Monday, 12 August 2013

Kim's Review : The Kingmaker's Daughter

Another brilliant book from Philippa Gregory.

And reading this book I completely understood why a lot of people say that George Martins "Song of Ice & Fire" Series (popularly known by the TV name - Game of Thrones) is inspired in parts by the Wars of the Roses / Wars of the Cousins  - a series of dynastic wars fought by supporters of the 2 branches of the House of Plantagenet - the House of York (White Rose as Herald) & the House of Lancaster (Red Rose as Herald) for the throne of England between 1455 and 1485.

The Kingmakers Daughter is actually 4th in chronological sequence  of the books Philippa Gregory has written about the Wars of the Roses. However, the beauty of her books is that each novel is a stand alone and will only inspire the reader to read the rest of the series.

Since I had been gifted this book, this is what I started reading forst, but even before I was halfway through I had already ordered the rest in the series. Lady of the Rivers, White Queen, Red Queen, and White Princess.

The Kingmakers Daughter is told from the perspective of Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick "the Kingmaker" and wife of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, and later of Richard III of England, and the second perspective narrative of Anne's elder sister Isabel Neville, wife of George Duke of Clarence.

Truly, this book made me realise that women born into Royal families were just pawns in a larger game played mostly by the men. In this book, you see how Anne & Isabel Neville & Elizabeth of York are used by the men to further their own plans.

Anne & Isabels father - Richard Neville - the Earl of Warwick first supported King Henry VI (Lancaster) claim to the throne. But later, he sided with Richard - Duke of York to oppose the King. As foster to Richard's children - Edward, George & Richard, he placed Edward of York (now King Edward IV) on the throne after deposing Henry VI and since Richard, Duke of York was killed in battle.

However Edward IV soon fell out with the Kingmaker over his own secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville (a widow of mid ranked aristocracy with 2 sons from her first marriage) while Richard Neville was in France, negotiating Edward IV marriage with a Princess of France.

With the increasing influence of Elizabeth Woodville and her extremely large extended  family over the functioning of the Court, Richard Neville soon plotted to put George (the 2nd son of Richard of York) on the throne. So before doing that, he married George to his daughter Isabel in a secret ceremony and got George to rebel against his brother.

However, this plan never took off completely. so Richard Neville contrived with Margaret Anjou (wife of deposed King Henry VI) to marry off their son Edward of Westminister to his younger daughter Anne, with the promise of putting Henry VI back on the throne. This was inspite of Margaret Anjou being personally responsible for the death of his own father and brother.

However, in a battle on behalf of the House of Lancaster (Henry VI &  Edward of Westminister), against Edward IV, both he and Edward of Westminister are killed after a brief period during which he brought back Henry VI to the throne. Partly because George of York (married to Isabel) defected back in favour of his brother Edward IV and betrayed Richard Neville.

For his role in bringing him victory, Edward IV gifted the lands of Richard Neville's wife to George and Isabel as Isabels inheritance. However, technically Anne as the other daughter also had a right to an equal share of those lands. So George and Isabel practically force the 14 year old widow Anne into a form of house arrest to keep her from marrying anyone else and claiming her share.

Into this scene of despair for Anne, in waltzes Richard of York (younger brother of King Edward IV & George of York) who may have been in love with Anne (or her inheritance) and he rescues/kidnaps her and marries her. Fiercely loyal to Edward IV, he refuses to do or say anything against him and he sets up his seat in the far North trying to manage his subjects the way his mentor Richard Neville taught him.

In due time, Isabel, George and their youngest son are killed (most probably due to the behest and machinations of Elizabethe Woodville) and this makes Anne fear for her own life and that of her husband and son.

But it is the death of his brother Edward IV, that prompts Richard of York into action when he realises that although Edward IV's son - Edward V - will succeed the throne, he will be completely controlled by Elizabeth Woodville and her family - none of whom are of Royal blood. So he imprisons Elizabeth Woodville and her brood of children within a few months of his brothers death.

So thus Anne finally becomes Queen of England, fulfilling her fathers wish of making his heirs rulers of England.

As you can see the history is extremely complicated and made even more so with similar names and changing titles, but Philippa makes everything seem simple and straightforward and easy to follow.

I loved the book, but I really wish that I had started reading it chronologically. It however will be interesting to read the other books from other perspectives - Elizabeth Woodville, her mother and her daughter and Margaret Beaufort (who later tried to put her son Henry Tudor on the throne.

The Kingmakers Daughter had me rooting for Anne throughout, but I wonder if that will continue once I read the other perspectives. Philippa does not write her Historical series chronologically, so she may write a book with a heroine set in a time between these other ladies. You can never tell.

However, if British History interests you and textbooks are too boring, I'd unhesitatingly recommend this series. Sure it had a fair amount of fiction thrown in, but thats what makes it so human and interesting than just facts.

Rating : 4 / 5

Also Read Kim's Reviews of the other books in Philippa Gregory's - "Cousins War" Series:
The Lady of The Rivers
The White Queen
The Red Queen

The White Princess

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