Monday, June 22, 2009

The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy




In 1470, a reluctant Lady Anne Neville is betrothed by her father, the
politically ambitious Earl of Warwick, to Edward, Prince of Wales. A gentle yet fiercely intelligent woman, Anne has already given her heart to the prince’s younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Unable to oppose her father’s will, she finds herself in line for the throne of England—an obligation that she does not want. Yet fate intervenes when Edward is killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Anne suddenly finds herself free to marry the man she loves—and who loves her in return. The ceremony is held at Westminster Abbey, and the duke and
duchess make a happy home at Middleham Castle, where both spent much of their
childhood. Their life is idyllic, until the reigning king dies and a whirlwind of dynastic maneuvering leads to his children being declared illegitimate.
Richard inherits the throne as King Richard III, and Anne is crowned queen consort, a destiny she thought she had successfully avoided. Her husband’s reign lasts two years, two months, and two days—and in that short time Anne witnesses the true toll that wearing the crown takes on Richard, the last king from the House of York.

I went searching for a blurb of the story at Random House's site and this what I found is what is written above- I must say that I am a bit puzzled, Anne was not bethrothed to the older brother of her childhood love and Plaidy certainly never made that mistake...
The Reluctant Queen is part of a series Plaidy wrote about the Queens of England and it’s the story of Anne Neville, Richard III’s queen. The story is told in the first person and reads like a memoir, as she lays sick and feeling death approach, Anne Neville recounts her life from childhood to Queen of England.
She was the youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, and along with her sister Isabel the richest heiress of England. She spent her childhood in Middleham Castle, one of her father’s properties, and where she met Richard of Gloucester, the youngest son of the Duke of York and brother of the future Edward IV. Plaidy follows the usual route of showing them as a sort of childhood sweethearts but Anne is soon as a political pawn by her father.
After Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville the relationship between him and Warwick becomes strained, the Earl wanted to be the power behind the throne and Edward wants to follow his own way. Eventually Warwick changes his allegiance and supports Margaret of Anjou. As Anne’s sister had been married to Clarence, Edward VI’s brother to strengthen political ties, so Anne is married to Margaret’s son Henry in 1470. I found it a bit odd that Plaidy only mentions a betrothal and not a marriage as I was under the impression from other reads that Anne had indeed married Henry. However, when they arrive in England to fight for Henry’s claim to the throne the Earl of Warwick is dead, after the Battle of Tewksbury so is Henry and Anne becomes first a prisoner, and afterwards went to live with her sister Isabel and the Duke of Clarence.
Apparently, Clarence wanted to prevent Anne from marrying again and wanted her to stay as his ward so he could control the whole of the Warwick fortune. However, Anne and Richard wanted to marry and to prevent that Clarence has Anne kidnapped. It’s only after Richard finds her working as a maid in a common shop that she is taken to sanctuary and they finally marry in 1472.
After her marriage Anne and Richard settle in Middleham Castle. Richard is Governor of the North and they have one child, Edward. While telling her story Anne notes that Middleham is where she feels at home and was most happy. But after Edward IV’s death, when Richard is appointed Lord Protector for his nephews they have to travel to London. Being this Anne’s story, we only see Richard of Gloucester through her loving eyes. But after he becomes king and their son dies Anne is filled with doubts and insecurities. She feels the end is near and is haunted by rumours that the king is poisoning her to marry his niece. I found it interesting that Plaidy really makes us feel that the future will be bleak for both of them.
I thought the story was very well written in the sense that it is very clearly explained how the Wars of The Roses started and the complex political events of that time. It was less so when it comes to explain why and how Richard III became king. I had a bit of a problem with Anne as she at times seemed just too perfect. While she may be the object of admiration, I didn’t feel much empathy with her and I missed having a strong character to identify with and feel passionate about.
For readers already familiarized with the Wars of The Rose this book will probably not bring anything new but if you are just starting on the subject it might make for an interesting read.
Grade: 4/5

5 comments:

  1. Oh wonderful review! Thanks:)
    I really enjoyed this book. If you'd like to read my review, please go to: http://royalintrigue.blogspot.com/2009/03/review-reluctant-queen.html

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  2. I need to upgrade my knowledge of the Wars of the Roses, because as it stands now I have none. :-) This would be a good start!

    Lezlie

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  3. Thanks Lucy, I really enjoyed reading your review too.


    Lezlie this one would definitely be a good start. :-)

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