The previous column
focused on the personages who began the Wars of the Roses,
from Henry VI's claim for the throne being challenged by his cousin
Richard of York until the death of Edward IV. Now the stage is
set for the final decisive struggle between the Plantagenet heirs, represented
by Edward IV's brother Richard, and the Tudors, who trace their claim to the
throne to the marriage of the widow of Lancastrian Henry V to Welsh bard
As a special treat, this month also features an interview with New York Times
bestselling author Philippa
Gregory, who wrote several of the novels described in last month's column,
WARS OF THE ROSES PART I.
Philippa's upcoming novel features one of the heroines involved in Richard III's
story, his wife Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, "the Kingmaker."
(more about her later.)
Edward IV's premature death set about a struggle for the throne between
the widowed queen's Woodville relations, the Tudor claimants and the
Neville-York side. Concerned for the safety of his nephews, Edward's brother
Richard, whom the late king had named Lord Protector, moved the boys to the
Tower of London while a court of inquiry determined who should succeed Edward.
When that court declared that, because Edward had legally contracted to marry
another before his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, Edward's sons by her
were illegitimate, their uncle Richard, as next surviving Yorkist male, became
King Richard III.
Shakespeare, writing in the Tudor (Lancestrian) court generations later,
depicted Richard III as a hunchbacked monster who murdered his nephews and
usurped the throne. But was he? That question has fascinated historians and
ROSE FOR THE CROWN by Anne Easter Smith tells
Richard's story from an unusual viewpoint, that of Kate Haute, Richard's
"tawny-eyed mistress" and mother of his illegitimate children. A peasant sent
as companion to her noble cousin Anne, Kate is married off first to an older
merchant, then to a Haute cousin who covets her widow's fortune but his stable
boy's affections. In a chance encounter, Kate meets and falls in love with
Richard of Gloucestor. Even after her second husband's death, their secret
passion can never be legitimized, for family ambition weds Richard to Anne
Neville, daughter of the powerful "Kingmaker," the Earl of Warwick.
In THE SUNNE IN
SPLENDOR: A NOVEL OF RICHARD III, superstar historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman sets
Richard's tale in a sympathetic light against a rich tapestry of the age.
Beginning with his childhood and his awed friendship with his brother, his
respect for the Earl of Warwick and love for Warwick's daughter Anne, Penman
portrays Richard as a good and benevolent man. Betrayed by former allies like
the Duke of Buckingham, who implicate him as the murderer of his disappeared
nephews, he is deserted on the field of battle and dies at the hand of Henry
Tudor's forces. (My first glimpse of a Richard who was not the monster depicted
by Shakespeare, this novel remains one of my favorites!)
Another book to break with the Shakespearean mold is TREASON by Meredith Whitford. This
novel, narrated by Richard's fictional best friend, Martin Robsart, follows
Richard and Martin from their young men's adventures after the death of
Richard's father, through the rise and reign of Richard's brother Edward, to his
role as a reluctant king.
A different but compelling and sympathetic version of Richard's story is WE SPEAK NO TREASON
by Rosemary Hawley
Richard is less the central figure here, the book focusing more on the views of
those around him, particularly four fictional characters who include the Man of
Keen Sight and the Nun. Still, the intertwining stories of both fictional and
historic characters vividly illuminate the twisted tale of events during the
first two years of his reign.
Sandra Worth devotes an
entire trilogy to Richard. THE ROSE OF YORK: LOVE
AND WAR describes Richard as a lonely youth who idolized his cousin, John of
Montagu, (whose love story Worth tells in LADY OF THE ROSES,
see Part I) and looked to John's brother, the Earl of Warwick, as a surrogate
father. Worth's Richard is a kind and honorable man who is pulled in
conflicting directions by his loyalties to his brother Edward, his uncle the
Earl and his love for the earl's daughter Anne.
The second volume, THE ROSE OF YORK: CROWN
OF DESTINY, takes up the story just before Edward IV's death. Although
Richard would prefer to remain in the north, well away from royal intrigues,
when Edward IV dies, as Lord Protector and guardian of his brother's young sons,
duty requires him to return to court. Anguished by betrayals and torn by
conflicting evidence, Worth's Richard only reluctantly agrees to set aside his
nephew and assume the throne himself.
The final volume, THE
ROSE OF YORK: FALL FROM GRACE, deals with Richard's kingship and his
legacy. By the time of his coronation, the most pivotal figures of his life
(his brother Edward and uncle, the Earl of Warwick) are dead, unable to offer
guidance in a court rife with intrigue and betrayal. Worth's Richard sets
himself apart as a monarch concerned with the rule of law, who bequeathed to
England the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" and equality for all
under the law, regardless of birth or wealth. But he was also the man whose
character was blackened by accusations that he murdered his nephews and who
found himself constantly threatened by the scheming of Henry Tudor, the man who
eventually defeated him in battle.
Fans of Richard III fiction (which includes me!) can look forward with
anticipation to the fall of 2012 and the release of Philippa Gregory's next
novel. THE KINGMAKER'S DAUGHTER, featuring Richard's wife Anne Neville,
is sure to add another fascinating chapter to this saga.
How is the conflict finally resolved? Check back next month for THE
SWEETBRIAR'S THORNS: THE WARS OF THE ROSES PART III. And don’t forget to
read the interview with
Julia Justiss is the
author of several historical romances including her latest, SOCIETY'S MOST DISREPUTABLE
3 comments posted.
I'd love to read all these books. There are so many interesting ones coming out, and I'm reading away at older books. Ah well, maybe I'll still get to these sometime or other. I can always hope.
(Sigrun Schulz 7:41am April 5, 2012)
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(Brain Wave 7:20am August 6, 2012)