History tells us that a young man known as Perkin Warbeck claimed to be the son of Edward IV, one of the lost princes in the tower and the rightful King of England. Supported by his *aunt* Margaret of Burgundy, he eventually came to Scotland and obtained support from King James in his efforts to invade England and regain his *lawful* crown. James gave *Richard* the hand of Lady Catherine Gordon, and she accompanied him during his second attempt to invade England, which was just as unsuccessful as the first. Was Perkin really Richard Duke of York and England’s rightful king, or was he a great pretender? We’ll never know.
Worth begins her novel in 1497 at the start of Richard’s campaign in Cornwall, which quickly peters out as he is unable to rally support among the populace. Captured by Henry Tudor’s men, they are brought to court and kept on slim leashes and Richard and Catherine play a very tense game of cat and mouse whilst trying to keep their heads intact. Catherine fares a bit better as she’s taken into Queen Elizabeth’s household, but Richard’s every move is watched and members of the Tudor court take turns spitting on him and tossing rotten vegetables (thus showing us how awful they all are). Meantime, mean ole’ Henry has taken one look at the beauteous Catherine, goes into immediate lust mode and determines to have her for his very own. Not quite sure what he planned to do about Queen Elizabeth but oh well…Potential readers should be warned that Worth believes Perkin/Richard is the true son of Edward IV, no ifs ands or butts about it. In case you doubt it, we are constantly reminded about his princely bearing and the drooping Plantagenet eye he’s inherited from his ancestors Edward I and Henry III. Since Edward and Henry lived a long time before this, there are a whole lot of generations between them and Richard and I couldn’t find anything on the net of any other Plantagenets having it. Just sayin’.
As for Richard and Catherine, I didn’t pick up on much chemistry between the two. They were married and had one child by the time the book begins, and the back-history of their courtship filled out as the story progresses. We know that they love each other because we are told they did, but I really didn’t pick up on any grand passion between the two. I did pick up on a lot of purity, perfection and absolute sugar-coated sweetness on Catherine’s part, and while Richard might have the regal bearing of a true king, he sure didn’t have a strong nature to go with it. He was a bit wimpish IMHO, but Catherine sure thought he was the cat’s meow,
Clad in a white silk doublet, a furred cape around his shoulders, and a beaver hat on his sunny hair, Richard, Duke of York, cantered in on a pale war-horse, a hand resting on his hip, a smile on his lips. She gasped; he was the handsomest man she had ever seen.
And to offset all that purity and goodness is the baddest most evil mean nasty awful bad guy ever – Henry Tudor. Honestly, every one in this book is either black or white, there are very few shades of gray to be found here. I think it’s obvious I wasn’t as enamoured of this book as some of the other reviewers and to each his own when choosing a book, but this one was just a bit too fluffy for my tastes. I was very disappointed that we didn’t get a closer look at Elizabeth and what one would expect to be very conflicted emotions – how do you choose between your brother or your son? I was going to give this book an overall three star rating until the latter third covering Catherine’s later years threatened to put me to sleep (she spends lots and lots of time in the country).One final note and that is on two items in the author’s notes:
- “English novelist Philippa Gregory, who holds a doctorate in history…”. Erm, a simple bit of Google tells me it’s English Lit. The historian myth continues.
- Her reason for sending Richard to his execution via boat instead of how it really happened, “I plead artistic license in not documenting this last indignity and in depicting him as being taken partway by boat. This unfortunate young man had already endured deplorable degradation, and I felt no need to add more such instances to the reader’s burden.”
I could have handled that burden. Really I could have.