Merrimon Book Reviews

Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York:
Sandra Worth portrays her as an avid reader of  Boethius, the Tristan romance and the Arthurian works of Sir Thomas Malory

Elizabeth Woodville
Elizabeth Woodville,
Elizabeth's mother and wife to King Edward IV

Richard III
Richard III
Elizabeth often compares Richard III to the image of King Arthur in Sir Thomas Malory

Margaret Beaufort
Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York's mother-in-law

From Medieval Book Reviews

The King's Daughter:
a Novel of the First Tudor Queen
The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth
by Sandra Worth

Capitivity and Power Plays, Kingship and Motherhood

Elizabeth of York, loyal daughter to King Edward IV, worships her father and believes in him as king. While her mother plots and schemes, her father reaches her with his ideas and warmth. When he dies, Elizabeth encounters Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the man appointed as regent for Edward's son. Despite the wicked rumors about Richard and the multiple misfortunes her family experiences throughout his rise to power, Elizabeth knows her father entrusted the kingdom into his hands. Was he wrong? One night, Richard's wife Anne speaks to her from the heart and Elizabeth comes to know better the man, as king as and father, and indeed herself. As political pressures come to bear, making her a pawn in a power play for the kingship, his presence in her heart helps her to endure the horrors ahead and devote her life to serving England as wife to Henry Tudor (Henry VII).

In the absence of letters or personal documents from Elizabeth of York herself, Sandra Worth's first person narrative creates an insightful portrait of her as a woman and mother during turbulent times as the Middle Ages come to a close and a new era is born when Elizabeth becomes the first Tudor queen. Sandra Worth makes the connections between all the royal figures throughout these shifts of power so that readers feel the intrigue and danger among the uneasy alliances. THE KING'S DAUGHTER gives a chilling insight into the heart of the monarchy where family alliances provide solace but also create a threat to one's very existence as grabs for position within the family destroy. A brother is not just a brother but also a man who stands in the way of access to power. Within this context, the contrast between Elizabeth and her mother, and later Elizabeth of York and Lady Margaret Beaufort (mother to Henry VII) highlight the precarious position of women in this world as well. Sandra Worth provides an intriguing look not only into the limited role of women during this era but also a look into which the wield power of their own and the determination choices royal women make, albeit in ways perhaps less obvious to the casual observer.

THE KING'S DAUGHTER brings several key characters to life so that historical figures sometimes presented as isolated characters in history books are now seen in their relationships to one another, thus giving this period a new vibrancy and depth. THE KING'S DAUGHTER focuses on Elizabeth as a woman in her roles as daughter, lover, wife and mother. Sandra Worth views this period through family dynamics and love first and foremost, juxtaposing the sometimes brutal machinations of power of those surrounding Elizabeth to her longings and devotion to family. Living her life in one sort of captivity or another most of her life, some more obvious, such as her time of escape to to sanctuary, than others, such as her being under the almost absolute control of her mother-in-law, Elizabeth of York was a quiet woman with a rich inner life. Elizabeth thought, read and internalized omens and the great works of medieval literature from Boethius, the Tristan tale to Sir Thomas Malory's Arthurian tales. Although the dating of Boethius is off a couple of centuries (an editing typo hopefully but an important correction not to miss), Sandra Worth does an exceptional job not only in her selection of relevant medieval works, but also in her use of them in Elizabeth's thoughts to give a depth to her character and to the period itself. As the new world emerges, slight hints of that change enter in references to Erasmus and a chilling reference to Machiavelli's THE PRINCE. Through literature, the reader comes to know Elizabeth's values and her intimate thoughts on love and kingship. Though sometimes Elizabeth appears frustratingly submissive, Sandra Worth's contrast to the careful and covetous plotting of others shows growing determination within her to make a difference, a determination that in the end makes her true to the name "Elizabeth the Good" often bestowed upon her. As the novel progresses, Elizabeth of York moves from being a woman mostly ruled by others to a woman looking outward, not only as a mother trying to look out for her children, but also a woman determined to serve her people. Sandra Worth leaves readers with a haunting, disturbing image of the future Henry VIII. THE KING'S DAUGHTER will appeal to a wide variety of historical fiction readers, not only for the presentation of a world in the process of change but also Sandra Worth's ability to capture the the inner lives of her characters.

Publisher: Berkley (December 2008)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Merrimon Book Reviews

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