Rating: 4 stars
Pub date: 14 August 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: hardback, obtained from the Public Library
Spies, poison, and curses surround her…
Is there anyone she can trust?
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.
Anne Neville and Richard III have always interested me. Well, Richard more so than Anne, but still. In my mind, Richard was this evil, intimidating, old man who tormented England and killed his nephews. I never opted to research or read more into it. I just accepted it. I’m not saying what Philippa Gregory wrote is what happened, but it is interesting to read an account of what MIGHT have happened.
Anne Neville was the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, known to history as the “Kingmaker” of England. He rebelled alongside of Edward IV’s father against Henry VI. After Richard of York was killed, he supported his son Edward’s claim to the throne and won it. The Kingmaker’s Daughter opens just after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Anne is just a little girl and is fascinated with the events of court. She thinks Elizabeth is a great beauty and struggles to accept her father’s hatred of the new queen.
Anne and her sister, Isabel, are hopeful for marriages to Edward’s younger brothers, George and Richard. Edward decides to pull his support of this decision based on the advice of his new queen. He doesn’t want Warwick more powerful than he already is. This infuriates the Earl and they flee to Calais. They are joined by George, Duke of Clarence. He and Isabel are married in secret and their wedding is the start of an uprising against Edward. Warwick decides if he can no longer control Edward, he will play Kingmaker again and place his son-in-law and daughter on the throne. The rebellion seems to go well, and Edward is captured. Warwick is one step closer to obtaining his goal. Anne is frightened about what will happen. She is upset that she is not to marry Richard and that as the younger daughter, she is being passed over again.
Warwick’s mistake is not having Edward executed. He escapes by walking out the front door, getting on his horse, going for a ride, and not looking back. Warwick surrenders and Edward forgives him. He is his great mentor and he will forgive him this treason. George is furious. Anne is lost as her family falls from favour in the court. Now back in France, Warwick decides to try another route for the throne. He aligns himself with the fallen queen, Margret d’Anjou. Her precious prince and heir to the throne, Edward, will be married to Anne. She’s a child of fourteen and devastated that she must now be daughter-in-law to “the bad queen” who haunted her dreams as a child. While waiting for Papal dispensation for the marriage, Warwick invades England. Things are going well, the dispensation comes in, the marriage and bedding take place. The tides then turn. They are trapped by a storm and the tide also turns against Warwick’s success. Once they land, they discover that Warwick has been killed, Anne’s mother runs to sanctuary and Anne is forced with the decision of stay with her husband or flee to her mother. She decides she will stay with her husband and mother-in-law. The Yorks dominate the next battle and Edward of Westminster, Anne’s husband, is killed in battle. Richard of York comes to take Anne and Margaret d’Anjou into custody. Anne is taken to her sister and brother-in-law and placed in their care. Margaret d’Anjou is placed in the Tower in utter disgrace.
The night after Margaret d’Anjou is placed in the tower, the three York brothers, go into Henry VI’s room and smother him in his sleep. They tell the court that he died of a broken heart at losing his son and heir and his crown. Anne is kept trapped by George. He hopes to take the full Warwick fortune. He’s been granted all of Warwick’s lands and fortune, but Anne’s mother held lands and money in her own right. George fights to get it all passed to Isabel. This leads to a split between the sisters and a split between George and Richard. Richard swoops in like a knight in a fairytale to rescue Anne. They wed in secret. This forces any fortune passed to the girls to be split between their husbands.
Richard is granted lands in the north from Anne’s inheritance. They go to York to rule the north. Soon, a son is born to them. This is to be their only child. As a result of the rebellion against Edward, Warwick had ordered Queen Elizabeth’s father and brother executed for treason with no trial. Anne and Isabel fear her retribution against them. George hates the queen and spreads rumours against her. Isabel eventually dies shortly after giving birth. George accuses the queen of witchcraft and poisoning Isabel.
George slowly falls from grace and is eventually executed for treason himself. He was in the employ of France and was building forces to overtake Edward. Richard tried to persuade Edward to allow George to be kept in prison, but Elizabeth was adamant he must die to pay for the crimes he and Warwick committed against her family.
Anne takes her niece and nephew into her care as wards and sends them to one of their palaces to live with her son. She distrusts the queen and keeps them away from court. She is convinced that the queen will come after her, the children, and Richard next. She convinces Richard to go to their lands in the north away from court. While they are there, Richard receives notice from court that Edward succumbed to a fever. He was named as Lord Protector of England in Edward’s will and is supposed to be regent over Prince Edward as he becomes king. Edward is a boy of 12. Richard has his men over take Anthony Woodville (brother to the queen) as he is escorting the prince to London to take the throne. He is taken to the Tower along with his uncle and half-brother. Richard has Woodville and Elizabeth’s Grey son executed for treason. Prince Richard is brought to the Tower to stay with his brother Prince Edward.
Richard discusses with his mother and Anne what the course of action should be. Duchess Cecily of York was never a fan of Elizabeth and declares that Elizabeth and Edward’s marriage was bigamy as he was married in secret to another woman before he married Elizabeth in secret. Anne pushes Richard to claim the throne for himself. This is exactly what he does. He has Parliament pass a law declaring the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to be invalid making all of their children bastards and unfit to inherit the throne.
After their coronation, the new royal family goes to York to have their son invested as Prince of Wales. While they are on royal progress, the are informed of an attack on the Tower, trying to save the princes. They also learn that Elizabeth has betrothed her eldest daughter to the Lancaster heir, Henry Tudor. Upon return to London, they discover that the boys are missing. Richard goes to Elizabeth to see if she has gotten the boys out. While there, he sees how his niece, Elizabeth, has blossomed despite being stuck in sanctuary. He makes an arrangement with the dowager queen that she shall go under house arrest with her youngest daughters and the older girls will come to court to attend Anne.
Once the girls are at court, Anne quickly sees Richard start to favour Elizabeth. She confronts him and learns that he is trying to disgrace Henry by making it look like Elizabeth is his lover. The royal couple learn that their only child dies of a quick fever. Anne worries that a comment in passing was taken as an order to kill the princes and the loss of her son is her punishment. Anne becomes numb to everything in her despair. Anne’s health quickly starts to fail her, and she still blames Elizabeth for trying to kill her. She believes it is Elizabeth’s final revenge for Warwick killing her father and brother and for cursing the murderer of her sons. The weaker Anne grows, the higher in favour Elizabeth climbs. Anne seeks out the constable of the Tower to confront him about the comment she made in passing. She is relieved to hear that he never acted on her words and told her even if it had been an actual command he could have never brought himself to murder two innocent boys. Anne takes to her bed and Elizabeth comes to attend her. Suddenly, the world goes dark with an eclipse. Anne drifts to sleep as the eclipse ends and she dreams of her father and first husband’s final battles. She dreams of her father’s magnificent warhorse and she lets go of the world.
Recommended for: History lovers, those interested in seeing a different portrayal of Richard III, those interested in learning more about one of England’s obscure queens
Not recommended for: History haters, those who are closed minded on the subject of Richard III