Click here to read reviewer Karyn Johnson's take on The King's Daughter.
A true creature of the English royal court, Elizabeth of York is raised by loving father Edward IV, bred to a life of propriety and statesmanship: “daughter of a king, sister of a king, wed to a king and mother to a king.” In all her incarnations, Elizabeth is called to endure much, years of isolation in sanctuary, much later a growing affection for Richard III, her uncle, and marriage to the dominating Henry VII in the name of peace.
Elizabeth’s mother is Bess Woodville, an ambitious woman who manages to capture Edward’s heart to the dismay of his brothers, George of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester (destined to be crowned Richard III), Bess who successfully sunders the close ties of the three brothers. In Worth’s skillful hands, we witness the challenges faced by a young girl after her dear father’s death, when Woodville sweeps her children into sanctuary to protect the heir, Edward V, from the assigned protectorship of Richard of Gloucester, no love lost between Edward’s brother and his widow.
Elizabeth navigates this difficult and treacherous world from childhood to young womanhood, appalled by her mother’s actions but dutiful to a fault. But life intervenes and Richard III claims the throne, Woodville’s machinations all for naught. A curious and pliant Elizabeth grows up and joins Richard’s household. When Richard’s dear wife dies, Elizabeth is deeply in love with her uncle, a pale sop to his overwhelming grief.
Once again the wheel of fortune turns and Richard dies in battle, a triumphant Henry Tudor galloping across England to claim the throne. In an effort to bring peace to a country devastated by the Wars of the Roses, Elizabeth of York marries Henry Tudor, and another kind of bondage begins. Held virtual captive by her brutal, aggressive husband and his scheming mother, Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth is no match for this pair. Unable to escape, she finds refuge in her religion and her children.
Inner peace fueled by religion and her love for Richard III, Elizabeth is an enigmatic figure brought to vivid life by Worth’s insightful rendering. Her fate determined by virtue of birth, little is known of Elizabeth’s history in spite of the volumes written about her contemporaries. Overshadowed by a powerful husband and mother-in-law yet beloved by her people, Elizabeth is a figure who takes shape only through the author’s careful marrying of fact and imagination.
Elizabeth endures years of a brutal, unsatisfying marriage, producing the heirs Henry needs, most notably Arthur and Harry (Henry VIII). There are infinite complications: the fate of the princes in the Tower, the lineage of Perkin Warbeck, and Henry’s revisionist history of the Plantagenets. It would be easy to lose sight of this protagonist in the flurry of male ambition of the era, but Worth draws on historical data to create a tragic and believable figure, a woman truly beloved of her subjects.