Book Review: “The Tudor Rose” by Margaret Campbell Barnes

6536233The beginning of the Tudor Dynasty was full of action and drama. Richard III and Henry Tudor met on the battlefield at Bosworth on August 22, 1485 to determine who would be the King of England. Richard III fell and Henry Tudor triumph, becoming Henry VII. However, there was another person whose fate was determined on that battlefield; Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. It was at this battle that Elizabeth knew that she would marry Henry Tudor and become queen of England. But what was it like for her to live through this time of change? From the death of her father to the case of her missing brothers. From to Richard III’s short reign to her relationship with her husband Henry VII and her children. How did she feel during the most difficult times in her life? Margaret Campbell Barnes explores this question in her novel, “The Tudor Rose”.

“The Tudor Rose” starts off in the middle of Elizabeth of York’s childhood when the French decided to back away from the marriage arrangement between her and the Dauphin. Elizabeth, clearly distress, goes to his loving father Edward IV for comfort. When Edward IV died, we see how Elizabeth and her family reacted. It is Barnes theory that the family was quite close, especially Elizabeth and her younger brother Richard. Elizabeth’s brother is made Edward V and both boys are placed in the Tower of London for their protection by their uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester. Barnes writes Richard as a villain, similar to the way Shakespeare described him, and it feels as though Elizabeth is disgusted by him. Its Elizabeth’s mother Elizabeth Woodville who decides to get back at Richard by arranging a marriage between Elizabeth and the son of Margaret Beaufort, the future Henry VII.

After Bosworth, Henry is made king and marries Elizabeth of York. Even though Elizabeth was from the York and Henry was a Lancastrian supporter, history books tell us that they loved each other. Barnes takes a different approach to their relationship. She writes Henry as a miserly king who never had real feelings towards Elizabeth. Elizabeth, according to Barnes, had more love towards her children than she did towards husband. It’s a darker look at Henry VII, but one that is not uncommon in literature.

A common theme during Henry VII’s reign was the constant threat of people who pretended to be Elizabeth of York’s brothers. Elizabeth is not known to have met with any of the pretenders, but in this book, Elizabeth met with both Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. The interactions are quite unique and makes the reader wonder if Warbeck especially could have been one of Elizabeth’s long lost brothers. Barnes explains the importance of these pretenders to both Henry and Elizabeth:

It was like a cloud above the Tudors’ lives. At first it had been just something which they joked about. But gradually, as the years went on and more and yet more people believed -or, for their own ends, pretended to believe- that a son of Edward’s still lived, it began to darken their world- and perhaps even to cloud their own certainty. Because it affected them both it brought Henry and Elizabeth closer together. But it affected them differently. To Henry, with his poor claim to the throne, the whole affair stood for affront and fear; whereas to Elizabeth- although it brought fear for her family- it never really ceased to hold a shining element of hope. A hope which she wore herself out trying to extinguish, knowing it for the crazy thing it was. (Barnes, 236).

I had read this book before I really started researching the Wars of the Roses and I really enjoyed the interactions between Elizabeth and her family. This was probably the first book that I read about Elizabeth of York that I really enjoyed and it was the book that got me interested in researching her life. Its been a few years since I have read this book and now that I have done a little research on Elizabeth of York’s life, I found myself questioning how certain characters were portrayed. If you want a book to help you get into the Wars of the Roses and the life of Elizabeth of York, I would recommend “The Tudor Rose” by Margaret Campbell Barnes. It gives a different perspective on the life of Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor queen.

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