Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wet Nurse'sTale

I just finished reading The Wet Nurse's Tale by Erica Eisdorfer. I have to say it is not at all what I had expected. I thought this book would be about a wet nurse that perhaps worked in the royal nursery, or something like that. This book was about a poor woman who was a wet nurse to ladies around England. Her story was interesting but often quite sad. Sometimes when I read books, I let my emotions run away with me. I can get really into the book and it can affect my mood the rest of the day. Parts of this book made me moody I have to say.

Ms. Rose grew up in a house with 12 other children, and a drunkard father. Her mother would hire herself out and would wet nurse babies to help earn money. 3 of the children died, so 10 were left. Rose and two of her sisters went to work at The Great House, a home nearby where a wealthy family lived. They helped with laundry, cleaning, etc. While there, one of her sisters is taken advantage of by the husband of the house, and she then drowns herself out of shame. Rose has to continue working there, even after the tragedy. While working there she befriends Freddie, the son of the house. He seems to enjoy her company, and they end up having relations. She finds herself pregnant, but doesn't want to tell her parents who the father is.

Her father beats her a lot, and tells her to keep working until the baby is born. She has a boy named Joey, and stays home to be with him. When he is only 4 weeks old, a woman comes by wanting to hire a wet nurse. Her mother is over 40 and can't any longer, but Rose decides to. The new custom now though, is to have the wet nurse move in with the family while caring for the child. Her father tells her she has to, and she has to leave Joey behind. Rose tries to fight him, but he makes her leave. Her mother promises to spoon feed him and feed him milk from a towel. Rose moves to the house and cares for the twin babies, one girl one boy. While there, one of her sisters comes to visit her. Her baby Joey got a bad fever and passed away.

Rose has a hard time of it, because she knows he was too little to be spoon fed. She tries to save some of her money from her employment and hide it from her father. As soon as the babies are weaned, she finds another family to wet nurse for. While caring of her new charge, she meets a Jewish dentist. They meet from time to time at church, and then they have relations as well. The baby she is caring for is old enough to be weaned so she has no other choice but to go home. Being pregnant dried up her milk.

Her father told her to go back to work at the Great House, and so she does. Ms. Rose is a large woman, so she can hide her pregnancy easily enough. While there she runs into Freddie again. They resume their old relationship, but she never tells him of the baby they had that died. Or that she is pregnant again. When her time is close, she quits working and goes home. She has another boy, named Davey. Her father tries to get her to work again, but she says she won't. She wants to take care of her baby this time. One day she is out working in the field, and comes back to find her mother beaten up badly, and Davey gone.

Her father had taken him away. The first place she checks is the Great House. The mom tells her they sent the baby away to be raised by a good family. They think Freddie is the father. Ms. Rose keeps to herself that the father is in fact the Jewish dentist. After a few days, she finds him in the house of a Mrs. Norval. Her husband was serving in the military, and wanted her to have some company. He thought a baby would be a good idea. Ms. Rose, with a lot of thinking and planning, is able to hire herself as the baby's wet nurse. No one knows she is the real mother. As she cares for him, she tries to figure out a way to leave. She can't return home, and she doesn't have enough money to survive on.

As she works there, she discovers her mistress is crazy. She has fits of insanity and beats the servants, and goes on long walks and doesn't eat much. She decides she needs to get the baby away from the house. Ms. Rose is able to prove to Mrs. Norval's brother that she is crazy, because she tried to drown the baby. He agrees that the baby should leave, and asks her to take care of him. He gives her a lot of money and sends her away with the baby. Ms. Rose had no idea it would turn out so well for her. She moves back to the area where the Jewish dentist lives, and takes up work again as a wet nurse. This time she is able to keep her baby with her.

It doesn't say what happens in the end, but I'm hopeful she ended up with the dentist again. This book was definitely a little different than what I was expecting; very sad and graphic. Her life was so sad, and different from ours. Women had no rights if any, and their husbands often beat or raped them. Many lost children from sicknesses, or died in labor. Those who were lucky enough to survive, and had money, hired wet nurses. It wasn't the custom to nurse one's own baby. There was a huge difference between the privileged and the help. Ms. Rose was an interesting character, because at times I thought she was a hussy, but really she was just misguided and lost. She wanted comfort, and to be a mother. She knew she wasn't pretty, so she took what she could get. It sounds like she was a terrific mother though and a good nurse.

Rating: PG13 for love scenes and nursing descriptions.

Getting To Know You

Keely over at Manland 5 is hosting this Sunday's Getting To Know You, and these are the questions. I am posting them just because I thought it looked fun. 1. What inspires you? My family-I want to be the best I can be for my husband and little boy. 2. What was the last thing you bought yourself? Leggings 3. Would you rather watch a movie in the theatre or in the comfort of your own home? Depends on my mood-we have a new great flat screen TV so it's fun watching movies at home. But I also love getting out as well. 4. Household chore you don't mind doing? Hmmm....vacuuming can be fun I guess lol 5. Coffee or tea? Neither but I've always loved the smell of coffee beans hehe 6. What could you eat everyday and not get sick of? CHOCOLATE!! And I do:) 7. What's the last book you read? The King's Daughter-if you read my blog you know 8. Do you think you look your age? Probably-I've never really had anyone guess my age before. Join in the fun, and put your answers in the comment box!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The King's Daughter

I just finished this book The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason. I was excited to read this because she is a new author to me, and the cover looked exciting lol. This book is about King James I, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. She was executed by her cousin Queen Elizabeth; her son also helped sign her death warrant. He was only a toddler at the time, but his children would always fear him for having helped kill his own mother.

James I was a loud, abrasive drunk who often left events in the middle of them. He was scary to his children and not very kind. The people didn't seem to particularly like him either. His wife was estranged, partly due to the fact that he had a boyfriend. He had three children; Henry, Elizabeth and little Charles. This book mostly follows Elizabeth the second oldest. She is raised far from Court with her guardians Harringtons. She always felt like a burden because they had to pay for everything for her and keep her safe. Once when she was little she was out in the woods and a man tried to kidnap her. She was able to talk her way out of it. Later she heard that there was a plot to overthrow the King. A group of men were rumored to kidnap Elizabeth so as to put her on the throne over her father.

Another reason her father King James was so unfriendly was because he feared his own children. He knew the people loved his son Henry, and always feared a rebellion or plot to put him on the throne. His children were loyal to their father but the King always feared an assassination or plot. Most royalty had to deal with some kind of plots or such, especially King James because he was from Scotland. He was not a true Englishman, and neither were his children. They were the successor of Queen Elizabeth, cousins. King James I always feared people would rush to put a true Englishman on the throne.

The author has an interesting way of writing, sometimes it made it hard to get through the book. She really delved into her characters, almost so much so that it got intense at times. She would sometimes write on different characters' points of view. She mainly remained with Elizabeth, but sometimes delved into Henry, her slave or even the King. After this attempt to kidnap Elizabeth came to light, the King sent her to Court to witness the killings of these men. As they took turns at the noose, she became worried that they would reveal that they had seen her. But thankfully they died without implicating her. The King cruelly made his daughter watch this, so she would never think of taking the throne from her father. She never wanted to, but he kept his children in fear nonetheless.

Also around this time, Elizabeth heard that her brother Henry's life could be in danger. She sent a secret letter to him with a trusted servant. He never came back and she feared for his life, and that of her letter. It could also be viewed as treason. As she came closer to teenage hood, the King ordered for her to be sent to Court. She moved there and instantly had ladies in waiting to assist her. Her mother wouldn't visit her, but sent her a black servant to help her. Her name was Thalia Bristo and she was very talented with the lute. Elizabeth reluctantly let her into her service. They eventually became fast friends; Thalia was always there to help Elizabeth in anyway she could. Many of the Court did not like Thalia because she was black. There was still a lot of prejudice at the time towards them.

Elizabeth tried to visit with her mother to help reconnect. Finally she was let in, but her mother Queen Anne was cold and not very welcoming. Her mother told her over the years her heart had hardened, because her children were taken away from her at an early age. She also lost a son and two daughters. She counseled Elizabeth to never get too close to anyone, even her own children, because they would always leave. Elizabeth left very confused and sad. She vowed to never be like her mother. Soon her marriage was in negotiation, and she used Thalia to spy for her and find out who. Years passed and still negotiations were under way. She became stressed most of the time, wondering what was going to happen to her.

Elizabeth was very close to her brother Henry, and they shared their thoughts. She soon found out he was meeting secretly with the King's advisor Cecil. He wasn't trying to overthrow the King, he was just trying to learn all he could before taking the throne one day. Eventually he became very sick, and slowly died of poison. No one saw the signs until it was too late. She never got to see his brother before he died, they kept her away. People mourned him greatly, he was much liked and favored. Elizabeth soon began to suspect her father of killing his own son. The doubts ate at her, as well as the marriage negotiations. Her life didn't seem very happy.

Soon Frederick came to Court, the Elector Palantine. People spoke of a marriage between the Thames and Rhine, a Catholic alliance which pleased her father. Before her brother Henry died, he had suggested she marry him. Elizabeth found that she liked him quite well, and wished to marry him. Her father tormented her and kept it on hold for some time. He tried sending Frederick away, but she fought back. Soon Frederick became a favorite of her father. Eventually they did marry, and all seemed well. Her younger brother Charles was now next in line to the throne since her brother had died. He became vicious and mean to her, distant.

Before able to leave Court, Elizabeth was threatened by her father's new advisor since Cecil had died, Francis Bacon (cousin to Cecil). She found out that he most likely had killed her brother from jealousy, and would possibly even get rid of her favorite servant Thalia. In order to protect her, Elizabeth sent her away to the Americas. Thalia was a fictional character, but an interesting one. It was nice to see that Elizabeth was close to someone. Eventually Elizabeth and her husband Frederick were able to leave Court to start their new life together. In the epilogue it says that Elizabeth was not written into history journals. Most of the events of her life were guessed at. Her brother Charles later led England into civil war, and had his head chopped off. Elizabeth's life is not mentioned further.

I liked this book overall because it showed me into another person's interesting life. I would like to think she went on and lived a happy life. I always wondered who had succeeded Queen Elizabeth and how well they did.

Rating: PG13 for a page of a love scene. Skip over. No swearing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Serve A King

I just finished this book by Donna Russo Morin and I really enjoyed it. This was purely fictional but it of course involved some royalty. I do love my period pieces. This book is about a girl, Genevieve, who is raised by her aunt. She is taught from a young age how to kill animals, shoot a bow and arrow, and how to lie. Her aunt was approached by King Henry VIII at a tournament, to raise this young girl to be a spy in the court of Francois his rival. So the aunt taught this young girl from a young age everything it would take to be a courtier, and also eventually how to kill. Her aunt tells her that her parents were killed by King Francis, so she must get revenge.

At the age of 22 she goes to court, and serves King Francis's mistress Anne. She serves as a lady in waiting to her. Genevieve quickly learns how to be a courtier, and tries to keep from making friendships so she can complete her mission. While there she becomes good friends with Arabelle, another lady in waiting. She also meets a handsome man, Sebastien. Genevieve receives letters written in code from King Henry from time to time, telling her what to do. As she learns information that would be helpful, she sends it back in code. While serving at the court, Genevieve comes to actually like King Francis. Her mind fights with her heart, that with what she was raised to do. To kill the King when the opportunity was ripe.

Word soon gets spread around that there is a spy at court. Soon the entire court is strife with lies and intrigues, wondering who the spy is. In order to put suspicion away from herself, Genevieve tells Montmorency, the advisor investigating this, that she saw Lisette with a foreigner. Lisette was another lady in waiting, who she did in fact see with a strange gentleman. Genevieve didn't intend for anything untoward to happen, but Lisette is brought to trial and then hanged. Genevieve as well as the other ladies in waiting, are very upset at this. Genevieve didn't mean for anything to happen to her, she just wanted the suspicion off of her. As she battles with the grief and guilt of the death of Lisette, she also struggles to deal with her feelings toward the King. He is friendly, nice to all the courtiers, and was even grief stricken himself when he heard of the death of Lisette.

King Francis was later in his life, and had changed quite a bit. He did have many mistresses early in life, and also did many things he was not proud of. But when his first wife and some of his children passed away, he was tempered by grief. He was married to Queen Eleanor, but there was not much affection there. His true love lay with his mistress Anne. Although still not living in complete fidelity he was known to be a true and loyal King to his subjects. He was a collector of arts, which is now in the Louvre in Paris. He also loved books and poetry, which he collected many popular works. He also worked at bringing the most talented musicians to Court. His rival was King Henry VIII, who was pretty close to his own age. They met from time to time, always competing to top the other.

Genevieve was soon to meet her sponsor, King Henry VIII. Her mistress Anne was to go and meet with him on some political matters, and Genevieve was to attend her. While there, she is disappointed at what she finds. King Henry hardly acknowledges her, and she hears about the deaths of his first three wives. He sounds not at all how she had hoped. While there, she also runs into an old woman who is badly scarred. She offers her money and help, but the woman doesn't speak much. The next morning everyone wakes up to see her hanging in a tree. It was supposedly a suicide. What Genevieve never finds out, is that it was her mother. She was told her parents had died in a fire.

Upon returning to Court, Genevieve receives a letter telling her to kill the King. The Emperor Charles V was coming to visit. This would be a good chance to kill him, and hopefully put guilt on the Emperor. Genevieve tries to decide what to do, because she has grown to love the King Francis, but for 22 years she was trained to kill the King. She manages to get time along with him that night, and keeps a dagger hidden in her dress. The King sees her as a daughter and talks tenderly to her. He asks how her parents died, and she tells him. As she is getting ready to kill him, he tells her that the fire started over by King Henry's tent. Genevieve stops herself and listens to the King. She feels in her heart it is true, that it is King Henry who killed her parents, and was just using her. She doesn't kill the King and goes back to her chambers.

Her lover and friend Sebastien finds her there. She starts crying because she feels released from all the turmoil. She finally knows where her place and home is. Sebastien starts choking her, and she tries to defend herself. He is also a spy of King Henry, and is upset at her change of mind. King Francis had sent guards to check on her, and they rescue her just in time. Sebastien is killed and she is barely alive. The King asks her what happened, and she tells him the entire story. He decides he needs to send her away from Court for her protection from King Henry, and he sends her away with his love. And away she goes.

I know this story was fictional, but I liked it because it showed me a glimpse into King Francis's court. Most books I've read were about King Henry VIII, so it was fun to see the other side of his rival. Most things I've read about King Francis don't put him in a good light. He was lustful, had many mistresses, and used his children for ill. But it sounds like later in life after much grief, he changes. I've always found him to be an interesting character in history. I hope to read more about him as well. If you like romance, murder and intrigue in a court of France, you will like this book. I've decided to start adding ratings to my books, because books can be just as dirty as movies.

Rating: PG13 for a few short paragraphs of love scenes. I just skipped over them. No swearing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rebel Princess

I just finished these 2 books by Judith Koll Healey. She takes a princess from history, and weaves it into a fictional story of intrigue, murder and plots to overthrow the King, her brother. I liked these books because they were easy to read, and I also liked the main character, Princess Alais.
In these two books, you follow Princess Alais on some adventures. In The Canterbury Papers, she is asked to find some papers of her stepmother Eleanor of Aquitaine. She decides to take a few knights with her to the abbey where Thomas a Becket, a saint, had been murdered. Her stepmother supposedly had some letters hidden there that she wanted Alais to get for her. While there, there is a murdered body found near to her chambers. She also comes back to find her rooms ransacked twice, but nothing missing. While she tries to get the letters, she is kidnapped by her brother in law and his wife. They steal a necklace of hers that is very popular because of who made it, and she escapes with the help of a childhood friend, William. She later finds out he is in the Knights Templar and is helping the King, her brother Phillipe.
In this book you also find out that Princess Alais had a child. Her father was King Louis, the first husband to her stepmother Queen Eleanor. She grew up with Eleanor's children in England, and with Eleanor's second husband, King Henry. When the King and Queen were estranged, Alais came to know the King better. She was betrothed to marry his son Richard the Lionheart, but was used as a pawn. The King seduced her and they had a child. The child was secretly taken away, and Alais thought him dead. Since she had been the King's mistress, she obviously didn't marry Richard.
Princess Alais then lived at court in France with her brother the King Phillipe. She often assisted him in his duties, as he was not on good terms with his wife. At the conclusion of the first book, Alais meets up once again with her stepmother Queen Eleanor. I wonder what their true relationship was, considering that her stepdaughter slept with her husband and had a child with him. Alais meets her son Francis, who is alive, but she doesn't yet tell him she is his mother. There are rumors about that there is a usuprer to the throne, and she doesn't want to put him in danger. She falls in love with her childhood friend William.
In the second book, we follow Alais again as she goes on an adventure to save her son Francis. He is abducted by an evil abbe, because they think he has a sacred chalice. She soon becomes embroiled in plots and intrigue. She meets some women that agree to aid her on her mission, and they dress up as nuns. They visit an abbey in the hopes of finding Francis. While there they do find him, and they smuggle him out. Princess Alais dresses up as a man and travels separately from the party. She ends up being almost killed and robbed once or twice. Finally she meets up with some of her knights, and they make it back safely. She is reunited with her son Francis, where she tells him his true parentage. She also reunites with her love, William of Caen.
I kept this review short because the religious details went kind of over my head. At this time, there was a war brewing over the Cathar religion. I mostly enjoyed this book for the adventures Alais goes on, and her wit and spirit. You will just have to read it if you want the details:)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dangerous to Know

I just finished this book Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander. It is a little bit different from what I normally read. It is a mystery and I actually really enjoyed it. I haven't read a mystery for a long time so it was fun. She is a really good author, I like the way she writes. I won't tell you who the killer is, but I will tell you that I didn't guess it while reading the book. You know it's a good mystery author when you never guess the correct murder. It keeps you in suspense the entire time.

This book is about Lady Emily and her husband Collin. He works for Queen Victoria and assists the police in cases. His wife Emily also helps him as she enjoys solving a good mystery. I think this book was the second in a series, because when the book starts it says they had narrowly avoided death themself when solving a previous murder case. While trying to solve the case, Emily miscarries a child she didn't even know she was carrying. After this trying time, they go to live with her mother in law's manor so she can recover.

Whilst there she is out on a horse ride one day and discovers a dead body. It is so gruesome that police blame it on Jack the Ripper. Emily feels responsible for finding the murder since she found the body. Her husband Collin also helps her in solving the case. There are delightful neighbors in this story, an overly critical mother in law, a friend name Cecile who loves champagne and her two dogs, an insane asylum, a missing child and more. This book also has a ghost in it; a little blond girl with a blue ribbon in her hair appears from time to time. It is kind of spooky and ties you into the story even more.

The girl that was murdered was Edith; she had been mentally unstable so her family checked her into an asylum. While there she continued to meet her lover, and eventually had a child by him. Another mystery is what happens to this child, and why Edith is murdered. There is a fun character in the book, Sebastian, that is good at disappearing. He is also an art thief, but a charismatic person so everyone falls in love with him. The characters are fun and amusing; there is much to keep you entertained.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Princes In The Tower

I just finished this book The Princes In The Tower by Alison Weir. She is a popular author of mine, but some of her books are harder to read. They are usually written like a biography so there are no conversations in it; mostly facts, sources and interpretations of the facts. I like her books because they are well researched, and she arrives at a conclusion that seems favorable. Some of you may have heard of the death of the 2 princes in The Tower. What Alison Weir is trying to write about is who committed the murder, and when.

I was interested in reading this book because I've always wondered who did kill the two boys. I've read books about their mother, Queen Elizabeth Wydville. I've also read books from the point of view of King Henry VII, who came after the princes were dead. Most seem to favor that their uncle Richard III had them killed. I won't go into too many details, as this book was almost 300 pages of facts. I will try to summarize it and tell you what happened.

King Henry IV was of the Plantagenet line, also known was the Lancaster line. If you've heard of the War of the Roses, this would be that time period. Plantagenets had ruled England since 1154 and the succession had generally passed peacefully from father to son. Henry IV's claim to the throne was through his father-fourth son of Edward III. It was kind of a dubious hold onto the throne, but he was King. (The succession of Kings can become quite confusing I know). He started his reign even more tenuously because he announced that he had married Elizabeth Wydville months before, and she was just a commoner. She was a widow with two children and the people did not approve of her right away. The people were also angry because the King continued to elevate her family the Wydvilles over many who had higher titles.

She was said to be very beautiful, and she produced many daughters, and then two sons. Edward V and then his brother Richard the Duke of York. And then more daughters. King Henry IV had two brothers who proved to be a thorn in his side. Richard of Gloucester and Clarence often were jealous of their sister-in law the Queen and the way her family the Wydvilles were rising at Court. His brother Clarence was later accused of treason for plotting against his own brother the King, on many counts, and was drowned in some ale. It was his choice to die this way. With one brother out of the way, he later still had Richard to deal with.

The King passed away at a fairly young age, and left his will to his son Edward V in the care of the Queen his wife until he came of age. As soon as the King died, the plot to overthrow the young King was in action. Richard, his uncle, wanted to be named Protector of young Edward until he reached the age of 14. He connived his way into capturing the King, and then placed him in the Tower under his care. He worked with the Duke of Buckingham to became Protector. Meanwhile the Queen was working on her son's coronation, not realizing the sinister plans of her brother-in law Richard. He now had her son, and she didn't know how to get him back.

Richard gained the loyalty of the people from fear as he had a few councillors executed that were loyal to young Edward V and old King Henry IV. He ruthlessly and quickly gained his supporters and drove the Queen and most of her children into sanctuary. They feared for their lives and weren't sure what was going to happen. The Queen felt with herself in sanctuary, people would see how she feared Richard and they would not support his claims to the throne. Many people silently supported the will of their King Henry IV, but they also feared Richard. In time he was able to talk the Queen into surrendering up her other son, Richard the Duke of York. Richard said he was bored and needed a companion. Before she gave up her last son, she made him negotiate for some things.

In time Richard's views changed, and he decided to go for the Crown itself. He no longer wanted to be just the Protector, he wanted to be King. In order for that to happen, he had to be rid of the two princes in the Tower. While planning his own coronation, he also met with Sir James Tyrell. He ordered him to find a way to have the princes murdered. There are sources that claim they were stabbed, or starved to death, etc. But the likeliest sources show that they were most likely suffocated in their sleep. The exact date is not known, but they weren't seen ever again after Richard's coronation. They used to play in the yards, but they were seen less and less.

Richard was able to become King, because he told people that his brother King Henry IV had been a bastard, so therefore his children were not legitimate. He also tried claiming that King Henry IV had been pre-contracted to another woman before marrying Elizabeth Wydville. People could not really speak against him for fear, so he published this as the reasons why he should be King. Which is interesting, because he was basically calling his mother an adulterer. And he would later pursue his own niece. If this was true, he wouldn't have wanted to marry a bastard, right? The ways he connived his way to the throne, goodness.

When word spread of the prince's deaths, people began to hate and fear their new King Richard III. They believed he had killed them in order to have the throne. They couldn't believe a brother would do that to his nephews. King Richard was also known to have some good qualities. They say he managed things well, was fair, and he went on progresses to try and secure the support of the people. Since he was not able to deny the death of the Prince or produce their bodies, the people hated him more and more as time went on. Even the Duke of Buckingham, who had helped him in securing the throne, was now against him when he heard of the murders of the two princes. They were only 10 and 12 years old. The Duke of Buckingham was later beheaded for his treason against the King in trying to put the Tudor on the throne.

A plot began to take place, that of putting the Tudor Henry VII on the throne. His royal blood came from his mother, she was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, third son of Edward III. His mother Margaret Beaufort was working with the Dowager Queen Elizabeth Wydville to marry him to her eldest daughter Elizabeth. Women at that time could not claim the throne because of their sex. Buckingham and many others worked to place him on the throne. A few attempts failed because their ships were driven away with the storm. He patiently bided his time.

In the meantime, King Richard realized he needed a way to get the Queen and her children out of sanctuary. It reflected badly on him that they were still there. She demanded he swear publicly to protect her daughters, never imprison them in the Tower or anywhere else, and to marry them off to wealthy merchants. With this done, her children left sanctuary while she stayed their a while yet. Her daughter Elizabeth eventually went to live at Court. Rumors started to spread that her uncle the King, desired to marry her and thus secure his place as King. People were disgusted, especially because he still had a wife that was dying, Anne. Their son, their heir, had passed away not long before.

The poor Queen Anne began to feel a burden to her husband, that he was just waiting for her to die in order to marry his niece Elizabeth of York. She did die not long after and many accused the King of poisoning her in order to marry his niece. The King realized the people were so affected by this that he couldn't now marry his niece. It would just solidify in peoples' minds that he had poisoned his wife to be rid of her. Elizabeth of York was angry at him, because he proclaimed to people that he had never desired to marry her. She began plotting with her mother and Margaret Beaufort to put King Henry VII on the throne, and pledged she would marry him when he became King. What is disgusting to me is that Elizabeth had some sort of relationship with her uncle, knowing that he had killed her two brothers. I guess her ambition outweighed her morals and scruples. They may have been lovers, we don't know.

What became known as The Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485, it was a most savage battle. Richard was deserted in battle, and when he realized this, he charged at Henry Tudor. King Richard was pierced with many mortal wounds and died that day on the battlefield. His body was treated badly and just slung on a horse, paraded around for the people to see. He was later buried in a non-descript grave with no ceremony or blessings. The new King Henry VII was now here, the first sovereign of the Tudor dynasty. With the death of Richard III, 331 years of Plantagenet rule had come to an end. When the news of Richard's death and Henry Tudor's accession reached Westminster, London burst into celebration.

The fall of the House of York and the Plantagenet dynasty can be blamed on Richard III's ambition; his usurpation of his nephew's throne, and the murder of his two nephews. People viewed Richard's death as the right punishment for his crimes. This did not mean King Henry VII had an easy reign. He was well liked, but there were several pretenders to the throne claiming to be the dead princes. He was able to squash each rumor and keep his throne. He did marry Elizabeth of York, joining the Lancastrians and Yorkists together. They were happy enough and later became parents to King Henry VIII, two daughters, and a son who died while a young King.

Do you want to know what was discovered of the princes? They later dug under a staircase, 10 feet under, and found a chest with two young skeletons in it. In 1933 they were able to be worked on in Westminster Abbey. The conclusion was that they were most likely the prince's skeletons. They were able to date them at about age 10 and 12, and said they bore the likeness of each other meaning they were related. People have tried since to gain permission to work on the skeletons more, but they have not been approved. Since there were no other two boys disappeared in the next 200 or so years, it is likely that they were the remains of the two princes. And the conclusion is that they were murdered on the orders of their uncle Richard III. Sir Thomas More and Shakespeare have been instrumental in their works and writings on the dead princes.

I found this book very entertaining because it was kind of like a mystery. I wanted to find out what happened to the poor princes. I felt so bad for their mother, for losing them like that. I could not believe how ambition leads men like Richard III to murder his way to the throne. Is it really worth it? It is said he spent the rest of his life in guilt and didn't sleep well. And did he poison his wife Anne? If you are into biographies, this is a good read. Obviously now you know what happened, but you can follow Alison Weir's research as she undoubtedly proves this to be correct.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rival to the Queen

I just finished this book by Carolly Erickson and I really liked it. This book is about Queen Elizabeth and her cousin Leticia Knollys. They are both redheads and they fight for the love of Robert Dudley. They also share the same blood, that of King Henry VIII. Leticia's grandmother was Mary Boleyn, the mistress of Henry VIII. Although her mother was a bastard, they still had royal blood in them.
The book starts out in Mary Tudor's reign, also known as Bloody Mary. Leticia in the first chapter witnesses a burning of a beloved tutor of hers. Since he didn't conform to the Catholic faith like Queen Mary ordered, he was put to death. The family moves from London to Frankfurt when Elizabeth was in the Tower. Since their family was associated with her they fleed to avoid any punishment. While growing up there, they witness even more cruel religious treatments of the Anabaptists.
Leticia witnesses one dark night a woman being tied up to be drowned. Her baby is left by the river and Leticia runs to save it. She donates the baby to a nearby abbey that takes in foundlings with no questions. She is discovered by the local Consistory (ministers) and they are upset that she saved a baby. Especially one from a Anabaptist mother. They order her and her family to leave immediately. They move back to London where her father proceeds to make their marriage arrangements.
Leticia is betrothed to Walter Deveraux, although she likes him not. When she goes to court she sees Robert Dudley and falls in love with him. He was so witty, charming and handsome compared to her betrothed. She wishes she could marry him, but has to do as her father commands. She marries Walter and they have 2 daughters in quick succession. Leticia serves at Court several months out of the year and serves her Majesty cousin Queen Elizabeth. She is around Robert more and notices the close relationship he has with the Queen. She wonders if they will marry.
Queen Elizabeth was often volatile and could be mean to those around her. She liked to tease and had many mood swings. She often feared assassination attempts, and kept Robert close to her to protect her. Some say they were lovers, but who knows....? Robert tries to marry her but she fears marriage like the plague. Her mother Anne Boleyn, was beheaded by King Henry VIII. Elizabeth also fears she is not fertile and so doesn't wish to marry and be humiliated. She is so independent and doesn't want any of the power given to a man. So she continues to flirt and tease Robert, but never makes him her King.
Leticia watches them enviously while trying to endure her boring marriage. She has a son that dies within a few months. Then they have a son named Rob who thrives and does well. While her husband Walter is away in Ireland, he gets the bog fever and passes away. Leticia is a widow with 3 children. In secret she marries Robert Dudley, for they had become lovers for the past year or so. Queen Elizabeth doesn't find out for a few months. When she does she gets so upset that Leticia fears for her life and Robert's.
It seems that Queen Elizabeth sends Robert on many diplomatic missions to keep them apart as much as possible. During their marriage Leticia has a son and they are ecstatic. By age three he didn't walk or talk and she knew something was terribly wrong. He passed away not long after that and it changed their marriage. Leticia and Robert became depressed and despondent. He was gone much of the time on business for Queen Elizabeth. He also gets sick while in Scotland and comes home and dies. On his deathbed he kept asking if Queen Elizabeth had come to say goodbye, and Leticia had to keep saying no. Robert kept holding on hoping she would come. Finally Leticia had to lie and tell him she stopped by so he could let go. He passed away from the gout soon after that.
Leticia remarries a third time to Chris, who is many years her junior. She seems to have a penchant for attractive young men. He is friends with her son Rob and they hang out very much. Her son Rob talks Leticia into going back to court to serve Queen Elizabeth. She dreads the idea and doesn't want to see her again, especially since she never said goodbye to Robert. She goes back to serve her, and soon discovers her purpose. She is there to keep her son in check, and also to serve as a pawn for Queen Elizabeth. If Rob doesn't behave, the Queen can threaten to hurt his mother, and vice versa.
To Leticia's dismay, she discovers that Rob is trying to take the throne. He believes he deserves to be named as Elizabeth's heir. Elizabeth is on to him and uses him cruelly and plays and mocks with him, much like she did with his stepfather Robert. While on business in Ireland he ignores a command from the Queen. He did the right thing by leaving; it saved thousands of lives. But Elizabeth views it as treason and has him beheaded. Leticia pleads with the Queen but to no avail. The jealousy between the two was too deep to mend. So she loses her only son.
The book pretty much ends there, although it mentions that Leticia lived to be over 92 years old. I thought this book was interesting because it showed a powerful rivalry between Queen Elizabeth, who you would think had everything, and her cousin Leticia. Leticia was said to have been very beautiful, more so than the Queen. She also had children and married Robert. The Queen could never forgive her for marrying her love. And for being more beautiful. From many accounts I've read or seen, Queen Elizabeth sounds like she had her father's temper. She could be ruthless, even abusive to servants. This was an easy read, so if you want something quick and entertaining without too much detail or facts, this is a good one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Last Queen

I just finished this book, The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner. I've read it twice now because it is fascinating. The author is male, but he writes in the first person as the female character. It works well. This book is about Juana, one of the Spanish infantes of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand. Or Juana the Mad, as locals know her as. One of her sisters Catalina, became Queen of England. She was the first wife of King Henry VIII.
As all princesses are, Juana had no choice in who she was to marry. Her betrothal to Phillip of Flanders. Most marriages were made for the alliances it provided, not the potential of a love match. After being raised in Spain for 17 years, Juana was used to the Castilian ways. Her parents were the powerful Isabel and Ferdinand. She was used to a life living in tents on the battlefield, with sand caked on everything. They did live in palaces, but Juana was used to roughing it as well.
The first day she landed in Flanders, Juana met Phillip. His adviser Besancon asked why she was veiled. The custom in Spain was not to uncover your face until the wedding day. Juana decided to show him her face to surprise him. The court was astonished by her beauty. Juana was very tall with reddish brown hair. When she met Phillip she was surprised to find herself attracted to him. She had prepared herself for a marriage alliance without love. He suggested they get married then and there, even though she had just arrived. She decided to agree; she wanted to show him she was a match for his wit.
Her ladies were shocked and some even left court. They did not condone a marriage not done in a proper church. In a short period of time she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Eleanor. While getting used to the ways of her new life, Juana discovered her husband was not loyal to her. She became very upset and left with her daughter for awhile. With some convincing from her sister-in law she went back to Court. Phillip apologized and things were soon well again. Juana decided it was the life of a Queen and she had no choice but to accept it. She soon gave birth to a son, their heir Charles.
News came to court from time to time, and heard her brother Juan passed away. Her parents now had no heir. Next in line was her sister Isabel. She was also pregnant. Sadly, she died giving birth to a son. He died within the year. Soon negotiations were opened up between Phillip's nasty advisor Besancon and Juana's parents. They named Juana as their heir, and her son Charles after her. Juana was surprised to find herself in this position. She had never thought she would have to rule Spain. Her mother was a hard woman to impress, and she didn't think she was her favorite anyways.
Juana had a daughter Isabel before they left, and she had to leave the 3 children behind with their nurses and Aunt. Relations between Phillip and Juana had become tense because the advisor Besancon was always scheming. He was trying to get Phillip invested as King in Spain over Juana. The Cortes did not accept a man to rule though, a woman only could rule. Queen Isabella ruled alone, her husband was second to her. Phillip tried to find ways to change that fact. While in Spain, Juana had to watch her parents and Phillip fight over the heirdom. During their stay, Besancon died of a water sickness. Some believed he had been poisoned. Juana was secretly pleased he was gone.
Juana was pregnant again with her 4th child, and her father Ferdinand was with her husband Phillip. During their meetings across Spain Phillip fled to France--their enemy. Juana received no letters from him for a long time. Her mother persuaded her to stay until the baby was born. She had a boy named Phillip. Juana soon felt like she was being imprisoned by her mother and found some letters that hadn't been delivered like she thought. She found a way to get out and visited her mother in her castle. She discovered her mother was very ill and near death. They had been keeping Juana from her mother. Juana entrusted her mother with the care of Phillip, and sent a letter to her father that his wife was dying. She decided to head back to Flanders and leave baby Phillip behind. She hadn't been home for almost 2 years.
On her arrival, her 3 children greeted her like strangers. She also discovered in her absence that Phillip had a mistress who he had given all of her clothes and jewels to. There is a widely documented account of Juana attacking her and ripping off a brooch of hers. The rumors started spreading that Juana was mad. Things were terrible between her and Phillip; he repeatedly beat and took advantage of her. He needed Juana in order to become King of Spain. She pretended to be docile so she wouldn't get more hurt. She soon had another daughter, Mary, her 5th child.
Juana worked secretly with her advisor to find out what Phillip was up to. Soon she received news that her mother had passed away. She was very sad because their reunion before her leaving was bittersweet. She had come to realize how much her mother loved her. She left a codicil that would protect Juana after her death. It said the kingdom went to Juana and her son Charles, with no provision anywhere for Phillip. Her mother had safeguarded her future she thought.
Once again they left for Spain, and she left 4 children behind. Phillip was still abusing Juana and trying to get his way. He had become an angry vicious man, thirsty for power. They were waylaid in England on their way there. Juana was able to meet secretly with her sister Caterina and discovered she had been kept waiting in poverty to wed King Henry. During this time Juana became pregnant again. She tried keeping it from Phillip so he couldn't use it against her. Once entering Spain, Phillip became angry at the way the people praised and greeted their new Queen Juana. He didn't know the language so he became upset.
With his bribes and trickery, he bought over the Cortes to become King of Spain. King Ferdinand was away trying to keep baby Phillip from the grasp of his evil father. Juana was able to get some secret support and appeared suddenly in a council of the Cortes. They were trying to establish that she was mad. She walked in and showed the people she was sane, and said she wanted to serve as Queen. Phillip had spread lies that she was mad and wanted him to rule for her. Before a decision could be reached, plague broke out. Everyone dispersed and ran to different places.
During this time Phillip contracted the French pox, and the physicians said he would still live for years to come. Juana was overcome with emotions; she knew she had to kill him or he would destroy Spain and her and her children. She put some herbs and roots in his wine, and he died within 2 days. Don Manuel, the evil advisor of Phillip and her dead mother, had become corrupt. He also tried telling people Juana was mad and steal the power for himself. Juana decided to walk alongside her husband's coffin so the people could see her. She wanted them to think she was a little mad, so they would have sympathy for her. On the road she gave birth to her 6th and last child, Catalina. Named after her dear sister in England.
After some more intrigues and plots, Juana was reunited with her father Ferdinand, and her son Phillip. Juana told her father she desired them to rule together, and things were peaceful for a time. She set up Court with her 2 children with her ladies. She asked to send for her 4 children in Flanders. Her father refused her request. He said they didn't have the money to support them. Over time, Juana discovered now her father was intriguing against her. He had lived his whole life in the shadow of his wife Isabel, never able to rule in his own right. Now he was taking it out on his daughter.
Juana was imprisoned with her daughter Catalina in Tordesillas. She lived until the age of 76 after 46 years of captivity. Her daughter Catalina was taken away from her during that time. During her imprisonment she earned the title of Juana the Mad. Her father Ferdinand remarried a French lady, and upon his death Charles served. Because Juana never gave up the right of Queen, her son was able to rule.
"I heard his words, felt them in my blood and my sinews; in that terrible moment, I knew with a sudden, deep certainty what I had to do. It had been with me all this time, the hour when I must face both my past and my future and decide my own course. I had been a pawn blown by the vagaries of fate for most of my life; an innocent girl used for political alliance, a wife deceived and manipulated for her crown. Now, at long last, I had the strength to be the woman I had always wanted to be, the queen my mother had believed I could become." (page 344)
This book was so sad to me, Juana's life was just miserable. She was betrayed by her husband in many ways, not able to be with or raise most of her children, then later betrayed by councillers and her own father. I am actually surprised she didn't kill herself while imprisoned. She didn't actually kill Phillip, that was the author's interpretation of it. Poison is always suspected when a monarch dies. I just felt so bad for her throughout the book, but admired her courage, wit and brains. You could see that there is a lot of pride in the Spanish heritage. I can't imagine having such powerful parents. I recommend this book if you know the ending is not happy. I love these books because I admire strong and powerful women.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fav Books From The Old Days

Richard Paul Evans was a favorite author of my dear Grandma Merrill. I first read his book The Christmas Box and I fell in love. He is also related to my father-in law, they are cousins.

Many of you may know of Nicholas Sparks--he is a wonderfully romantic author. He has written many of my favorite books. Message in a Bottle, Dear John, The Wedding (my favorite), The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, The Rescue, A Bend in The Road, The Guardian, Nights in Rodanthe, Three Weeks with my Brother, and The Believer. If you want to cry and feel loved, read his books!

Michelle Ashman Bell was one of many LDS authors I loved to read in my teenage years. I also loved to read Rachel Ann Nunes (who I met once), Anita Stansfield and more.

John Grisham was a favorite of mine as well. I read and watched pretty much all of his books. I became very interested in the world of courts and lawyers and judges.

Michael Crichton was an old favorite author of mine. He wrote many great books like "Jurassic Park", "Lost World," and "Timeline." Also one about a poisoned monkey.

The Next Thing on My List

I read this book years ago; I saw it on the library hot picks bookcase and thought I'd give it a try. I have to say, this book was hilarious! I spent most of it laughing right out loud. This was written by Jill Smolinski and it is delightful. Here is a change from the historical novels and royal drudgery. If I missed some details I am sorry...guess you'll just have to rent it! My mom used it at one of her book clubs.

June Parker works in L.A. and works at a company called Rideshare.
She joins Weigh Watchers to try and lose some weight. She gives a lady a ride, and while trying to save a dish of chili they crash into the car in front of them. Her passenger, who she barely even knew, dies. After Marissa dies she feels such intense guilt that she wants to do anything she can to keep her memory alive.

June discovers a list titled "20 things to do before my 25th birthday." As she reads the list, she discovers that she could do these things in memory of Marissa. She tells the deceased's family her idea and starts to work on it. Her friends help and encourage her along the way. She runs a 5K, she kisses a stranger in a restaurant, she goes to work bra less one day (no small feat considering that June is quite well endowed lol). She also gets to ride in a helicopter. One of the things on the list says to change some one's life. And to lose 100 pounds, which June doesn't do because it is already crossed of the list. Marissa had achieved that before passing away.

On Marissa's 25th birthday, or what would have been her birthday party, June hosts a party to celebrate finishing all of the things on the list. I won't share more either because I don't remember, or because you will just have to read it yourself. It is very cute, heart warming and funny.