The King Makers Daughter - The Story of Anne Neville - Book Review
This is the latest book in Philippa Gregory's cousin's war series. It focuses on the life of Anne Neville who was the daughter of the Earl of Warwick and the wife of King Richard III. Like many other stories featured in this series, Anne's life has been largely forgotten by history. She was born into the wealthiest and most influential family in the kingdom, being the younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick known as the King maker. Her father's power and wealth are what allows the York family to defeat Lancaster and seize the thrown, which means that Anne was born into a position of great power and wealth. Anne's life therefore is worth chronicling if only to understand how a woman of her class would have lived in such a tumultuous period. The fact that she herself made some interesting decisions in her life makes her story all the more real.
Anne is the younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick, together with her sister she is raised and educated in Warwick castle with her fathers noble and Royal wards who include the future Richard III younger brother of Edward IV. She is a witness along with her sister of the major events of the day, beginning with her father's rage at the kings marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Anne is in awe of the new Queen and her family believing them to be the most beautiful people she has ever seen, however she is also loyal to her father and listens to her sister both of whom believe that the River's family should not be on the throne or anywhere near it. Anne does not want to hate the new Queen but the rumours of her practicing witchcraft are widespread and her father encourages them leading Anne to always view the Queen with some fear. It was speculated from the time of Anne's early childhood that both she and her sister would marry the younger brothers of King Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester. But the King decides to forbid the marriages, his reasons were probably complicated and most likely were simply that he didn’t want to give further power and wealth to the Earl of Warwick. However this refusal is the last straw for Anne's father who begins to plan a rebellion against Edward. His plan is to depose the King and place his younger brother George on the throne instead, a plan that has the full support of George who secretly marries Anne's older sister Isabel without permission. Isabel quickly falls pregnant however she loses the child when she goes into labour aboard a ship and a terrible storm nearly destroys it. The strength of the storm was so violent and unexpected that the Warwick daughters begin to believe that it was the result of a spell cast by Elizabeth Woodville and her mother Jaquetta, this makes both of them extremely afraid of the Queen. The rebellion ends up failing, but her father immediately begins to plan another one, this time he intends to return the Lancastrian's to power. For this purpose he marries Anne to the Lancastrian prince Edward the son of Henry VI. This is mortifying to Anne, her husband is an indifferent brute and the rebellion ends up failing again this time leaving her a widow and her father dead. Anne and her sister and George are all forgiven and return the court of Edward IV, Anne and Isabel are now joint heiresses to the largest fortune in England and Anne is created the ward of George her brother in law. George wanting to get his hands on the entire fortune makes her live virtually imprisoned in his home. Anne realises what is going on and struggles against it but is helpless to change it, however she has an unexpected saviour in the form of the youngest brother Richard who convinces her to run away and marry him. This decision proves to be a good one as she gets her fortune and enjoys a happy marriage with Richard. The rest of the novel focuses on her views of the events unfolding around her, although she never gets to know Queen Elizabeth, she is increasingly convinced that she is a witch, this belief keeps her away from court and always suspicious and fearful of the power she believes the Queen has.
Anne is someone who has a lot of personal resources to get her through her troubles. She is highly intelligent and more often than not makes the correct judgment in a situation, she knows very early on where her own interests lie and though she is not selfish she knows how to do what is best for herself. She is not afraid of confrontation and is incredibly brave when she needs to be. Her decision to stay with the Lancastrian' s even though her father was dead shows she understood that she had everything to gain as the wife of the prince if they won and would lose everything otherwise. When she chose to run away and marry Richard she knew she was taking a large risk but she also understood that she had to do something to free herself from her brother in law and get her fortune restored. She is also a character who is incredibly caring and loving and she enjoys a happy marriage with Richard, however although he says all the right things to her and treats her well and with love it is never really clear from the novel how he actually feels about her. Anne is a highly sympathetic character, unlike Margaret Beaufort she is not delusional in her idea's of grandness being content with the situation she has. And unlike Elizabeth Woodville she is not an extraordinary beauty or gifted with spells. She comes across as someone incredibly normal, with a healthy self esteem and sense of her own abilities.
Who do you think deserved the Crown of England during the Wars of the Roses?
My Take on the Novel
I really enjoyed reading this book, more so than I enjoyed The White Queen. This is because Anne has a completely different perspective on reality than that of Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort and the sense is that Anne judged rightly based on the information she was given and had a more intelligent and wise perspective than either of the other two, in spite of the fact that she was the youngest. I liked this book primarily because Anne Neville was so intelligent, it was very interesting to see how a girl who was not a ravishing beauty could judge a situation and create her own happiness. There are moments in the novel when the reader can see that Anne is making mistakes in her judgments and opinions, but those mistakes are not her fault because she is acting based on the information she is given not on what the actual reality may be, in many cases the book itself does not make clear what is true and what is not. An example of this would be the death of her sister Isabel in childbirth, Anne is told by her brother in law George that she was poisoned by the Queen and George swears to Anne that he will not remarry. Then it comes out that he is trying to do just that and that the king refuses to allow it. As someone whose read the White Queen it is apparent that Elizabeth Woodville did not poison Isabel Neville and that most likely it was George. But Anne cannot know this, she may have suspicions but then she has heard so much ill of the Queen that it is more likely for her to believe she did it. Anne does not judge wrongly, she simply does not have all the facts. For me personally, this was a great book, I really do recommend it along with the other books in this series, it is great for learning history and also for understanding perspective.