Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

The Stolen Crown is the third novel that I have read by Susan Higginbotham. I really enjoy her writing style, because it's easy to follow, and the dialogue and actions don't feel forced at all. Her descriptions of events and dialogue between characters always seems to flow.
The Stolen Crown is written in first person point of view, told by Katherine Woodville and Harry, Duke of Buckingham. They are looking back on their lives and telling the reader their story, and what lead up to their present situation, and to Harry's eventual downfall at such a young age. It's a touching story, made even more so because it is told in first person, so as a reader you get attached to the characters. We are introduced to Kate and Harry as children, and we are able to read about their lives and the mistakes they made in their youth.
The novel begins with King Edward IV and his scandelous marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and then it focuses on one of the advantageous marriages that were made for her sisters. Katherine Woodville is the youngest sister of six girls (i think), and as she comes from little money, she has no dowry. Were it not for her sister marrying the King, it would have been difficult to find Kate an advantageous marriage.  However, when Elizabeth becomes Queen everything changes, and Kate ends up married to the richest Duke in England, Harry, Duke of Buckingham.
We all know what happens to King Edward IV (he falls ill and dies unexpectedly), and the mysterious disappearance of his sons (one of whom was King Edward V), and how Richard III had the children of Elizabeth and Edward IV declared bastards so that they could not inherit the throne, and also how Richard III took the throne as his own. Harry, Duke of Buckingham and the newly crowned King Richard III become the best of friends, and Richard III raises Harry up high, and grants him land as well as many other honors, which of course brings Harry more enemies (mo' money, mo' problems, right? lol).
Susan's version of what happened to the princes in the Tower (one of many versions), is that Richard III ordered them to be killed, so that they could not come between himself and the throne. There are many different theories about what happened to the princes, who killed them; and the rumor that Richard had his nephews offed is the one that Susan Higginbotham is going with in this novel. According to The Stolen Crown, Harry is so overwelmed with guilt at the thought of being friends and supporting a King who would kill children, that he helped to come up with a plot to overthrow his former friend, King Richard III, and in turn to place Henry Tudor on the throne. Things don't go as planned with the plot against King Richard III, and Harry ends up getting caught, put to trial, and sentenced to be beheaded. He tells his story in the first person as he is awaiting his death, while Kate tells her story at the same time, while she is banished to Brecon (one of their land holdings).
I am up in the air about Richard's involvement in his nephew's disappearances. I've read several different books on the mysterious disappearances of Edward IV's sons, Edward V and Richard. Some author's blame King Richard III, because he didn't want them to come between himself and the throne. Other's believe that it was King Henry VII who had them killed, so that he could take the throne without the threat of York blood still looming over his reign. Then there are rumors that Harry, the Duke of Buckingham himself did it, or Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort. I tend to be convinced of a different person's guilt after every book I read about this event in history! Who knows, maybe Richard III was the horrible man that was depicted in this novel, and in many others, as well as Shakespeare's play. I haven't researched the disappearance of the princes all that much, but even those who have devoted their lives to researching the princes have not found any conclusive evidence about who killed them, or even what really happened to them. They just seemed to disappear shortly after Richard took the crown.
Although I'm not sure if Richard ordered his nephews to be killed, nor do I have any idea of who it could have been if it wasn't him, I still enjoyed this novel. It made me look at the event from an entirely new perspective. I had never read anything from The Duke of Buckingham's point of view, and I really had no idea who Kate Woodville was. This may not have been my favorite of Susan's books, but I liked it for the reason that I liked her other books; it allows me, as the reader, to learn about historical figures that I normally would not read about, and she gets inside of her characters heads and makes them come alive to the reader. I also like that I was able to follow these two characters from their childhood, where they were first introduced, and through their lives as they grew together as a couple, and then grew a part again towards the end.
The Stolen Crown was a good and easy read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the disappearance of the princes or in one of the theory's of who ordered the princes deaths. It was interesting to see another perspective dealing with the rise and fall of King Richard III.


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