Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Stolen Crown

The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham was a good book and an interesting read.  It follows Katherine Woodville at the time of King Edward IV's reign and his secret marriage to her sister Bess Woodville.  I have blogged in other posts about Edward IV and Richard III if you need some background history.  I like when the author writes the book from the point of view of someone we are not as familiar with.  Katherine, or Kate, was the youngest of the Woodville children when her oldest sister was secretly married to the King.  Once it was made public many were surprised and even angry at the match as she was a virtual nobody, a widow with 2 children.  The family's star was soon on the rise as they moved to Court with Bess, the new Queen.

Kate was betrothed at married at age 9 to Harry, the Duke of Buckingham.  He was related to the Beauforts and Somersets, both who had served the previous deposed King mad Henry.  In the summer of 1460 the Earl of Warwick known as the Kingmaker and Ned, soon to be King, had taken the mad King and placed him in the Tower and was himself crowned as King.  It was about 4 years later that the King secretly married Bess her sister.  Her sister soon had given him three daughters in quick succession when there was an uprising in the land.  Warwick was angry at all the Woodvilles and how they had prospered so quickly because of their sister's marriage to the King.  He worked to put mad King Henry back on the throne, only to engage in battle with King Edward and lost.  When King Edward returned to his wife and children, who had sequestered themselves in an abbey during the tumult, he met his first son little Edward.  Soon things were put back to rest somewhat and mad King Henry was placed back in the Tower.  Not long after rumors spread that he had passed away, and some wondered quietly if the King had hastened his death.  Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, was killed during the battle.  During this battle Warwick had ordered the deaths of Kate's father and brother John, so she gloated a little over the fact he was now dead himself.

Soon word arrived in London that Margaret of Anjou had landed in England when hearing the news of Warwick's defeat (her husband was the mad King Henry, now deceased).  Harry's uncle, Edmund Beaufort, led her army against King Edward's forces.  During the battle, John Beaufort along with the prince Edward of Lancaster, lay dead on the battlefield- the last of the Lancaster hope now destroyed.  Harry's uncle was put to death as well for aiding the wrong side.  After the battle, Margaret of Anjou was housed and imprisoned.  Harry had been a ward of the crown for a long time, but his loyalties were questioned on occasion because his entire family had been on the Lancaster side.  As his wife Kate was sister to the Queen, he had to serve King Edward faithfully while knowing that doing so, his mother's brothers were being killed.

As Kate grew to be a bit older, Harry and her became a true husband and wife.  They still lived at Court for a time, waiting for some of Harry's lands or jointures to be granted them.  He was never given military assignments because of his inexperience, and his impertinence sometimes led to the King being angry with him.  He was said to have a loud mouth.  Harry was good friends with Richard, the King's brother.  Kate was not fond of him and knew he didn't like the Woodville clan as many others.  The King had another brother, George, who joined with Warwick on occasion to overthrow him and plotted treason.  After so many incidents, the King finally had to order his death.  Living at Court, Kate was surrounded by all the intrigue and drama of the day.  Harry was soon granted some of his Bohun lands and they moved there together to start their family. 

As 1483 approached, the King was sitting nicely on his throne.  His trouble-making brother George was dead, Margaret of Anjou had passed away, Jasper Tudor and Henry were exiled in Brittany, and the Scots weren't too much trouble to maintain.  Quite suddenly, the King had passed away from a chill, he was only in his forties.  This is when things began to unravel quite quickly.  Richard, the King's brother, was to serve as protectorate to the young King Edward until he came to his majority, and would then rule himself.  A letter was received by Harry and Richard that the Queen was planning for her own kin to rule beside her son.  Harry and Richard felt they deserved it and so started working hastily to figure out what to do next.  They had Anthony Woodville, Kate's brother, imprisoned.  When she heard of this she was greatly upset her own husband would have a hand in this.  It seemed he had become Richard's creature.  Harry was made the chief justice and chamberlain of North and South Wales and constable of many castles.  His rise was meteoric and swift, since the late King Edward had been slow to grant him anything.

Soon Richard was grasping at straws and either heard or started a rumor that his brother, the late King Edward, had been a bastard.  Also that he may have been precontracted to another woman before the Queen, so his children were therefore bastards as well.  Now it was no longer about just taking the protectorate it was about taking the throne from his nephew.  The young King was never coronated and was put in the Tower.  The Queen took her children into sanctuary once again, and after many demands, released up her other son to be a companion to his brother in the Tower.  What no one expected was that the two boys would eventually just disappear.  Still to this day no one knows when or how they were killed or died.  Of course Richard was blamed along with Harry.  As things moved forward swiftly and men were put to death, including Anne's brother, she no longer felt like she knew her husband Harry.  After Richard's coronation, Kate stayed away from Court and away from Harry.  She joined her sister and her children in house arrest in the country.  Bess's two eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Cecily, went to Court.

The King's son passed away, and many felt it just treatment for killing his two nephews as well as many others.  Soon the Queen Anne passed away from a long illness, leaving him free to marry again.  Rumors spread that he wished to marry his niece Elizabeth, even though he had had her declared a bastard.  Along the way, Harry changed his mind about serving Richard.  He started to work with his aunt Margaret Beaufort to put her son Henry Tudor on the throne.  When word get out that he had turned traitor, it wasn't long before he was caught, put on trial, and beheaded.  Kate was now a widow along with her sister, imprisoned with all of their children waiting for the tides to turn.  Although King Richard did some good, his path to the throne had been bathed in blood.

Suddenly, the tides did turn.  Kate's two older brothers, still alive, came happily to visit her and Bess.  "Richard, Duke of Gloucester, usurper and murderer of innocents, late calling himself king of England, was slain in Leicestershire.  Long life to your new king.  King Henry!"  (page 350)
Kate met the new King and soon married Jasper Tudor his uncle.  Eventually the King married her niece Elizabeth Woodwillve.  Soon she was the last surviving Woodville, and her husband Jasper had passed away.  She went on to marry Richard Wingfield without royal license, and less than fourteen months later passed away at age 39.

Henry VII died in 1509, outliving his queen.  Their first son Arthur died in 1502, and their other son Henry became King Henry VIII.  There is so much plot to this book it is really hard to review it all.  As well as the lineage and genealogy of all the Yorks and Lancasters, etc.  I probably just added more confusion so I tried to only write about those main characters.  It was interesting to wonder if Kate ever loved Harry and if they were happy together.  What made him change his mind about serving Richard, was it because he believed he had killed his nephews?  And also, did Richard really have a hand in his nephew's deaths?

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