Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Will of Jane Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland

As I forewarned you a few posts ago, we’re beginning to move into Tudor territory! But I think you’ll find this will, and the story behind it, a moving one.

Jane Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland, was born Jane Guildford around 1509. By the time she was sixteen or so, she had married her father’s ward, John Dudley (born 1504), whose father, Edmund Dudley, had had the dubious distinction of being one of the first people executed by Henry VIII. Despite John’s unpromising start in life, he rose high in Henry VIII’s service and even higher in that of his young son, Edward VI. By 1551, he had become the Duke of Northumberland. (We’ll be talking about Northumberland more on this blog in the months to come; hence this abbreviated discussion of him now.)

Meanwhile, Jane had borne her husband thirteen children. By the time of Edward VI's death in July 1553, only seven of Jane and John's children were alive: five sons and two daughters. The youngest son, Guildford, had married Lady Jane Grey. Their match, and Northumberland’s attempt to divert the succession from Mary Tudor to Jane Grey, proved to be the undoing of Northumberland. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower, along with all five of his sons, by the victorious Mary. Jane Dudley herself spent about a week as a prisoner in the Tower before being released. She set off to meet Queen Mary, who was making her way to London, to beg for the lives of her sons and most likely her husband as well. Mary, however, was in no mood to receive Northumberland’s wife. She refused to give Jane an audience and ordered her to return to London.

Literally sick with her fears for her husband , Jane wrote a letter to Anne Paget, begging her to urge her own husband, William, Lord Paget, and two of Mary’s intimates, Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter, and Susan Clarencius, to speak to the queen for Northumberland’s life. Jane also asked that Lord Paget be a good lord unto Jane’s “powere v sones,” explaining, “nayture cane noe othere wyss doe butt sue fore theme although I doe nott so meche care fore theme as fore there fathere who was to me & to my mynd the moste beste gentylmane that evere levynge womane was mached w’all.” If anyone did speak to Mary on Northumberland’s behalf, though, it was a futile gesture: Jane’s “moste beste gentylmane,” whom she had known since she was a child of three or four, was beheaded on August 22, 1553.

Though Jane’s five sons remained in the Tower under a death sentence, Mary was inclined to mercy now that Northumberland was dead. Unfortunately, Wyatt’s Rebellion changed her mind. On February 12, 1554, Guildford Dudley and his wife, Lady Jane Grey, were executed.

The Duchess of Northumberland had lost her husband and her youngest son in just a space of a few months. Shattering as these losses must have been, she managed to exert herself on behalf of her four surviving sons, all still in the Tower; as early as October 1553, the Spanish ambassadors had reported, "The Duchess of Northumberland is doing her utmost to secure a pardon for her children." Though she herself was probably an evangelical in outlook, she tried to ingratiate herself with the queen by petitioning that her sons be allowed to hear mass. When Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain brought a host of Spaniards to court, the duchess lobbied them on behalf of her sons. By the autumn of 1554, her efforts finally bore fruit. John Dudley, her oldest son, was released in October 1554, but he was ailing: he died on October 21, 1554. By January 1555, however, her remaining three sons--including the Robert Dudley who was to become the favorite of Elizabeth I--had been freed, though all remained under attainder for the moment.

Jane had one bright spot in her life in 1554: her daughter Mary, the wife of Henry Sidney, bore a son, Philip Sidney, on November 30, 1554. (Philip Sidney became the well-known author of Astrophil and Stella and A Defence of Poesy.) Jane served as the little boy’s godmother, but she would not live to enjoy her grandchild or the company of her freed sons, for her health was failing. She died either on January 15, 1555, the date in postmortem inquisitions, or on January 22, 1455, the date on her tomb.

In the weeks before her death, Jane wrote her will with her own hand. Fittingly, given her family’s recent history, she left forty shillings each to the prisoners of Newgate, Ludgate, the King’s Bench, and the Marshalsea. She asked for a modest funeral, explaining that she would prefer that her debts be paid and the poor given unto “then any pompe to be shewed upon my wreched carkes.” Whoever trusted to the transitory world as she had, the duchess added, “may happen have an overthrowe as I hadd.”

Though Northumberland’s goods had been seized, Mary had allowed Jane to retain many of the luxuries she had enjoyed in the days before her husband’s downfall. Jane thus was able to give her two daughters and her surviving sons’ wives, who included the ill-fated Amy Dudley, gowns of rich material. Jane also remembered a number of her own relations and those of her husband: Northumberland’s younger brother Andrew, his disabled brother Jerome, and his half-sister Bridget all received gifts. Bridget’s gifts included three pairs of linen ruffs and a pair of “night sleeves” of calico cloth. Jane’s other gifts to her family members included beds, chairs, coffers, sheets, cushions, and Turkish carpets.

Jane remembered with deep gratitude the Spaniards who had helped her. To Don Diego de Acevedo, she left a bed and other gifts, “beseching hym even as he hath in my lyf tyme shewed hym self lyke a father and brother to my sones, so I shall requyer hym no lesse to doo nowe their mother is gone.” Ruy Gomez received a silver box; Jane prayed “hym to be good to my sonnes.” To the Duchess of Alva Jane left her green parrot, adding “I have nothing worthy for her elles.”

The Lady Paget to whom Jane addressed her impassioned letter in 1553 received a “high-backed gown of wrought velvet,” while her husband was given a black enameled ring. Susan Clarencius received a tawny velvet jewel coffer.

Among Jane’s most prized possessions were several elaborate clocks. Don Diego de Mendoza received “my litle booke Clocke that hath the sonne and the mone wythin yt.” The Queen’s high steward received a clock with “planettes and the chime to yt belonging whiche is at the Clockemakers in Southwarke.” Poignantly, Jane left her daughter Mary a clock “that was my lorde her fathers, praying her to kepe yt as a Jewell.” Elsewhere, Jane alludes to "my very owne Lande by my lorde my dere Husbandes giftes."

Jane did not forget her servants; she asked that her executors see her debts paid and “my servants discharged that hath in my howse served me honestly sence my lorde departid.” A number received individual bequests; those not named were to receive two years’ wages and a black coat.

Despite her wishes for a simple funeral, Jane was buried in some style on February 1, 1555. The chronicler Henry Machyn, who apparently provided goods for funerals and thus had a natural interest in the ceremonies, noted, “The first day of February was buried the Duchess of Northumberland, at Chelsea, where she lived, with a goodly hearse of wax and pencels and escutcheons, two banners of arms, and four banners of images with many mourners and with two heralds of arms. There was a majesty and the valence and six dozen of torches and two white branches, and all the church hanged in black and arms and a canopy borne over her to the church.” Janes's tomb can still be seen today at Chelsea Old Church.

Finally, there is a rather odd Princes-in-the-Tower theory, propounded by Jack Leslau, which holds that Jane’s father, Edward Guildford, was actually Edward V, and that the younger prince survived under the guise of John Clement. Proponents of the theory have suggested that DNA testing be done to confirm whether the two men were related. Any such testing on Jane herself would be against Jane’s express wishes, for in her will, she specifically asked that she lie undisturbed: “nor in no wise to let me be opened after I am ded: I have not loved to be very bold afore women moche more I wold be lothe to com into thandes of any lyving man be he phisicion or surgion.”


Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, vols. 11-12.

S. J. Gunn, “A Letter of Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, in 1553.” English Historical Review, November 1999.

David Loades, ‘Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [, accessed 29 Aug 2010]

Henry Machyn, A London Provisioner’s Chronicle. Online here.

National Archives PROB 11/37/194.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York

In 1830, Nicholas Harris Nicolas published Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York, from which these extracts are taken. They cover the last year of Elizabeth's life, from March 24, 1502, through her death on February 11, 1503. The complete book can be found on Google Books and is also available here.

This was a sad year for Elizabeth, whose eldest son, Arthur, died on April 2, 1502. She and Henry VII, who is often stereotyped as cold-hearted, comforted each other:

"Immediately after Arthur's death, Sir Richard Poole, his Chamberlain, with other of his Counsel, wrote and sent letters to the King and Counsel, at Greenwich, whre his Grace and the Queen lay, and certified them of the Prince's departure. The which Counsel discreetly sent for the King's ghostly father, a friar observant, to whom they showed this most sorrowful and heavy tidings, and desired him in his best manner to show it to the King. He, in the morning of the Tuesday following, somewhat before the time accustomed, knocked at the King's chamber door, and when the King understood it was his confessor, he commanded to let him in. The confessor then commanded all those present to avoid, and after due salutation began to say 'Si bona de manu Dei suscipimus, mala autum quare non sustineamus,' and so showed his Grace that his dearest son was departed to God. When his Grace understood that sorrowful heavy tidings, he sent for the Queen, saying that he had his Queen would take the painful sorrows together. After that she was come and saw the King her lord, and that natural and painful sorrow, as I have heard say, she, with full great and constant comfortable words besought his Grace that he would first after God remember the weal of his own noble person, the comfort of his realm, and of her. She then said, that my lady, his mother, had never no more children but him only, and that God by his grace had ever preserved him, and brought him where that he was. Over that, how that God had left him yet a fair prince, two fair princesses; and that God is where he was, and we were both young enough; and that the prudence and wisdom of his Grace sprung over all Christendom, so that it should please him to take this according thereunto. Then the King thanked her for her good comfort. After that she was departed and come to her own chamber, natural and motherly remembrance of that great loss smote her so sorrowful to the heart, that those that were about her were fain to send for the King to comfort her. Then his Grace, of true, gentle, and faithful love, in good haste came and relieved her, and showed her how wise counsel she had given him before; and he, for his part, would thank God for his sone and would she do in like wise.

Despite this sorrowful event, most of the expenses concern mundane daily matters. They pretty much speak for themselves, but note the care Elizabeth took of her fool, her taste for venison, and her rich clothing (contrary to some novels that have Henry forcing his queen to wear threadbare gowns).

Itm....delivered to John Goose my lord of Yorkes fole in rewarde for bringing a Carppe to the Quene ----------xij d. Robert Aleyn for a rewarde by him geven to the doughtier of the keper of the Kinges place at Westm{r} for bringing a present of almond butter to the Quene to Hampton Courte ----------iij s. iiij. d. a Mynstrell that played upon a droon before the Quene at Richemount in rewarde ----------iij s. iiiij. d. a servaunt of my lady Nevile wif to S{r} Thomas Darcy, in rewarde for bringing a present of Sele to the Quene to Richemount ----------x s.

Item....the same day to a pore man that brought a present of Oranges and Apples to the Quene at Richemount ---------- xij d.

Itm....delivered to S{r} William Barton preest for thofferinges of the Quene to oure lady and Saint George at Wyndesoure and to the Holy Crosse there ij s. vj d. to King Henry [i.e., Henry VI] ij s. vj d. to oure lady of Eton xx d. to the Childe of grace at Reding ij s. vj d. to oure lady of Caversham ijs. vj d. to oure lady of Cokthorp xx d. to the holy blode of Heyles xx d. to Prince Edward v s. to oure lady of Worcestre v s. to the Holy Rood at Northampton v s. to oure lady of Grace there ij s. vj d. to oure lady of Walsingham vj s. viij d. to oure lady of Sudbury ij s. vj d. to oure lady of Wolpitte xx d. to oure lady of Ippeswiche iij s. iiij d. and to oure lady of Stokeclare xx d. ----------Sm{a} xlviij s. iiij d.

Itm....the seconde day of May to William Botery for a yerd quart' di quart' of blake tynselle saten of the riche making for an edge of a gowne of blake velvet for the Quene at xxxiij s. iiij d. the yerd xlv s. x d. Itm a yerd quarter di quarter of blake saten for an edge of a gowne of crymsyn velvet at viij s. the yerd xj s. Itm seven yerdes of grene satten of Bruges for a kertell for my Lady Anne at ij s. viij d. the yerd xviij s. viij d. Itm for xij yardes sarcenet of eight divers colours for girdelles for the Quene at iiij s. the yerd xlviij s. Itm iiij yerdes di of sarcenet of tawny grene and russet at xxij d. the yerd viij s. iij d. ---------- vj li. xj s. ix d.

Itm....the xvij{th} of Juyn to a servaunt of the Maire of London in reward for bringing a present of cherys to the Quene at Windesour ----------- vj s. viij d.

# Itm....the ij{de} day of July to William Worthy otherwise called Phip for the bourde of William the Quenes fole for iij monethes ended the last day of Juyn that is to wit from the last day of Marche unto the furst day of July at ij s. the moneth Sm{a} ---------- vj s.

Itm....the same day to the said William Phip for his wages for keping of the said fole by the space of iij quarters of a yere ended at Midsomer last past ---------- xx s. the same William for money by him payed to Rauf Wise of Grenewiche for the diettes and othere necessaryes of the said fole there being sik by the space of iiij wekes ---- ----- iiij s.

Itm....the same day to Edmund Calver page of the Quenes chambre for a payre of shois for the Quenes fole vj d. rewarde to the keper of the parke of Miserder for bringing thre bukkes to Monmouth ----------- v s.

Itm....the same day to High Denys for money by him delivered to a straungier that gave the Quene a payre of clavycordes in crownes for his reward ---------- iiij li.

Itm....the same day to Thomas Woodnot for the expenses of the Quenes greyhoundes for the monethes of July August and Septembre that is to wit iiij{xx} xij dayes at ij d. the day ---------- xv s. iiij d.

# Itm....the xij{th} day of Novembre to Doctoure Undrewood the Quenes confessoure for money by him dault in aulmous in London by the Quenes commaundement ------- --- xx s.

Itm....the same day to S{r} Richard Lewes Knight for a cheyne of golde with vij knottes wayeng vij onz di and di quarter price the onz xxvj s. viij d. Sm{a} ---------- x li. iij s. iiij d.

* Itm....the xxvij{ti} day of Novembre to Richard Justice page of the robys for his costes going from Westminster to London in the nyght for a gowne of blewe velvet for the Quene and for his bote hyere viij d. Itm for conveyeng alle the Quenes lyned gownys from Westminster to London by water and for mens labour that bare the same gownys to the water and from the water v d. Itm for bringing the Quenes furred gownys from London to Westminster and for mens labours that bare the same to and from the water v d. Itm for his costes from Westminster to London to take the remaynes of suche stuf as remaineth there iiij d. Itm for going from Westminster to London for vij yerdes quarter di of blake damaske and for a frontlet of golde for the Quene iiij d. and for maing a newe key to the grete standard being in the warderobe of the robys and for mending of boeth lokkes to the same vj d. Sm{a} ----------ij s. viij d.

Itm....the same day to Henry Bryan for xvij yerdes of blake velvet for a gowne for the Quene at x s. vj d. the yerde viij li. xviij s. vj d. Itm for xiij yerdes of blake satten delivered to Johnson for a riding gowne for the Quene at ix s. the yerde C xvij s. Itm for a yerde di quarter of blake velvet for an edge and cuffes for the same gowne at xj s. vj d. the yerde xiij s. Itm for vij yerdes di of blake bokeram for lynyng of the same gowne at ix d. the yerde v s. viij d. ob. Itm for a nayle of sarcenet for fentes for the same gowne iiij d. and for an elle quarter of canvase for lynyng of the same gowne vj d. Sm{a} ----------xv li. xiiij s. xj d. ob.

Itm for xxxvij payre shoes for xxxvij{ti} poure women at the Quenes Maundy at v d. the payre xv s. v d. Cornishe for setting of a carrelle upon Cristmas day in reward ---------- xiij s. iiij d. the children of the Kinges Chappelle in rewarde to theim geven upon Cristmas day xiij s. iiij d. ---------- xiij s. iiij d. the Quenes grace upon the Feest of Saint Stephen for hur disporte at cardes this Cristmas ---------- C s. the keper of the parke of Odiham for bringing of ten does to the Quene to Richemounte on newe yeres even last passed ----------- x s.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In Which I Discover That Some Googlers Have Very Odd Interests

I have a mess o' deadlines to meet this week, none of which are of the least bit interest to anyone who visits this blog. So I may not come back up for air until next week, but in the meantime here's some search terms for you:

hugh despenser susan higginbotham

I don't think Eleanor would like that at all. Or Edward II.

duke of clarence orgy

What type of website do you think I run? Really.

susan higginbotham dietitian

Krispy Kreme doughnuts, sausage pizza, Coca-Cola, sausage biscuits, bagels, spaghetti, GummiSavers, McDonald's fish sandwiches. Have I got all of the major food groups in there?

beauchamp pageant book - why

Everyone needs a hobby.

hugh defoot became king after foot cut off

After which, of course, he became known as hugh deking. Life offers some compensations.

was richard neville warwick the kingmaker a wife beater

No, or he would have been known as Warwick the Wifebeater. These things are really quite ridiculously simple if you just think about them.

susan higimbotham tits

I beg your pardon?

susan higginbotham novels

That's more like it, buster.

margaret of anjou she wolf
elizabeth woodville witch

Now, ladies, it could be worse. At least no one is Googling about your t*ts.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Richard Warren Field

Richard Warren Field is the author of The Swords of Faith, a novel told from the points of view of Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. Visit his website here and his blog here. Thanks for guest posting, Richard!

Two new major releases about the crusades came out within about a month of each other earlier this year. My thanks to Susan Higginbotham for inviting me on her blog to discuss these books, books about one of the most significant and controversial aspects of the medieval period.

The two books are Holy Warriors by Jonathan Phillips and The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge. The questions that surely come to mind immediately are: “Two books? One is over 400 pages and the second over 600 pages? Please, please tell us, which one should we choose?” The answer is that if you are interested in this subject, you should choose both. (Sorry—yes, both.) Of course, there is some overlap. But there is much material unique to one and not the other; the books complement each other and help reinforce mastery of the subject.

Holy Warriors/Jonathan Phillips. Jonathan Phillips will be familiar to watchers of the History Channel, where he has contributed to their documentaries. I found his contributions to the recent documentary about Robin Hood, offered in cooperation with the director and some of the actors in the recent Ridley Scott movie “Robin Hood,” to be consistently insightful and accurate, in contrast to some of the silly statements made by actor Russell Crowe. In his book, Phillips follows the conventional chronology, but takes some detours into less traveled subjects. He writes an extended chapter about Queen Melisende subtitled “A Woman of Unusual Wisdom and Discretion.” She was a woman who successfully exercised power at a time when women were considered to be the subordinate gender. She showed the talent and ability to enforce her will, with objectives and strategic thinking often superior that of the males who contested her ideas. This chapter elevates Queen Melisende into Eleanor of Aquitaine territory (a generation or two before Eleanor); Queen Melisende might very well make a great subject for a historical novel! (Actually, my research at Amazon shows that Judith Tarr’s Queen of Swords may have covered this territory back in 1997. But, who says there can't be more than one?)

Phillips also spends time offering a more nuanced look at the Fourth Crusade, the “crusade” that ended with western Christians sacking Constantinople and taking control of the Byzantine Empire. This is often portrayed as one of the most shameful episodes of the crusades period, an example of the mercenary bloodlust of western Christians run amuck. Philips takes the time to detail the facts which reveal a series of sad miscalculations, along with some questionable characters making promises they could not possibly keep (“Prince Alexius,” pretender to the Byzantine imperial throne, is the chief culprit meeting this description, though his promises should no doubt have been better scrutinized by the western Christians relying on them). After reading this account, we understand how such a strange and unfortunate outcome evolved, and we discover some of the vilified do not deserve all of the enmity history has heaped on them.

After his conventional chronological treatment of the subject, Phillips spends the last fourth of the book looking at how the crusades, and the crusading concept, moved through history to the present day. A highlight of the material is a balanced, informative discussion of “jihad” and its evolution as a religious and political/military concept.

The Crusades/Thomas Asbridge. Asbridge offers us a comprehensive, smoothly written historical narrative that captures the important details and strives to avoid extremes of interpretation. How does Asbridge accomplish this in a mere 600-plus pages when the same task took Steven Runciman three volumes, and more recently Christopher Tyerman nearly 1000 pages? First, Asbridge stays almost completely in the Middle East, and within the period between
1095 and 1291. Other books address the crusading concept transplanted to Europe (the crusade against the Cathars during the early 13th Century and the campaigns of the Teutonic knights in eastern Europe during the 13th and 14th Centuries), and at “crusades” declared after 1291—Asbridge does not. He also spends little time on the Fourth Crusade. (This is an example of how these books complement each other—Phillips spends considerable time on this, as I discuss above.) But that is consistent with his approach, as none of the action in the Fourth Crusade occurred in the Middle East, and in its essence, this involved an internal Christian conflict, not a conflict between Muslim and Christian forces. Also, Asbridge spends the bulk of the book on the first three crusades, with excellent narrative histories of all of them, including the story of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, a subject near and dear to my heart, as my recently released novel The Swords of Faith is about that confrontation.

What Asbridge offers is a clear, easy-to-follow storyline for these events, distilled from the many source materials available. He also strives to express balanced interpretations of events. He gives us a picture of Saladin that retains Saladin’s admirable qualities while arguing against his over-glorification. He offers the idea that Saladin did not become a committed religious warrior until after a serious illness in late 1185/early 1186, an illness bringing him so close to death that he dictated his will. And Asbridge argues against the current depictions in the popular culture of Richard the Lionheart as a militarily adept bloodthirsty brute who was otherwise unsophisticated. He offers clear evidence of Richard’s abilities beyond super-warrior.


So the choice should be to buy and read both of these books. That’s what I did, and I found that both books, with the insightful excursions of Jonathan Phillips in Holy Warriors, and the comprehensive, flowing narratives of Thomas Asbridge in The Crusades brought me entertaining insights into a historical period that is still invoked today by people involved in the most pressing issues of our times.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Henry Stafford's Will, and a Note From Your Blogger

As those of you who have read Philippa Gregory's new novel know, Margaret Beaufort's second husband, Henry Stafford, is a prominent character there. (He also has a speaking part in my own novel The Stolen Crown, as he is the uncle to its hero, Harry, Duke of Buckingham.) Here is an abstract of his will, found in Testamenta Vetusta, available on Google Books. A transcript of the complete will can be found in The Logge Register of PCC Wills, 1479 to 1486, edited by Lesley Boatwright, Moira Habberjam, and Peter Hammond. Note that "my son-in-law the Earl of Richmond" was Stafford's stepson, the future Henry VII. In the complete version of the will, Henry Stafford refers to Margaret as his "beloved wife" no fewer than four times.

Henry Stafford died on October 4, 1471, two days after writing his will. He had made an earlier will before the Battle of Barnet, as Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood note, specifying "my body to be buried wher it shall best ples god that I dye." Stafford survived the battle with wounds and lived to write a new will, but his wounds likely led to his death a few months after Barnet.

Harry Stafford, Knight, son to the noble Prince Humphrey, late Duke of Bucks, October 2d, 1471. My body to be buried in the College of Plecye. To buy xii marks worth of livelode by year, to be amortized for the finding of an honest and fitting priest to sing for my soul in the said college for evermore Clxl. ; to my son-in-law the Earl of Richmond, a trappur, four new horse harness of velvet; to my brother John Earl of Wiltshire, my bay courser; to Reynold Bray, my Receiver General, my grizzled horse; I bequeath the rest of my goods to my beloved wife Margaret Countess of Richmond, whom I likewise constitute my executrix. Proved May 4th, 1482.

And now for a word from your blogger. As I mentioned a while back, my novel in progress deals with the Tudors, although I'm not at liberty to disclose the exact subject yet. As I become more wrapped up in my research for that novel, I'll be blogging more about sixteenth-century topics than medieval topics, but I hope all of you will stay around for the ride! Don't be scared off by the "T" word: there's a whole array of fascinating people here besides Henry VIII and his wives, and I'll be telling some of their stories in months to come.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yes, I Bought The Red Queen the First Day It Came Out

In fact, I went shopping for Philippa Gregory's latest novel so early in the morning that Barnes and Noble barely had its display ready! What can I say--I'm a Wars of the Roses novel junkie.

First, despite its title, The Red Queen is not about Margaret of Anjou, but about Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII. (For some reason, no one in the novel ever addresses Margaret as the Countess of Richmond, though records from the time refer to her as such, and she herself seems to be unaware that she holds that title through her first marriage to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. I found this odd, because Margaret as depicted here is not a woman to forget the fact that she has a title.)

Margaret, as those of you who have read the early reviews know, is convinced from early childhood that she is chosen by God to do great things, just like Joan of Arc. When she bears her only child, Henry Tudor, she becomes equally convinced that her God-granted destiny is to put her son on the throne. For those who do not share her conviction--which amounts to just about everyone--Margaret has nothing but scorn.

First, the bad news: there are some odd historical errors here. Gregory pushes the 1469 Battle of Edgecote into 1470, making it the event that restores Henry VI to the throne, and she has Elizabeth Woodville give up the Duke of York before, instead of after, Hastings is executed. (I suppose Gregory might have been following the theory that Hastings was executed on June 20 instead of June 13, but that theory has been discredited for some time.) These chronological errors don't make much difference in the greater scheme of things, but they will distract and annoy anyone who's done more than cursory research into this period. I also found it highly unlikely that Margaret and the other characters would repeatedly exchange letters detailing their treasonous thoughts and schemes, as they do here; they might as well have drawn lines on their necks reading "CUT HERE."

Despite those reservations, I did enjoy this novel. Telling a first-person story through an essentially unlikable narrator is a tough job, and Gregory does it very well here. Margaret's snide remarks about the other characters made me laugh out loud at several points, one of my favorites being her comment about Katherine Woodville: "a girl born and bred only to raise hens in Northampton." There are some rather droll moments, such as when the widowed Margaret canvasses her possible future husbands and sets her cap at Richard, Duke of Gloucester, only to find that the unsuspecting prospective groom has foiled her plans by marrying Anne Neville. Despite being seen through the eyes of the obtuse and insensitive Margaret, several of the supporting characters are quite sympathetic, particularly Henry Stafford, Margaret's sardonic, war-weary second husband, and Jasper Tudor, Margaret's loyal brother-in-law. Henry Stafford's death was quite moving, and Jasper's scenes with his baby nephew were quite sweet. Margaret's cynical, opportunistic third husband, Thomas Stanley, is the perfect foil for Margaret, without being a cardboard villain. He did much to keep the latter third of the novel, which recounts the very familiar events of 1483 to 1485, moving along at a brisk pace. Elizabeth of York makes a brief appearance, but one that's long enough to inform the reader that she is no fool. As for Margaret herself, although I don't share Gregory's view of the historical Margaret Beaufort, I didn't find her characterization here implausible, grossly unfair, or one-dimensional, as I have in some novels where Margaret is depicted as a fiend who does everything but cackle, "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!"

All in all, I found this a diverting and enjoyable read about a woman who's been relatively neglected in historical fiction.