by Anne Easter Smith
The King's Grace
The King's Grace
Grace Plantagenet, bastard daughter of King Edward IV of England is only mentioned once in history - in a account written first hand about the small party seen escorting the Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s funeral barge. This lack of the Grace’s historical background provides the author, Anne Easter Smith, complete control over her heroine, which is quite unique in a historical fiction novel (if it’s a GOOD historical fiction novel, that is!).
Grace spends the first 11 years of her life in an abbey, when one day Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville summons her to court. England is in much turmoil at this time - King Edward IV is dead and the marriage between he and Elizabeth has been declared invalid and their children made bastards, based on the facts now coming to light of Edward’s previous betrothal. Edward’s brother, King Richard III wears the crown, the two York princes and heirs to the throne are in the tower for “safe keeping” and Henry Tudor is threatening to invade.
When Henry Tudor succeeds with his invasion and King Richard III dies in battle, the Tudor Dynasty is born. Edward and Elizabeth’s daughter, Bess, reluctantly marries the usurper and surprisingly they end up very happy together. They will eventually produce four children: Arthur, Mary, Margaret and the infamous, Henry VIII.
As his hold on the crown is not very secure, Henry is constantly fearful and paranoid. He suspects Elizabeth Woodville of plotting against him and sends her to Bermondsey Abbey. Grace accompanies her out of respect and feelings of gratitude, although she never thought she’d be once again in an abbey. This part was really interesting to me – we get to see a softer side of the formidable Woodville woman and even though she’s every bit of a Royal snob, she is a real human being underneath and I actually grew to like her a bit! The proper and moral Good Queen Bess and her less than moral, impetuous sister, Cecily bring amusing moments to the novel and provide a sense of family among the siblings. Grace is the diplomat between these two very strong personalities.
Stories of a young man calling himself Richard, the lost duke of York, begin reaching England. No one knows what to believe – is it the lost prince or a boatman’s son from Tournai named Perkin Warbeck (sp) pretending to be Richard? And if he is just a boatman’s son, how does he know French & Latin? Grace’s inquisitive nature takes her on a mission to find out the truth – for her and for her family. In the end, nothing is quite what it seemed to be.
Not only is The King’s Grace about the mystery of Perkin Warbeck, but of Grace - a girl who is trying to find her own path in life and the obstacles she overcomes to get there. Sweet natured and one for the underdogs, Grace is a pleasure to read about and I truly enjoyed this story. I’m no expert on The Princes in the Tower, so I can’t really comment on Smith’s explanation of the Perkin/Richard debate, but her conclusion doesn’t seem too out there and was believable for me. And the happy ending was a nice change of pace from your usual historical fiction ending.