Here we are again diving into the world of British nobility/royalty. Only this time, it’s better because it’s The War of the Roses. My favorite time period in English history. Brothers betrayed brothers. Uncles betrayed nephews. Husbands betrayed wives. It was a mess that spanned 30 years, four kings and ended one of the largest dynasties in royal history.
This particular book is about Margaret York, sister of Edward IV and takes place just as Edward seizes the throne in place of the mad king Henry VI and his wife Margaret Anjou. Most of this book actually takes place during a relatively peaceful lull in the War of the Roses. Margaret grows up in her big brother’s court learning from her mother, the great Cecily Neville, about how to be a gracious host and fierce diplomat. She falls in love with Anthony Woodville, brother to King Edward’s wife Elizabeth. Then, Margaret is married to Charles Duke of Burgundy and must hide her love for Anthony. She watches the events in England from afar as she cares for her stepdaughter Mary. She watches as her brother Edward loses the throne and gets it back again. She watches her two other brothers George and Richard betray and stand by Edward respectively. All of this while serving England to the best of her ability.
It’s a large book. It took a while to get through. Anne Easter Smith is so detailed in describing the surroundings of the characters. She beautifully describes the palaces Margaret visits, the cities she frequents, and the people around her. I feel like I know royal court personally.
Obviously Anne Easter Smith did not live during the time period so she had to invent some things. The one thing she invents that I though I was going to have a problem with was the dwarf Margaret comes to own. Fortunata was a strange choice of confidante to give Margaret. At first I didn’t like it because I thought Smith made her far too important for an invented character. But as the story wore on, she grew on me. Finally, at Fortunata’s death scene, I found myself bawling like a baby at the loss of the character.
Books like this are hard to criticize because a lot of it actually happened and no one alive today was there to see it. I can’t really be critical of the author without being critical of the events. It was a good story and Anne Easter Smith told it very well.