There are a lot of historical novels about the Wars of the Roses, the Princes in the Tower and the reign of Elizabeth I, which is presumably why Alison Weir’s tried to do something a bit different with one – weaving together the lives of Lady Katherine Grey and Richard III’s illegitimate daughter Katherine (referred to as “Kate” to avoid confusion) Plantagenet in a novel in which, 70-80 years apart, they both try to work out what happened to the Princes in the Tower.
Not much is known about “Kate” Plantagenet, but Alison Weir’s created a romance between her and her cousin John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln … conveniently ignoring the fact that Lincoln actually married much earlier than he does in this book! The sad story of Lady Katherine Grey is much better known, and that of Katherine’s tragic sister Jane, the unwilling “Nine Days’ Queen”, even more so. The book sticks reasonably close to what’s known about Katherine, although it plays up her links to Catholicism and Spain.
It’s an entertaining book, but, ultimately, it’s a mystery which can’t really be solved, because we still don’t know what happened to the Princes. I’m inclined to believe Thomas More’s version of events, that they were murdered on the orders of Richard III, and I’m pleased to say 🙂 that Alison Weir shows Lady Katherine Grey reaching the same conclusion … although it’s all slightly ambiguous. The arguments about this rage on and on, and will continue to do so, unless there’s some major breakthrough. How amazing would it be to be the person who was able to prove what really happened?!
And it’s all so sad. So many innocent lives taken, or ruined, because neither Richard III nor any of the Tudors were ever really able to feel secure in their hold on the throne. Well, even before Richard III, you’ve got Henry VI being murdered. You’ve got Richard II being murdered, come to that. Lady Jane Grey. Her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley – OK, he was a bit of a git, nothing like the wonderful romantic hero portrayed in the 1985 film, but he was just a young lad caught up in his father’s ambition. The poor young Earl of Warwick. His sister, Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, executed by Henry VIII when she was 67. Lady Catherine Grey and her husband, Lord Edward Seymour. Their grandson’s wife, Arbella Stuart. Her mother, Margaret Lennox, imprisoned in the Tower several times. And the young Princes in the Tower themselves. Plus all the many people who contributed to their own downfalls but would probably never have lost their lives if it hadn’t been for the insecurity of the monarch of the day.
I’m a great admirer of Elizabeth I, but her treatment of her cousin Lady Katherine Grey left a lot to be desired. And did Richard III really order the murders of his own nephews? Yes, I think he probably did … but that’s something that can be argued about all day and all night.
This is a lot of same old, same old, but at least it tries to do something different, and to focus on two of the less well-known characters of the times. Worth reading, but it’d be nice to see some of our better authors write about a different period in history. Alison Weir’s latest book’s about Anne Boleyn – a fascinating woman, but can there really be anything left to say about her?! Oh well, this is still a very good read!