My latest dive into historical fiction is by Philippa Gregory. She has written a few books on the wives of the major power players during the War of the Roses. Her latest book is The Kingmaker’s Daughter (The Cousins’ War). It is about Anne, the daughter of England’s famous kingmaker, Richard Neville who put Edward IV on the throne.
Here is a brief summary of the book from Gregory’s website:
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.
At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy.
Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.
Although Gregory did not have much help from historical records (for most of history, not much has been recorded about the character or deeds of women), she writes a wonderful story of how Anne and her sister Isabel lived during the tumultuous times of the War of the Roses. Obviously, the historical portion of the book comes from the documents written about her father, two husbands, and the king. Thus, any mention of a woman in the contemporary writings of these men is in passing.
Gregory fulfills the fictional portion of the book with an engaging story of a woman who learned hard lessons and thrived under less than ideal conditions. For example, Gregory transforms a shy and uncertain Anne at the beginning of the book into a confident and decisive woman at the end (of course, as confident and decisive as a woman could be at this time).
I love the perspectives that Gregory has taken with her books on this time period. In this book, Gregory paints Anne and her sister Isabel to a lesser extent in a flattering light. They are portrayed as women who are pawns in the schemes of their father and husbands. In contrast, Queen Elizabeth is depicted as an evil woman who controls her husband and increases the power of her family at the expense of other noble families. This view of Queen Elizabeth is contrasted with Gregory’s portrayal of the Queen in her book the White Queen, in which Elizabeth is portrayed in a much more sympathetic light.
Gregory delivers a powerful and compelling tale of a noble woman who rose and fell with the fortunes of her family.