The Kingmaker’s Daughter

 

Title: The Kingmaker’s Daughter

Author: Philippa Gregory

Published: 2012

Challenges: TBR Pile 2015, Reading England

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis

Anne Neville is one of The Kingmaker’s Daughters.  Her father, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick has helped to put Edward of York (Edward IV) on the throne, usurping The Sleeping King and ousting the House of Lancaster.  But of course it is the late 1400s and life in the Royal Household is far from stable.  Although many are happy that Edward is King, lots are far from impressed with his choice of wife, Elizabeth Woodville – the subject of Gregory’s The White Queen.  It is this marriage that causes unrest within the House of York, pitching old friends against one another and brother against brother.  Throughout Anne’s life she is surrounded by numerous plots aiming to deceive and undermine the Royal Household; she is used as a pawn by the men in her life, from her father to her first husband (a challenger to the throne) to her brother in law (George) and to her husband, Richard III.  When Anne’s father switches sides and fights against King Edward, Anne survivors the stigma left by his betrayal and his deceit.  She marries Edward’s brother and rises to become Queen, however she spends her life in fear of Elizabeth Woodville and her suspected witchcraft.

My Thoughts

I forgot how much I enjoy Philippa Gregory’s writing.  I have read the books preceding this one in The Cousins War series (The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Lady of the Rivers) and have the next two books on my shelf and the narratives are just so engaging and interesting.  It is not my favourite area of history but Gregory really makes it come alive and it is so easy to become lost in the world of secrets, treachery and betrayal.  The great thing about Gregory’s novels is that they truly capture the female voice in a strongly male dominated society.  It has been awhile since I read the earlier books in the series but the great thing about this series is that each book is told from a different female character’s perspective so they over lap slightly and you can easily pick up on the links and it is interesting to read about the same event from different view points, especially opposing ones.  

I’m not sure how much I liked Anne Neville as a character; yes, I know she is a victim of the time period, but she is hardly the most endearing of people.  She is torn so much between her loyalties to different people in her life and her quest to fulfil her father’s ambition and become Aueen warps her and makes her overly suspicious of everyone.  I suppose I did finish the novel feeling sorry for her, mainly because her husband is beginning to become overly flirtatious with his niece, making a laughing stock of Anne in the process.  I was utterly convinced that Anne was going to be pushed down the stairs and that was how she met her death, but clearly I’m confusing her with another poor wife in history.  I was pleased that I remembered one character was drowned in a barrell of wine, so at least I’m not too lost in random historical facts.

A slightly rambled blog post I know, but I’m tired (ha!). I’m going to try not to leave it too long before I read the next book in The Cousins’ War series, but for now on to a favourite author and a fantastic reread. 

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The Lady of the Rivers

In the final year of my undergrad Galaxy chocolate ran a competition, an ‘eat a bar of chocolate, enter a code and win a free book’ type of competition. Now I must have worked my way through a million bars of chocolate (yes I exaggerate) and not a free book in sight. My housemate ate ONE bar of Galaxy chocolate and lo and behold, she only won a book! Luckily for me, my housemate was/is a lovely person and she very kindly gave me the free book, and this is how I came to discover the novels of Philippa Gregory. Ever since I have been slowly working my way through the Tudor Court novels and the Cousins War novels.

The Lady of the Rivers is the third novel in the Cousins War series and follows the life of Jacquetta, the daughter of the Count of Luxembourg, who marries the Duke of Bedford and becomes a part of the English court of Henry VI. On the death of her husband Jacquetta marries for love and comes to play a pivotal role in the reign of Henry and his wife Margaret. Jacquetta is a descendent of the water goddess Melusina and has inherited some of the goddess’ powers; she can see the future, although she cannot always make sense of her visions. These visions help her to survive in the ruthless world of the 1400s and to overcome the dangers brought by a fight for the throne.

I always enjoy picking up a Philippa Gregory novel because I know I will be transported to another era; I quickly become enthralled in the comings and goings of the English Court, regardless of whose reign is the focal point of the novel. For me Gregory is a master at describing the sights, smells, sounds and fears of various points in British history, and her choice of main characters is a particular draw and a reason I return to her novels and follow her writing. I love how Gregory explores the lives of influential women in history; yes it was very much a man’s world, and it is important to discover and tell the story of women throughout history and this is something I feel Gregory does well. Her female characters are ones who have had an impact on the shape of British history, but are often those that we know little about, and this is particularly true of the Cousins War series; so far the novels have focused on Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Jacquetta. I am sure there are people out there who have heard of these women, or who have studied them at some point during their education, but for the vast part of the population I imagine these names mean very little, but maybe I am only demonstrating my own ignorance with that sentence.

The Lady of the Rivers did not disappoint me or dampen my love and appreciation of Gregory and historical fiction as a whole. I enjoyed the exploration of magic and the fear that was brought through the use of alchemy and certain types of learning. It was dangerous to be a woman who did not conform to expectations, and this is something Gregory depicts accurately and effectively. This is especially true of Queen Margaret, who attempts to take over the reign of her husband after he loses his mind. She is rejected by the British public, who make it clear they want a man, and what’s more a British man on the throne and not a foreign born female, who they see as weak minded, fickle and untrustworthy; she is accused of entrancing the King and committing adultery, which led to the birth of an illegitimate son. The characters of Margaret and King Henry were perfectly described and came off as shallow and poor leaders, who were easily influenced by others in the Kingdom. They were frustrating and annoying, which made them great ‘bad guys’ in my opinion, even if they aren’t supposed to be viewed as such.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I feel a strong urge to reread the first two novels in the series, both of which I wholeheartedly recommend. I look forward to reading the next installment The Kingmaker’s Daughter which I believe is due for publication in August…another one for the ever increasing ‘te read’ list.