Historical Fiction

The Kingmaker’s Daughter – Philippa Gregory – 8/10

“Well, it makes no odds. A girl’s no good. A girl can’t take the throne.”

The fourth in Gregory’s highly successful series of The Cousins’ War (as the War of the Roses, as we now know it, was known at the time), The Kingmaker’s Daughter tells the story of Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Earl of Warwick. Warwick had put Edward IV on the throne, but Edward had proved to be not quite as malleable a puppet as Warwick had expected, by marrying Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen, daughter of The Lady of the Rivers) in secret. Disappointed by his protege, Warwick turned to Edward’s other brothers in an effort to control the throne, and married his daughters off to meet his needs.

Anne’s life is portrayed in the other books as a sorry one – sickly, often overlooked for advantageous marriages, having to cater to her sister’s every whim. However, this book was considerably more positive than I had expected – Gregory imbues her with a resilience and loyalty which is not expected, given the other books I had read in the series. She deals with her father’s repeated changing of sides, her sister’s superiority and paranoia, the trouble caused by her over-ambitious brother-in-law; none of it causes her much distress. What is interesting is her introspection towards the end – she knows she has become hardened and deadened to political movements and changes that would have once scandalised her.

It is a little frustrating to read the same material again (admittedly through different eyes and different imagined private events), but Gregory does an admirable job of introducing enough new material to keep us interested and a different perspective on familiar events. My main objection to the prior books has been the sheer number of battles to wade through; this book misses some of the first ones out by starting only once Edward IV is on the throne, and ending before the Battle of Bosworth field which would ultimately conclude the Cousins’ War.

I found it interesting that Richard III is ultimately portrayed as sympathetic, loyal, in fact fatally loyal to the York cause, and not the evil hunchback that Shakespeare would have us remember. In this, Gregory builds on the not unsympathetic picture conjured in The White Queen.

If you’ve read the other three, you’ll read this one too. If you haven’t read the others, I wouldn’t worry about this one – start with The Lady of the Rivers (first chronologically) or The White Queen (best written) and see how you get on with the series.

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6 thoughts on “The Kingmaker’s Daughter – Philippa Gregory – 8/10”

  1. I really must start this series. I have the first 3 books and having read the new Alison Weir and Josephine Tey, I am intrigued by this part of history, which was glossed over at school as I remember.

  2. I’ve yet to read a Philippa Gregory. Somehow I think I’ll read some non-fiction about the War of the Roses (and everything that came after) first, before trying one of her books.
    Do you mean to say that she repeats (parts of) the same period, but from the POV of someone else?

    1. Exactly. There is a non-fiction companion volume to the series but I don’t think it helps much – although if you are a fan of non-fiction it might be just the place to start? It’s called The Women of the Cousins’ War.

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