Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Book Review: A Song of Sixpence by Judith Arnopp

In the years after Bosworth, a small boy is ripped from his rightful place as future king of England. Years later when he reappears to take back his throne, his sister Elizabeth, now Queen to the invading King, Henry Tudor, is torn between family loyalty and duty. As the final struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster is played out, Elizabeth is torn by conflicting loyalty, terror and unexpected love.

Will Elizabeth support the man claiming to be her brother, or will she choose the king? Set at the court of Henry VII A Song of Sixpence offers a new perspective on the early years of Tudor rule. Elizabeth of York, often viewed as a meek and uninspiring queen, emerges as a resilient woman whose strengths lay in endurance rather than resistance. 

My Review: 
Most history books agree that Perkin Warbeck was used by the enemies to Henry VII to try to take away his throne by uniting the people behind the return of 'Richard', rightful king, one of the Princes who vanished from the Tower. This book takes the 'What If' approach and has Perkin as being the real Richard, taken from the Tower on the orders of Richard III and smuggled abroad by a loyal Yorkist to save his life. He is then trained to be ready to take the throne from Henry VII on his return. Meanwhile his older sister Elizabeth puts aside her conflicted feelings for uncle Richard III and is to marry Henry VII to end the War of the Roses. She is torn between duty to her York blood and Tudor husband especially as she has no idea if the pretender is really her beloved brother.

I liked the fact that the author did something a bit different with this well known piece of history. Richard III is cast as a man who took the crown from his young nephew for fear that such a young ruler would leave England open to abuse, power grabbing and a return to civil war. He locked them in the tower to stop his enemies using his brother's sons as pawns to unseat him and fully intended to keep them safe. He is devoted to wife Anne and has no clue that niece Elizabeth's crush on him is being used to start rumours of incest at Court. I always had an issue with Richard III being blamed for the murder of the Princes in the Tower as I felt he had nothing to gain from it. They had been given the status of being illegitimate which allowed Richard as next in line to take the throne. For me Henry VII and his mother, or the Duke of Buckingham or other noble with royal blood, had more to gain than Richard III. Anyway I digress! I like seeing Richard as the one who learned of a plot by Buckingham to attack the Tower and urged a servant called Brampton to rescue the boys but only young Richard can be saved.

We get the POV of young Richard being taken from the Tower and into hiding in Burgandy, where he is taught how to fight and survive. We follow him throughout the story as the people of Ireland recognise him as a son of Edward IV and proclaim him, his attempts to invade England and the time he spends at the Court of the Scottish King. Young Richard wonders what will happen to Elizabeth and her children if he takes the throne from her husband and starts to wonder if he is really suited to running a country and fighting wars. The only thing about his chapters that annoyed me were him being called the boy when we all know who he is! Why bother?

We also get Elizabeth's story which is fascinating. Forced to marry Henry VII, she battles to get his love and trust and is constantly undermined by his devious mother Margaret. She also has the fear that her own mother is plotting against her husband, as is the brother of her mother-in-law's husband. Elizabeth is surrounded by intrigue and has to protect her beloved children. She is also conflicted about the news of Perkin Warbeck. If her brother is really alive, then her husband loses the throne and her children are in danger. But can she bear to see her younger brother murdered to save her children's future? Is it even Richard? She hopes not. She also has to worry about producing as many children as possible to ensure the Tudor line.

The characters are very well developed and the author goes to great lengths to have the reader understand why the characters are thinking or doing something. We see Richard III's grief over what he has to do to steal the Crown, Henry VII's conflicted feelings of love and mistrust of Elizabeth and everyone else due to his throne being insecure, young Richard's feelings about whether or not to grab the crown...it is very much character based drama and I liked the way she brought all these historical figures to life. It is not overdescriptive with strange dialogue so it is very easy to get into.

This is the second book I've read by the author and I'm very keen to read more by her. I recommend this to fans of the Tudor period. 
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png


  1. Hmmm, this does sound interesting. *takes note*

    1. I liked this one-a good look at Elizabeth of York and the start of the Tudor bloodline!