Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Books and Ring

I don't know if I have been that busy or just not in the mood to blog lately about the books I've finished.  I will review them on Good reads or rate them but that's it.  So here's a quick review of what I've finished in the last while.

The Countess Elizabeth Bathory is a powerful Hungarian noblewoman, sentenced to live out her final years imprisoned in a tower.  History says she was the first serial killer and even called her a vampire.  The book shows her life starting as a child to a countess and the abuse she wreaks on her servants.  I gave it a 3 because it seemed not to flow smoothly, sometimes erratic and was disturbing at times to read.
This book follows a midwife and her assistant in the 1600s in England.  It is a tumultuous time because Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city.  It was considered treason to kill your master or husband, and the sentencing was to be burnt.  Bridget's friend is accused of murdering her husband and sentenced to burn.  Bridget strives to save her friend who is innocent while delivering her clients of children and sharing her midwifery skills.  She becomes embroiled in many events that keep the story interesting and easy to read.  I gave it a 4.5, I really liked the book.

I read a few other books but can't remember or didn't finish them.  I've had a harder time finding books I enjoy without repeating stories I already know.

An author had posted a picture of Queen Elizabeth's I ring that she wore, and I had to share this because it's so interesting.  It was among her prized possessions, her two favorite pieces of jewelry being her coronation ring and this locket ring.

It is said the one portrait is of her mother Anne Boleyn who was executed by her father King Henry VIII when she was very young, and of herself in her mid 40s.  The ring resides at the British Prime Minister's country home in Chequers.  To find out more visit the blog of Sandra Byrd at

Monday, November 18, 2013

Revolution Books

I had read Juliet Grey's first novel about Marie Antoinette, somehow missed the second, and picked up this 3rd novel.  It was an engrossing and memorable read, following the royal family during the Revolution and Terror in France.  This last book of Juliet Grey's watched the change of France and the fall of the King and Queen.  I thought it was a compassionate viewpoint of Marie Antoinette and her family.  Many in France hated them, especially Antoinette, blaming her for their problems and famine.  She was somehow famously quoted for saying "let them eat cake."  The aristocracy was blamed for their decadence, and many pamphlets circulated that Marie Antoinette had many lovers, including her close female friends.  Her apparent haughtiness also did not make her a favorite of the people.  She came from Austria at a young age to marry Louis, and his ineptitude and her flagrant spending just inflamed the hungry people.  They needed someone to blame and fix their problems.

The Estates-General was formed, which comprised of Three Estates.  The First Estate was the clergy, who were tax exempt.  The Second Estate was the nobility- about 400,000.  The Third Estate was peasants and anyone else, numbering about 25 million.  This meant the burden of France's government fell upon the poor people.  Eventually because of disagreements, the Third Estate formed their own group called The National Assembly.  Things changed rapidly and were hard to follow from there.  The Bastille, the infamous prison, was stormed and the prisoners let go.  This marked a momentous day for The National Assembly.  An angry mob stormed the royal family, almost killing them, and forced them from Versailles to Paris.  Over the next few years, the King's power would slowly be taken from him while the royal family was kept under close watch.  After a sad failed attempt to escape, the royal family was watched even more closely.  The book detailed everything thoroughly and well, as the royal family was moved again and their attendants taken from them.  The Queen lost many of her ladies and soon the King was taken from his family.  A republic had been formed, and the King was executed not long after.

The guillotine was the mode of execution then, deemed swift and clean to kill many people in a day.  People like Maximilien Robespierre, the Jacobins and Girondins rose up, eventually causing what they called The Terror.  Around 40,000 people in France were killed during this time, including many peasants, aristocrats, and eventually the Queen as well.  The bloody rule of the Jacobins ended in 1795.  The book was entertaining and emotional to read, because you felt you were right there with Marie Antoinette through all they went through.  She lost her mother and brother, who could possibly have helped them.  There were several attempts to escape but none worked.  After the Queen was killed, her son had been taken to prison where he died at the age of 10.  He was not treated well and lived in filthy conditions.  She had lost a son and daughter before the Revolution, but her other remaining child, a daughter Marie Therese, was the only one to survive.

Mistress of the Revolution was a different viewpoint to read about the changes in France.  It follows Gabrielle de Montserrat, a noblewoman raised in the country and in a convent that is married off at the age of 15 to a distant cousin.  He is abusive and cruel, and she has a daughter with him named Aimee, and loses a son during pregnancy.  Upon his death she is left barely enough to live by on, and travels to Paris to live with a distant relation.  She becomes embroiled in the changes of King Louis XV and the royal family.  She becomes a mistress to make ends meet, and also serves at one point as lady in waiting to the King's sister in law.  Her sympathies do not lie with the Queen because she believes as many do, that the Queen spends all the money and leaves none for the poor.  She is caught up in everything that goes on, even coming before the Revolutionary Tribunal.  She is imprisoned but is fortunate enough to escape.  To survive this Revolution when many around her are dying and being arrested, she seeks the help of a former friend who is now a prominent judge.  She is present at many important events, and it was interesting to read the perspective of someone not of the noble family.  She survived and eventually left France with her daughter.  This book is a memoir written by the character looking back on that time.  I enjoyed both books and learned more about France during the Revolution.  Madame Tussuad is another great book that I've reviewed on another post, if you would like another perspective.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Trafficked/ The Ruby Ring

I was watching The View and Barbara Walters interviewed a woman, without showing her face.  Her story was horrific and compelling, and I knew I had to read her book.  This book was graphic, heart wrenching, emotional, tragic and wonderful all at different times.  I read it so fast because I was shocked and had to read more.  Her name in the book is Sophie, and she is an educated British woman.  She came from a home with several other siblings, a loving mother, and an emotionally abusive father.  He didn't want any of his children and would tear them down at any opportunity.  From this, Sophie learned to not trust men and also was insecure about herself.  She took great care with her appearance, often neurotic about it.  Her mother eventually left him and remarried, but the scars were already deep for each child.  Especially one of her brothers, who kept trying to please his father even when he knew it was hopeless.  Sophie had a good job and often went out clubbing with her friend.  One night she met a man named Kas; he kept watching her intently and tried to ask her out.  She denied him several times, but they kept running into each other.

They became friends and would talk often over the phone, and he would listen to all her problems.  Sophie ended up dating and living with a guy named Erion.  When she first mentioned him, Kas got very upset on the phone.  That was the first time Sophie noticed anything in his demeanor other than friendliness.  She supposed it meant he liked her too, and they didn't talk for a little while.  Erion and Sophie lived together for years, and broke it off to get back together again.  Sophie's treatment by her father had made her kind of a wreck in relationships.  She would test Erion to the breaking point, until he couldn't take it anymore.  He found out he was being deported, and one of Erion's friends asked her to marry him so he could stay.  She found she couldn't, and ended up in the hospital for a twisted stomach and needed surgery.  From that point on, her life would change forever....

Kas was still in touch with Sophie, and offered after she got back from a family vacation after her surgery, to go with him to Italy.  Just days after being on vacation, Kas started to beat her.  He told her he owed a drug dealer a lot of money, and that she would work it off for him.  He told her she was going to be a whore on the streets, and proceeded to tell her what to wear, what to do, everything.  He said he would kill her younger brothers and dump her body in the water if she didn't do what he said.  Sophie was numb with shock and fear, not believing this transformation in her friend.  For the next six months, Sophie would work on the streets for Kas.  On average she was with 18-36 men a night, and beat repeatedly by Kas.  She got to the point she couldn't eat much anymore, and got to about 92 pounds.  She was arrested a few times for prostitution, but was always released.  She did everything Kas asked her to, but nothing pleased him.  She was able to phone home regularly to keep things normal, and was forced what to say.  By some miracle, she landed in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.  She was able to phone her mom with a secret password, and her parents flew in.  Sophie kept this from Kas, and was able to keep up the pretense long enough to return home with her parents.

The rest of the story is no less compelling- Kas returns to find her, and it shows what Sophie does to pick up her life and move on.  It is inspiring, tragic and stunning.  I was horrified at the widespread abuse of human trafficking statistics; I sure hope people can have an ending like Sophie where they can escape and move on with their lives.  Better yet, I hope it never happens to anyone, anywhere.  An inspiring true story.

This book is set in Rome in 1520, and follows Raphael Sanzio, the beloved painter of Pope Leo X and Cardinals and princes around the world.  This is a story of love between an artist and an unlikely woman.  Raphael has many commissions to complete, always with deadlines and not enough time or apprentices to finish the work.  He was trained by his father and had a God-given talent.  Raphael was in the elite part of Roman society, sought out from nobility and cardinals to paint their legacy for them.  Since the men of the church could not have children, at least not recognized ones, their legacy was what they could leave behind.  Paintings, art work- Raphael could paint that for them.  He had one project he was still struggling to find the right model for- a Madonna for the mother of Christ in the Sistine Chapel.  Raphael had searched for four years, and one day, he finally found the woman he sought.  Her name was Margherita Luti, a baker's daughter from the humble neighborhood of Trastevere.  It took several attempts for her to agree to be painted, and mostly at the urging from her family.  He paid her well, and quickly fell in love with her.  Margherita rose swiftly in society, becoming his mistress and lover.

The Pope quickly became distressed at this love affair, as did Cardinal Bibbiena who had helped introduced Raphael to the Pope.  Raphael owed him much, especially because he was betrothed to his niece Maria.  As of yet, he had not married her nor did he want to.  But if he snubbed her, he would anger Bibbiena and thus the Pope as well.  He relied on their patronage to keep him famous and in work.  Raphael was certainly well off, but he had his apprentices to think of too.  As their love deepens and they spend all their time together, Raphael's work gets farther and farther behind.  A plot is put underway where Margherita is kidnapped.  It takes him about a month to be told the truth of what happened.  The hope was, with her gone, he would marry Marie and finish his projects on time.  Instead, Raphael became so morose he could not work and things only got worse.  The Pope and Bibbiena saw it was good for him to have her, so they told him the truth.  It took years for him to recover and begin his work in earnest again.

Raphael bought Margherita her own home, where she lived lavishly and had servants.  He maintained his own residence to keep up the facade of propriety.  He continued to paint her in many of his works, and did some of her nude or nearly so.  He told the Pope he would forgive him only if he allowed them to marry.  Raphael pleaded with Marie to cancel their betrothal, which she refused to do, even knowing he could never love her like she loved him.  She died young, and that released him to propose to Margherita.  But still the Pope dragged his feet, and would not let them marry.  Margherita is given a ruby ring, with a story attached to it, and Raphael paints her with the ring on as an engagement gift.  Raphael continues to work feverishly, hardly sleeping or eating.  His work is piling in and he struggles to keep up.  His friend Da Vinci has gone to live at the French court, and his rival Michelangelo has left for Florence to find other work.  It seems he has all the commissions and not enough time.  He soon fell ill, and died at the pinnacle of his career at a young age.

Margherita was abandoned by her friends, her own family who said she'd sully their bakery name if she returned, and was shunned by society for being the whore of Raphael.  Many said it was her fault he died and couldn't complete his paintings.  Giulio Romano, an apprentice and close friend of them both, helped Raphael's dying wish to see her safe.  Since no one would marry them, he took Margherita to a nearby convent, Sant'Apollonia, to live out the rest of her life.  She would be safe there.  He destroyed any paintings of her nude, to protect her, and spread the rumor that Raphael had repented of her on his deathbed.  So instead of being the victor, Margherita was the vanquished.  She tried to attend his funeral but was spotted and ran out.  History seems to have written over her; Cardinal Bibbiena had his niece Marie buried next to Raphael  at the Pantheon, and not Margherita as they had both wished.  Her name was found on the convent's list of names, but that is all.  I find it a tragic love story, but I enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Unfaithful Wife: A Novel of Kenry VIII's Fifth Wife

If you know me, I know a lot about the Tudors.  I have ready exhaustively about them, but I'm always up for a different viewpoint on someone.  This book caught my eye and so I gave it a go.  This book focuses in on King Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard.  She was raised with her step-Grandmother Agnes, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.  She had an aristocratic pedigree because of her parents, her father being a Howard and being cousins with Anne Boleyn.  She was raised by her step-grandmother because of having so many siblings and her father not being wealthy.  Her mother had died when she was young, also complicating things.  Catherine's step-grandmother was apparently lax in having so many charges at her homes in Lambeth and Chesworth House, so this is where Catherine's beginnings came about.  She had a music teacher, Henry Manox, that taught her on the piano.  It wasn't long before he talked her into doing other things.  This was very common at the house; the older girls would bribe their nurse to give them the keys to an adjoining chamber, where they would invite men in to play cards and flirt.

As Henry became more demanding, Catherine asked her Grandmother to send him away and she did.  She met a Francis Dereham next, and they soon fell in love and pledged marriage to each other as well as their troth.  They also exchanged rings, which in the old laws of hand fasting they were now considered man and wife.  Katherine slept with Francis and was often companions in that chamber with her friend Joan and her boy.  Grandmother Agnes was mostly oblivious or blind to what was going on, and this continued for some time.  Catherine tried to help her father when she could, as he had lots of debts and no good positions.  She was left with no funds or good clothing either.  That soon changed when King Henry asked Thomas Norfolk, her uncle, to bring several lovely ladies to court for him to meet.  Catherine was one of the woman chosen, and they had dresses hastily made and were sent to court to meet the King.  He was quite taken with Catherine early on, singling her out for attention and some words.  Apparently he had taken her mother as a lover when she was married to her first husband, and saw a likeness in Catherine. 

The King was working on remarrying, following the death of Jane Seymour who gave him a son Edward.  Thomas Cromwell, his secretary, was trying to get him to marry Anna of Cleves for the alliance.  When Catherine returned with the ladies, her Grandmother and Thomas Howard began singling her out for attention.  They had noticed the King's affection towards her, and wanted her to work that to her advantage.  Francis said he was fine sharing her, because it could be beneficial for him as well.  That hurt Catherine's feelings, and she wasn't quite sure how she felt.  The King invited her several more times, and invited her to view his palace of Non such being built.  Many dresses were ordered to be made for her, and she was suddenly treated very well by everyone in the household.  Henry Manox, in vengeance, left a note that Catherine was sleeping with Francis and that they were betrothed.  Her Grandmother found them together in the chamber, and sent Francis away immediately.  She whipped, beat and left Catherine locked up for several days to starve.  She finally let her out when Catherine begged for forgiveness.  Her Grandmother was very worried as was Norfolk.  The King liked his woman innocent and unsullied.  Her cousin Anne Boleyn had been beheaded, a Queen, for treason against the King. 

With this example before her, Catherine was worried.  But Francis apparently was married with children, and had left for Ireland.  She felt betrayed and very sad, and also starved and tired.  While the King continued to see her, he was finally forced to agree to marry this Anne of Cleves.  Disappointed but searching for the best outcome regardless, she was sent to serve as one of her ladies in waiting to still be near the King.  Even a mistress would provide great benefits to her family.  Her father passed away during this time also, and Catherine was even more mournful.  She was now an orphan with an uncertain future.  She watched as Anna married King Henry, much to his consternation at finally meeting her and seeing her face.  She was very tall, broad shouldered, and her face was pockmarked and her voice deep.  It wasn't long after the wedding though that King Henry was seeking for an annulment.  Catherine had become the King's mistress, and he found comfort in her company.  His leg sore often ailed him and made him irritable, and his heavy bulk was certainly not appealing to her.  She did as she was bid, and Anne of Cleves became the King's sister and was granted a mansion and servants nearby court. 

It wasn't long before Catherine was married to the King, all of it down hastily.  At this time she met a Thomas Culpepper, one of the King's courtiers.  They were attracted to each other and started meeting in secret.  Lady Rochford, widow of George Boleyn, was helpful to her in planning these meetings.  Over the course of less than a few years, Catherine was unable to produce a child.  She pretended a few pregnancies and miscarriages, and the King grew angry with her.  His son Edward was often sick and was only three years old.  His son by Bessie Blount had died young also, so his fear was constant for a living male heir.  Francis Dereham returned to court and demanded she appoint him as her secretary.  He had information against her which would keep her quiet.  Catherine was in a very precarious position- having an affair with Culpepper, while trying to conceive the King's child and unable to.  At the same time Francis and Joan Bulmer were from her childhood in Lambeth and had many secrets against her.  It wasn't long before the truth came out about her adultery and sullied past, and many of her Howard relations were imprisoned in the Tower.  Catherine was stripped of her title as Queen, her many lands and incomes and jewels and clothing.  She was ultimately beheaded along with Lady Rochford, although in the book it doesn't mention Rochford's death.

My Thoughts:  I knew of Catherine's fate, which was much like Anne her cousin.  Catherine Howard has been portrayed as stupid in other books, which does make sense considering the risks she took to have an affair with Culpepper.  I think she believed King Henry would die soon, leaving her able to marry Culpepper.  Her relationships with Manox and Dereham are more understandable, but also costly to her to have a past like that when married to a King.  And a jealous one at that.  Besides her affair, Catherine was also unable to produce a child for the King.  This led to her downfall the fastest and led to her being charged with treason against the King and the crown.   Parliament passed a bill of attainder that made it treason, and punishable by death, for a queen to fail to disclose her sexual history to the king within twenty days of their marriage, or to incite someone to commit adultery with her.  This solved the matter of Catherine's supposed precontract and made her unequivocally guilty.  Culpepper was beheaded and Dereham was hung, drawn and quartered.  I find a lot of her story sad, because of her upbringing and not having parents around.  I think it made sense her beginnings of wantonness because of the other girls around her and the laxity of her Grandmother.  Once a girl is bade to become the King's mistress of queen, she really has no choice.  I think she found true love in Tom Culpepper, and abandoned all common sense or fear.  Even if she hadn't had an affair, she would have likely been done away with anyway because of not producing a child for the King.  Of course it was the woman's fault, not the man's back then.  I enjoyed the book and the author's viewpoints.  I don't know if Catherine's mother had really been the King's mistress or not, but it explained why he became attracted to her.  Anna of Cleves was friends with the King until his death, maintaining the title of the King's Sister.  Perhaps she was one of the most fortunate of his wives.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Serpent and the Pearl

This book FINALLY came to me at the library and I read it in less than five days.  This is Kate Quinn's first novel about the Borgia's, who live in Rome in the Holy City.  I had read about this family in other books, so I was interested in her novel.  The year is 1492 and this book focuses on three main characters:  Giulia Farnese, a beautiful girl with floor-length golden hair; Leonello, a dwarf and her bodyguard with revenge in mind; and Carmelina, a feisty cook with a mind full of secrets.  Giulia is wed to the handsome and young Orsino Orsini.  She is just 18 and excited to be wed to someone so young and also handsome, but discovers not long after that the wedding is just a sham.  Her mother in law Madonna Adriana had made a deal with Cardinal Borgia that Giulia would become his mistress.  Giulia fights this and is not happy to meet this Cardinal.  He is certainly older, a swarthy Spaniard already with a litter of bastards.  Rodrigo charms her with his charismatic and sensual personality, and also generous nature.  Giulia's family already seems to have written her off, and her husband has left her living alone with her mother in law, Joffre and the cooks and servants.

Boredom seems to give way, and Giulia gives in to the Cardinal. Giulia also has became fast friends with one of the Pope's children, Lucrezia.  They all live in the house together, passing the time.  Not long after, the Pope dies and Cardinal Borgia is enclosed to help select the next Pope.  Cardinal Borgia, her Cardinal, is elected as Pope.  He goes by the name Pope Alexander VI, after Alexander the Great. Giulia fears she will now be set aside, but unlike his predecessors who hid or housed their concubines separately to maintain a modicum of dignity, he brings Giulia to live with him.  She has a daughter  named Laura just 9 months after he becomes Pope, but is kept with the last name Orsini.  Soon people keep a distance from Giulia, calling her whore while noting her fashion and copying it.  Giulia is happy with her situation and the Pope dotes and lavishes jewels on her.  There comes a time when his passion for her seems to wane, and Giulia follows Lucrezia to Pesaro to help her set up her new household as wife to Giovanni Sforza.  Lucrezia is still young but has become very beautiful, and is the apple of her father's eye.  Giulia is like a second mother to her, and very caring. 

Giulia hears that the Pope's eye is wandering, but hoping to make distance and the heart grow fonder she stays away.  Soon word reaches her that her brother is dying, so she rushes home to his bedside, opposite of the Pope's wishes for her to return to Rome.  She has just missed his death, but stays for some time with her daughter.  She beings corresponding with her husband Orsini, and starts thinking about life with him and settling down.  Giulia's cook Carmelina has come along, she loves her tourtes and biscotti and feisty nature.  She also loves Leonello, her little dwarf bodyguard who was hired by Cesare Borgia to protect her.  The three are an unlikely pair, but very interesting to read about.  The peace isn't kept long, however, as the French are invading and close nearby.  Giulia finally decides to return to Rome and her Pope, but her party is waylaid and captured by a brigand of French soldiers.  Her imperious manner is all that keeps them safe, and Leonello's knife throwing skills.  Three of her soldiers and several of theirs die.  They are taken to Montefiascone where the French army is camped.  The book ends with Leonello dying from wounds inflicted on him after protecting his mistress, and Giulia preparing to meet with the General to discuss terms.

My Thoughts:  During this book, it switches between the viewpoints of Giulia; Leonello and how he came to seek revenge and escaped prison to become Giulia's bodyguard, and Carmelina the cook and how she tries to escape her past.  All stories are interesting and tie together here and there.  We are left wondering if Carmelina will be discovered, if Leonello will seek justice and find out who has been murdering the girls and who killed his friend, and if Giulia and the whole group will escape the French army.  The book is exciting, interesting and riveting.  I really enjoyed it and look forward to The Lion and the Rose to continue the story.  The Borgia's are an interesting family because they dominated the Renaissance, and seemed so corrupt.  They have been accused of greed and even incest.  Although, Rome and the church were already corrupt long before Borgia became Pope.  Benefices and pardons were sold, vows of chastity ignored, and illegitimate children sired by men of the church.  Giulia's husband Orsini was well rewarded for marrying Giulia and stepping aside; this was done sometimes for mistresses of powerful men.  Leonello and Carmelina are fictional characters, but great additions to the story.  Leonello provides a friendship with Giulia and also the main source for the murder mystery going on around Rome.  Carmelina is great because she describes the food and it's so mouth watering to read about.  Giulia seems like she was a very nice person, one who got to know those around her and protected them.  I would definitely recommend this book.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I, Jane: In the court of King Henry VIII

When I saw this book at the library, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read about Jane Seymour.  She was the third wife of King Henry VIII, and from what I've read about her she seemed fairly boring.  I thought I may as well give it a shot- I've been reading three other books at the same time which means none of them are pulling me in very well.  I read this book in just a few days, I really enjoyed it.  Jane was born to a quiet father and strict mother in Wiltshire at her home of Wolf Hall.  She had two brothers, Edward and Thomas, and a sister younger than her that was beautiful where Jane was plain.  She was teased as a young girl for being quiet and plain.  Having a harsh and strict mother that was not very loving, she often felt loveless.  Her mother Margery was very beautiful, and her mother had an ancestral connection to King Edward III.  She believed this gave her the right to find connections for her children at court.  Jane's brother Thomas was very handsome and close to her.  Her mother had several miscarriages and children that died young.  Jane would help with them; she also loved to read religious works, finding comfort in them.  At a young age, her father at his wife's ambitious pushing, was able to send Edward and Jane to France as part of the bridal retinue of Mary Tudor.  Jane was only nine and very shy and plain.  She saw King Henry VIII from a distance, and at the French court she met Mary and Anne Boleyn.

She quickly finds that she does not like Anne Boleyn, for her teases her and goes out of her way to make her look stupid.  The relationship between them is set early on, which is important to Jane's story.  She is sent back after only a month or so, when King Louis wants his new bride to send home her English women.  Jane goes back to the quiet countryside, where she has made friends with her neighbor William Dormer.  They don't meet often, but he is kind to her and very handsome.  Her brother Edward slowly rises at court, much to her parent's happiness.  Their cousin Francis Bryan, who is a close friend to the King, tries to help Jane escape her lonely life.  Her sister Elizabeth is getting married soon, and her brother Thomas also wants to join the court life.  Jane is called to serve Katherine of Aragon, the King's wife.  She goes to court a bit smarter, and once again sees Anne Boleyn.  She soon discovers that the good queen is declining in popularity, and this Anne Boleyn is bewitching King Henry right in front of the court.  Jane grows to dislike Anne even more as she watches the poor queen bear all in stoic and brave silence.  Jane learns loyalty, honesty and that blending in the background is not so bad after all.  The queen values her service and knowledge of spiritual matters.

Jane's brothers soon tell her she has to abandon Katherine, the queen, to serve Anne Boleyn.  It was obvious that it was time to pitch in with the winning side.  Jane reluctantly did as she was told, while trying to stay loyal to her queen.  She sees her sister married and again runs into William Dormer.  He tells her he desires marriage and that he has never forgotten her, and he will ask his parents for permission to wed.  Jane is home again, and soon there is hope she will finally be married.  Her parents had resolved that she would be their caretakers for life.  William meets his parent's displeasure, for they are richer and think themselves far greater than the Seymour's, her father being a sheriff and all.  William doesn't have to the heart to tell Jane, and is soon married off.  Jane is told the news by Francis Bryan, her cousin who has befriended and looked out for her.  Her heart hardens even more, and she withdraws into herself.  Her brothers call her back to court to serve Anne Boleyn, and she is surprised that her name is accepted.  Once again at court, things are much changed. 

The King is heavier and seems unhappy, Anne has delivered the King a daughter Elizabeth but no son yet.  The King had broken off with Rome and started a new church, for which he had been excommunicated for.  Many, including his close friend Thomas More, had been killed for not supporting his new marriage.  The good queen, left alone in the country without her daughter, had passed away.  Jane comes to court at this time, and sees Anne flaunting her happiness at her rival's death.  The court all wears yellow, and Jane is glad with all her training to blend in the background once again.  She meets up with William Dormer again, and it's hard for her to see him married.  He seeks her out to explain what had happened, but she pretends not to care.  It is not long before the King sees Jane and seeks her out for talk.  He likes her plain manner, knowledge of spiritual books, and her loyalty and soft manner.  Anne Boleyn had become quite shrill and flirtatious with many men, and was wearing the King out.  Jane was someone he looked to for comfort, and she readily gave it to him.

Her brothers watch her closely and start to guide her in this new relationship.  It seems everyone had underestimated her, as the King becomes driven to Jane.  Anne Boleyn watches this haughtily, but is soon powerless as she has miscarriages and produces no son for the King.  Jane is driven by her unfulfilled desire to be married and loved, and her hatred for Anne Boleyn.  She does it in memory of the good queen she served, and seeks to be a comfort to the King.  Things happen quickly, most of which Jane has no knowledge or power over.  Anne Boleyn is found guilty of treason, adultery and even incest with her brother.  The day she is beheaded with a French sword, Jane is busy picking her wedding clothes.  About 18 months later, she gives the King his long for desired son.  Edward IV, his legitimate heir and son.  What Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn could not do in 28 years, Jane had done.  She passed away less than two weeks after his birth, from child bed fever.

My Thoughts:  The basis of this book was from a book written by Life of Jane Dormer, written by the daughter of William and Mary Dormer.  The love connection between William and Jane as well as her growing hatred for Anne Boleyn really shaped her in this book.  A lot of books portray Jane as plain and quiet, but what history has shown me multiple times is that the quiet ones often have ambition and passion but just hide it well.  Jane's quiet demeanor brought about bullying as a child, but later served her very well in catching King Henry VIII.  He wanted the opposite of Anne Boleyn, and that was her.  She gave him his long desired son, a legitimate heir, and even though she died not longer after childbirth, the king was buried next to her upon his death.  With Jane, I think the King was able to find peace again and happiness.  After everything he did to put aside his wife of over 20 years, Katherine of Aragon, and all the people that died and the changes in religion...he was not a well man.  His leg sore was also grieving him, and Jane seems to have calmed that all down for him.  She had served Katherine, and was able to talk to him of his first wife.  Even though it seemed hard to believe, Jane seems to have fallen in love with the King.  I always believed she had to be ambitious somewhat to want to be Queen, but women couldn't always control everything.  If the King wanted you, he would have you.  It is sad of course things didn't work out with William, and that she died so young.  I thought it was a good book, and that the author explained very well how Jane went from being an old maid to the Queen of England.  I enjoyed reading about her and figuring her out, and finding out more about her family.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The White Princess

The White Princess follows after The White Queen in the Cousins' War series, and tells the story of Elizabeth of York.  Henry Tudor has picked up the crown off the field and has won the battle of Bosworth.  Richard III, her king and lover, has been killed.  She is commanded to marry Henry Tudor to unite the Yorks and Lancasters and end a war that has divided the country for two decades.  He is her enemy, it does not start as a happy marriage.  Henry refuses to marry her until she has proved to be fecund, and so until she is pregnant he does not marry her.  Elizabeth's mother still dreams of a missing heir, her son Richard of York.  Elizabeth's brothers were sent to the Tower by their uncle Richard, and from there had either been murdered or had disappeared.  This sets the tone for much of their marriage; Elizabeth will always be divided between love for her family, country, her dead lover Richard III and her brother who could still be alive somewhere; and her new husband.  Elizabeth is now a Tudor, and under the rule of her husband King Henry VII and his very imposing Lady Mother.

Much of their marriage and Henry's reign, he is constantly looking for shadows and plots of a boy of York that would come back to claim his throne.  Since no bodies were found, no one can be sure if the boys are dead or not.  Elizabeth is patient and queenly, bearing her burdens for the most part quietly.  She has three sons and three daughters, one daughter that dies in infancy.  Many plots arise with pretenders to the throne, and King Henry is able to squash them one by one.  He can't always trust those around him, as many change sides.  His own mother in law, Elizabeth's mother, is always quietly conspiring with Margaret of Burgundy.  Her mother is placed in Bermondsey Abbey after being found complicit in an uprising, but she continues to plot and reign there like a Queen until her death.  Elizabeth misses her mother greatly and now has to face the court without her.  There comes word of a pretender that has already been called Richard Duke of York and has been housed in Ireland and then France.  Henry sends spies everywhere to watch for this man and to report back to him.  He is said to be married with a son and to already have the approval and recognition of many of the other monarchs.

This new pretender, yet another, has put incredible strain on King Henry and Elizabeth.  He is always suspicious of those around him, even her, and stressed and impatient.  His mother is constantly praying for their cause, the cause that she had worked her entire life for.  To put her son on the throne and see him reign peaceably.  Many at court leave to follow this pretender, to support him.  Henry has not the York charm of Elizabeth and her family; he does not make the people easily like him.  He also taxes them heavily to support these plots and his armies.  He is willing to forgive the traitors at first, but then becomes more vengeful as time goes on.  Elizabeth finds this hard to watch in her husband, his bloodthirstiness and suspicious nature.  She is tired of being questioned about her loyalties and hearing about pretenders.  Her son Arthur will be the next King of England, so she fights with her husband the King, and for her son.  She is not even crowned Queen until after she has Arthur, and even then her mother in law always keeps the best rooms. 

By this point, this boy, this pretender, has fooled his aunt the Duchess of Burgundy, the Holy Roman Emperor and the court in Portugal as well as Scotland and France.  He knows how to read and write in four languages, he has good penmanship, dances well and knows how to hunt and joust and hawk.  He has an easy grace and charm about him, much like the York family.  When Elizabeth learns of this, she begins to believe he could really be her brother.  Eventually he makes his way to England, and is captured by King Henry's men.  He is brought to court as the King's friend and companion, not as a traitor.  Elizabeth soon discovers why, because Henry has fallen in love with this pretender's wife, Katherine Huntly.  Elizabeth is threatened by the King that if she should recognize or acknowledge this boy in any way, she will be declared a traitor along with her family.  Elizabeth has to watch this boy come to court and not even blink.  She has to watch her husband fall in love with another woman.  When Henry sees how the people receive him, lovingly and not as a traitor, he sets a fire to try and kill him.  When that does not work, he sets a trap for him to escape.  Then he has the reasons to arrest him in the Tower.

From there it isn't long before Henry has entrapped him; he has him beat so badly his good looks are no longer there or familiar.  He has lost his charm and the people will forget him, another pretender.  He is housed in the Tower above Elizabeth's cousin Teddy, who has been there a long time.  Henry lets them say and go about as they please, and let anyone visit them.  In so doing this, people start to tell the men they will help them escape.  They take the bait, and both pay with their lives.  This pretender, named Perkin Warbeck or the boy, is hanged until dead.  Elizabeth is almost positive he is her brother, but she can do nothing for him.  She cannot jeopardize her son Arthur's throne.  He is already betrothed to Katherine of Aragon, and the Spanish monarchs demand this pretender be killed before they will send their daughter.  Elizabeth mourns quietly along with Perkin's wife, Katherine Huntly.  Both men were killed for the crime of being a son of York, and her mother's hope is now gone.  The book ends with Henry asking for Elizabeth's forgiveness.  For killing her brother, for imprisoning her mother, for loving Katherine Huntly and much more.

My Thoughts:  I enjoyed this book and read it very quickly.  I always enjoy her books and I wanted to read more about Elizabeth of York.  History seems to have pushed her behind King Henry VII and his formidable mother.  Since she didn't seem to be quite so outspoken or as ambitious as her mother, history seems to let her fade.  Even though she may have been poised and quieter, doesn't mean she didn't have that ambition burning inside her.  I can't imagine what it must have been like to marry her lover's enemy, to wonder if he or his mother had killed her brothers.  To be divided between her mother and husband, always trying to keep the peace.  To behave well so her son Arthur could inherit the throne, while also hoping her brother Richard was still out there alive and well.  She sounds like an incredible woman, one of strength, poise and dignity.  Of course I wonder if she really was Richard's lover, her uncle.  That is hard to swallow, but is possible.  I believe these books are so popular because it is about a cousins' war, about families divided.  And the great mystery of whether the pretender Perkin Warbeck was really Richard Duke of York after all.  Elizabeth was mother to Arthur and Henry, who would one day be King Henry VIII.  Grandmother to Queen Elizabeth, a woman monarch.  An incredible start to the Tudor generations.