Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pale Rose of England

I finished this book by Sandra Worth and really liked it. This book follows the beautiful Catherine Gordon and her tumultuous life. She was a princess of Scotland and while young she had met the Duke of York-or so he claimed to be. If you have read my post about The Boys in the Tower, you may recall that they were reported to have been murdered by their uncle King Richard III. There are those, however, that believe the younger of the boys was shipped away abroad to be raised quietly. Until the time came when he could reclaim his throne. They were to be married in agreement with her father and her cousin King James who supported York's claim. They were married and had a boy named Dickon 8 months later. They were very much in love and happy.

Catherine supported Richard Plantagenet (Duke of York) and assisted him in working towards the support he needed to claim his throne. They traveled overseas to St. Michael's Mount where they were to stay at a monastery-fortress where some of those supported them. By this time Catherine was pregnant again with their second child. While they were there, Richard was very busy meeting with his councilors. On their fifth day there, he came excitedly to find Catherine to tell her an army of ten thousand was waiting for him. It was time for him to leave. She had prepared herself for this moment, knowing they could fail. Her heart was heavy and she tried to persuade him at the last minute to stay. But he said he couldn't-he had already received the support of King James of Scotland, of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and also his Aunt Margaret from Burgundy. England needed him, its true heir.

The night he left, Catherine didn't sleep and stayed outside to watch the stars. News came in that the first few places Richard and his men had entered, had declared their support and opened their gates. It was joyous news. When they next approached Exeter, they were outnumbered by King Henry VII's men. His men were trained and ready, whereas Richard's men had pitchforks and some swords. They were left to wait, and many went hungry as the money ran out. Some even were said to be poisoned by the little food they were able to get by King Henry VII's people. When Catherine heard the news, she got very sick. Richard feared for her when he heard of it, and ordered her to be taken to St. Buryan's into sanctuary. He wanted his wife and child protected. King Henry's men were coming in the morning, and he had to decide what to do.

Richard and a few of his men left Taunton in the middle of the night, and fled to Beaulieu Abbey for sanctuary. It was reputed to be a permanent sanctuary, not just its buildings but the grounds as well. They signed in with fake names and paid their dues. Within a few days, the King's men found them. They gave him a deal, that if he left with his men he would be allowed to live, and his men would be pardoned of their crimes. He had to agree, otherwise he was sure the King would take him by force if necessary. You will remember that King Henry VII took the throne by the Battle of Bosworth where Richard III was killed. The Tudors was a new line, a bastard line, and this is what Richard was up against. He was trying to take back his family's throne, but the people didn't want another war.

Meanwhile, Catherine was in sanctuary and the King's men also visited her there. They told her that her husband had fled in the middle of the night and abandoned his men. She didn't believe him, and fell ill. They took her son Dickon away from her, and she fell into a trance. She lost her unborn child, and could only recover a few weeks before the King ordered her to make for England. She was now without her husband and two children, alone. Her future was uncertain and bleak. She didn't know if the King would allow Richard to live. Most pretenders were murdered instantly.

In England, Catherine was made to come before the King barefoot, with her hair down (only maidens were allowed that), and in chains. He then ordered her to serve the Queen Elizabeth as a lady in waiting. Catherine at least had her 2 attendants from Scotland with which to comfort her. She had 2 ladies that followed her as well, they were spies for the King. She was never alone and always watched. Many at Court felt sad for her, but could do nothing. Soon her husband Richard was there, and she was able to see him. He also had 2 men who spied on him and followed him everywhere. They could meet in public, but never privately again. The King made Richard read aloud a speech to everyone that he was a boatman's son, Perkin Warbeck. That he was not the King etc etc. Along with that, the King allowed people to spit on him and would lock him up in a cage for people to sneer at him.

The King constantly found ways to torment and tease Richard and Catherine, and bring them lower in spirits. He denied them their son saying he was too dangerous to be around. The King kept Richard alive at this point for a bargaining chip. Maximillian of Spain and the Duchess of Burgundy were both giving much up to bargain for his life. During this time as well, the King had an attraction towards Catherine. She was reputed to be very beautiful-with dark hair, rosy cheeks and lips, and pale skin. Many of the men at Court admired her. The King often requested that Catherine divorce her husband, but she would not.

During this time of exile of sorts, Richard tried to find a way to escape. He slept in the King's closet, and started a fire to distract people. It did not work, and he was punished by being put in a cage proclaiming that he was not truly the Duke of York for a few days. Then he was again reunited with Catherine. As time went on, the King tired of keeping him alive. They moved the Court to the Tower in the hopes of setting him up to escape so that they could catch him. It worked. Richard told Catherine he was going to try to escape one final time. He was able to get quite far and the King's men didn't find him. He found an abbey to stay in for a while. He admitted who he was, and the abbess felt he had to tell the King. He went to tell the King who he had, but demanded he keep him alive for his immortal soul's being. It was regicide to kill another king or royalty.

The King agreed, and so Richard was brought back to The Tower. Catherine never saw him again. The King kept him alive, but barely. He wanted no one to ever claim he looked like the Duke of York, because many secretly believed he was. The Queen Elizabeth was kept away from him, her brother, so she wouldn't recognize him. The King had him castrated so he couldn't have more children to threaten his throne. Then he had him beat with a bat so he was indistinguishable. De Puebla from Spain came to ask for his release, and he couldn't even recognize him. The Duchess of Burgundy was still fighting for his release. King Henry finally decided what to do when he received a letter from King Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. He was trying to betroth his son Arthur to their daughter Caterina. They said they could not send her until all pretenders to the throne were killed.

So the King had Richard hanged, as well as another in the Tower that had been there for many years. He was finally dead. Catherine was now a widow, and in grave danger. The King started to treat her somewhat better, but still kept a lecherous eye on her. She told the King she would divorce Richard if he gave her son back. He said no. In the meantime, the Prince Arthur died shortly after his wedding. Then the Queen Elizabeth died while giving birth to a daughter. The King began to lose his senses after all of these situations. He spent more time with Catherine, trying to woo her to be his Queen. She denied him while keeping her head. He was a miserly old man, he pinched his pennies and was very thrifty. On his deathbed he told Catherine her son was somewhere in Wales-then he died.

After the King's death she was free to go. He had provided a manor in Fyfield for her and a yearly income for. She moved away and started to put a new life together. While at Court she had become friends with Cecily, one of the Queen's sisters. She often visited her, before she suddenly died. Catherine stayed with the husband and his daughter for a year to take care of them. Then she went back to her manor. She received a visitor quite often, a Master Strangeaways. He had been her friend at Court for many years. After being a widow for about 13 years, she married him. Later she found out he was a gambler and heavily in debt. He also drank a lot; he had used her for her wealth. He died within a few years from the flux as well as other issues. He apologized to her for treating her ill on his deathbed.

During the time before her 2nd husband's death, she had befriended a Master Cradock. He was assisting the Duke of Somerset in finding her son Dickon. They were wed on May Day and moved to Gower by Glamorgan. They were very happy and enjoyed many years together. Before his death, he found Dickon. He was 25 years old when they reunited and it was joyous. He was still single, and loved to be on the sea. Matthew Cradock, her husband, provided him with his own ship so that he could be provided for. On his death, Catherine was left with the home and everything else. But Matthew's miserly and mean daughter fought her for it. So she ended up back at Court at the age of around 50 or so. By this time her brothers and father had been killed in a battle in Scotland. It doesn't say about her mother.

The Court seemed very different to her-this new King Harry was lively and full of music and entertainments. He spent money lavishly, unlike his father. He also was trying to marry a new wife, Anne Boleyn. While there, she met a man much younger than her named Christopher Ashton. The book ends there.

I found the book entertaining, but on the most part really sad. Catherine's life was so tragic and mostly full of sadness. She followed a husband she believed to be the Duke of York (who really knows) and lived through his torture and death. She lived separated from her son for 24 years. She had 4 husbands, 1 that was not very good to her. Not much is known or written about her in records, other than that she evaded King Henry VII's quest for her hand in marriage. She was called the Pale Rose of England because of how beautiful she was. I hope she was one day able to return to Scotland, her home country. She was so strong for such a long, sad life. I am glad she had some good husbands though. And that she found her son again.

Ratings: PG13 for love scenes. No swearing. Some torture scenes.

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