“It is strange how many want to sit in the king’s seat even though it’s so uncomfortable.”
White for York. Red for Lancaster. Elizabeth of York - daughter, wife, sister, niece and mother to kings - will prick her finger on the thorn of fate, blending the two, white and red. But long before that fateful day, the young princess will have her expectations for an advantageous marriage dashed by the untimely death of her father, Edward IV.
In the prophetic words of her brothers: “It is strange how many want to sit in the king’s seat even though it’s so uncomfortable.” Strange indeed. Elizabeth will see Edward’s succession thwarted by the disappearance of her two young brothers, the dissolution of Edward’s marriage to Bess Woodville, and Richard of Gloucester’s interest in marriage to her be nullified by political ambition.
In this novel first published in 1953, the author views her protagonist through clear lenses, both in prospects and Elizabeth’s nature, her perspective untouched by a later trend in judging Richard III as perhaps more noble than commonly believed. The death of the princes in the Tower is pivotal to Elizabeth’s political development and the author’s storyline. Once she decides that Richard III is responsible for the fate of the princes, the girl is implacable, bearing a deep enmity toward her uncle.
Surviving the vagaries of court life at the knee of her scheming mother, Bess Woodville, Elizabeth is ever aware of political considerations and her position vis-à-vis the throne. She appreciates the importance of political unions, even though all of Woodville’s children by Edward are declared illegitimate and stripped of their titles. Nevertheless, Elizabeth of York is a princess by blood. In fact, after the death of her brothers, Elizabeth declares that “If it be true that my brothers are dead, then I am the Queen of England.”
Campbell Barnes’s Elizabeth of York is a realist who harbors no romantic notions about her uncle as his wife, Ann Neville, leaves this world. Nor does she shirk from betrothal to Henry Tudor, Richard’s most viable threat and enemy. The caveat: to win her hand in marriage, Henry Tudor must ensure the death of Richard III. Once Henry fulfills that promise, Elizabeth keeps her side of the bargain, a painful one as it turns out.
Henry VII is a rough, warlike man with little time for courting his new bride. Indeed, Elizabeth provides Henry with the necessary heirs - most memorably Henry VIII, who holds the fate of the country in his grasp, shaking England’s very foundations. If Richard III is the last of the Plantagenets, Elizabeth delivers the Tudor dynasty to its own glorious years.