This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Review: The Tudor Rose

The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes
3.5 roses

This was a reissue of a book originally published in the 50s. It is the story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, wife of Henry VII, and mother of Henry VIII. It was a good book but not exceptional, hence my rating of only 3.5 roses. I did enjoy it though, just not enough to give it a higher rating.

The story starts right before Edward IV's sudden death as Elizabeth is trying on her wedding dress, thinking she is to be married to the Dauphin of France, and ends a few months before her death. The reader is taken through all the turmoil of Bess's life: her father's death and her mother whisking them into Sanctuary, the knowledge that her brothers were murdered in the Tower, her feelings towards her Uncle Richard, her life married to Henry Tudor, and the uncertainty Perkin Warbeck throws over her in regards to the fate of her brothers.

In this novel, Barnes gives the reader a much more detailed look at Elizabeth of York. Other stories that have her in it really don't delve much into who she really was or what she was really like; we usually just see her as the quiet, submissive Queen to Henry VII. Being the daughter of Edward IV though, she could not have been that quiet and Barnes's portrayal of her here is of a very loving, caring, and passionate woman who desperately wants to know the love of a man. She seems to understand the world she is living in and that she is just a pawn to be used but at the same time she seems a bit naive when it comes to men, especially when it comes to her husband. It is mentioned many times throughout the book that she just wanted to find a man to love her. A lot of the story hinges on her feelings for her brothers, who she loved dearly, and how she makes some of her decisions based on that. While Richard is alive, and even at some points after his death, Bess seems to be struggling with her feelings for him; she can't decide how she feels. She wants to hate him and always appears to be trying to find reasons to convince herself of that, including convincing herself that he did indeed kill her brothers. Still, she is drawn to him. Her attempts to excuse and love her husband seem to me more of her trying to rid herself of her feelings towards her uncle.

There were some surprising aspects to the story, including Bess's relationship with her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. In all the previous accounts I have read there really was no relationship between them; Bess was always pushed to the side and almost ignored by Margaret. Here, we see a very loving, caring relationship between them. Bess is also shown to have a very sweet, caring relationship with her youngest son, Henry. We also see Bess helping the conspiritors early on by writing a letter to Henry in Brittany telling him that she will marry him if he comes and defeats Richard.

Barnes seems to follow the thinking that one of the brothers, Richard of York, might have managed to escape the Tower, but we don't really know that until almost the end of the story and even then she never comes right out and says it. Bess has very conflicting emotions when it comes to Perkin Warbeck and after meeting him in a garden, she convinces herself that it can't be her brother because Richard murdered her brothers (more attempts at convincing herself he was evil). She clings to this belief until after his death when she hears about his attempted escape from the Tower. While she never says anything in the story we are lead to believe that she changed her mind when she heard about Perkin running and opening the lion cages at the Tower before trying to get out the gate.

This was a well written book with great descriptive writing. There were good details included but not so much that you would get bogged down in them. Richard is shown to be a much more sinister person but Barnes doesn't go all the way to make him appear down right evil. We see some of how Bess worked behind the scenes to help bring about some of the events known to history but yet once she is married we still don't see her playing an active roll in politics; we only see her strong emotions and feelings towards what is happening around her. Thankfully there was no magic thrown in to this story where Elizabeth Woodville is concerned. The ending was peaceful and sweet with Bess in the garden with Harry and the other children, a few months away from the birth of her last child. I'm glad Barnes did not end the story at Bess's death but instead choose to end it showing that Bess did have people around her that loved her.

Overall it was a good book and one that I would recommend to other readers interested in the period. It was refreshing to finally read something that went deeper into Elizabeth of York's character to look at her feelings and emotions, rather than just keeping her on the fringes of events and never knowing what she thought about them. Even with my Ricardian sympathies I wasn't upset over how he appeared in this novel.


  1. Thanks for the honest review. I just recently won this book so I guess I will see if I like it eventually.

  2. I ended up giving this exactly the same rating as you did. Not a stellar read, but solid nonetheless.

  3. I just read and reviewed this book and felt much the same (same rating as well)!