupled with Margaret’s fondness for…

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Posted in 15th Century Tudor Wars of the Roses

review: The White Queen

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory Imagine an Elizabeth Woodville who is not a vindictive harpy; a cold and calculating queen. Imagine a woman who set out to restore her deceased husband’s titles and lands to her sons and got caught up in a relationship with the king. She never set her eyes to the throne. She loved the king as a man and he won the crown and brought her into prominence. He made suggestions of appointments and marriages for her relatives. She was never over-reaching, except in a few instances where she was feeling vengeful for wrongs done to her family. She was a good and loving mother, a faithful wife and a dutiful queen. And if she ever started feeling a bit…

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Posted in 15th Century Reviews Wars of the Roses

review: The Red Queen

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory This highly anticipated second novel of the Wars of the Roses from Philippa Gregory, though perhaps not sensational, definitely does not disappoint in terms of intrigue, timelines and historical detail. Gregory’s Margaret Beaufort begins life having visions of Joan of Arc and so dedicates her life to what she believes is her calling. At first she feels her destiny lies in prayer and study, but after the birth of her son she focuses solely on his care and upbringing. Unfortunately (yet ultimately fortunately) she must hand him over to wardship all of his young life and so never forms a maternal bond with him. She does, however, manage to instill in him a sense of family pride–namely their Lancastrian…

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Posted in 15th Century Reviews Wars of the Roses

review: The Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory The third installment of the Cousins’ War series, The Lady of the Rivers features a little known character at the forefront–Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Born the daughter of a French count and supposedly a descendant of the legendary goddess Melusina, she first married the Duke of Bedford, uncle to England’s King Henry VI. This marriage brought her wealth, power, education and an introduction to the dark arts. Though she is gifted with foresight, she doesn’t understand the vague visions that come to her and the few lessons her great-aunt taught her about fortunetelling and cursing remain nearly unused throughout the story. Instead, we follow the court of the childlike Henry VI…

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Posted in 15th Century Reviews Wars of the Roses

review: Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett Having read her previous novel, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, I was expecting a bit of a conspiracy theory with this novel. There was a slight twist to the Richard III/Henry Tudor/Elizabeth of York events that I have not seen before, but not quite as surprising as her other novel (though it does tie together in some ways). This review is very detailed and may have a little too much info for those who like to go into a story completely unaware. May be spoilers! Isabel, the protagonist, is sister to the infamous Jane Shore–whom I thought would be loathesome. Jane is actually one of the most likeable characters in the book and I really enjoyed the telling of…

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