This is the second chapter in the saga of one of medieval Europe’s most powerful mothers. And while I liked the more personal portrait of Margaret Beaufort Tudor (mother of Henry VII) in the first book of this series, THE BEAUFORT BRIDE, I did enjoy this novel’s continuation of her story and her struggle for power.
In Judith Arnopp’s second book of the BEAUFORT CHRONICLES, Margaret’s son is not yet king. Instead we follow the widowed Margaret through two more marriages — first to Harry Stafford and then to Thomas Stanley– both men of power and influence, though on competing sides. Margaret and her husbands are all trying to travel the thorny road of shifting allegiances that is at the core of the War of the Roses.
As the throne shifts from King Henry VI to Edward IV, then back and forth again, nobles on both sides must continually prove their allegiance to the man who happens to be in power at the moment. And this is probably what this book is best at describing– just how treacherous it was to live in England during these years. One day your support of the monarch makes you a valued hero, the next day you warrant a traitor’s death. This is particularly true for a powerless woman and heiress like Margaret. As a devoted Lancastrian, she must cosy up to the Yorks — first Edward IV’s and his wife, Elizabeth Woodville. And then to Richard III. She has to show concern for their children — even though those same children stand between Margaret’s own son and the throne.
After Edward IV’s death, Margaret must publicly appear to abandon Elizabeth Woodville and ally herself with Richard III’s queen, Anne. As Margaret secretly plots in support of her son, she is forced to live a true double life, trying to maintain public loyalty to the reigning monarch while ambitiously manipulating behind the scenes.
It’s sort of fun to watch how Margaret manages to survive long enough to see her son victorious, which is where this book ends.