Wednesday, May 12, 2010

REVIEW: The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Everyone knows about Henry VIII and those six unfortunate women who joined him in matrimony but not many historical novels focus on Henry’s beloved mother, the kind and gentle Elizabeth of York.

Here we meet Elizabeth shortly before the death of her father, Edward IV. She understands that as a royal eldest daughter she will be used to strengthen ties with another country by marriage. Elizabeth hopes that even with an arranged marriage she will have a love match also. Everything changes when her father dies and her young brother becomes Edward V. Eager to secure the throne for her young son, Elizabeth Woodville commands that her relatives bring him to London to be crowned. Richard, Duke of Gloucester and brother to the belated King Edward IV catches up with the party escorting Edward on the way to London and soon takes charge of him. At first it looks as if Richard intends to crown young Edward but when months pass with no coronation and when rumors about the legitimacy of the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville begin to circulate, it looks less likely the coronation will ever happen. Edward and his younger brother Dickon are put in the tower and isolated from the rest of their family.

Elizabeth goes into sanctuary with her mother and younger sisters and frets over the fate of her brothers. Richard has the boys declared bastards and his brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville declared invalid and takes the crown for himself. Elizabeth hopes against hope that her brothers are safe as no one has actually seen them for months. She soon comes out of sanctuary and becomes closer to her Uncle Richard. Tensions are strained and the public turns against Richard when rumors circulate that he has had Edward and Dickon murdered to secure his place on the throne. Elizabeth also comes to the realization that he means to accomplish this by additional means-marrying her when his ailing wife Anne dies. Elizabeth struggles to determine whether her Uncle is actually guilty of murdering her brothers. When she finally gets her answer she decides to take her fate into her own hands and throws her lot in with Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry who is anxious to take the crown of England for himself.

Henry succeeds and Elizabeth finally has the marriage she hoped for-or does she? With pretenders popping up claiming to be the Earl of Warwick and her brother Dickon now grown, Elizabeth, now a young mother must deal with the rekindled hope of whether it really could be her brother and if so, what will that mean for her children?

Margaret Campbell Barnes really makes Elizabeth of York come to life in this novel. It is clear from the beginning that although she knows her royal duty what she wants more than anything is love. We see a strong, well-principled Elizabeth who while a kind person, is every inch the Queen she should rightfully be regardless of what her Uncle Richard says about her parent’s marriage. You can’t help but admire her spirit and how she takes control of her destiny by doing what is necessary to defy her Uncle Richard for a chance to marry Henry and unite the roses. While Barnes allows the reader to tap into the emotions of Elizabeth, she makes Henry VII a harder nut to crack. The emotionally closed off King is a sharp contrast to the caring, compassionate Elizabeth. My only complaint with the entire story is that it is rich on the detail but bereft of action. The events happening in the story are related after the fact and not actually described when occurring. It makes sense because the book is Elizabeth’s point of view and her part in most of the things occurring was waiting to hear what happened. It would have been much more exciting though had the point of view shifted so we could actually experience what was going on. Nevertheless, the book is a fascinating look into the very beginning of the Tudor dynasty and I’m hoping more historical fiction authors give this Queen some attention in the future. She deserves it.

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library


  1. I read this a couple of years ago and thought that it was good, but definately not great. So far i haven't found a really good book about Elizabeth of York. One of the parts of this book that I liked was when Elizabeth struggles with whether or not it's really possible that Perkin is in fact her brother.

  2. I liked that part too. I also thought it was interesting how in this version Buckingham was as surprised as everyone else at the murders. In other versions I've read he was actually put forth as a possible culprit.