And so I begin with the last novel I completed Alison Weir's A Dangerous Inheritance which was truly a page turner! Weir's chose to tell the story from the point of view of the illegitimate daughter of Richard III, Kate Plantagenet, and Katherine Grey, sister of the Lady Jane Grey and the great niece of Henry VIII and cousin to Elizabeth I. Even as an avid Tudor enthusiast since childhood, followed by two degrees in History and a voracious reader of historical fiction I did not know much about either of these women other than their places on the family tree. At first I found my lack of familiarity with the two women coupled with the writing style employed by Weir of going back and forth between each character's account a bit confusing. Thankfully, by page 75 I was on board and the remainder of the novel was truly engaging on many levels.
The plot is based on the "Princes in the Tower" and how the fate of these boys affects and influences both women. Kate Plantagenet desperately wants to find proof that the rumors of her father's dark deeds are untrue. While Katherine Grey while married to Henry Lord Herbert, the son of the Earl of Pembroke and the nephew of Queen Katheryn Parr (his mother Anne was her sister). Katherine is married in a dual ceremony with the ill fated Lady Jane and Guildford Dudley. Despite being a child of twelve Katherine is quite taken with her husband and both wish to consummate the marriage. However, they are closely watched and prohibited from doing so - not because of Katherine's age, but to wait for the dust to settle as Pembroke was clearly privy to the changes made to the line of succession of Edward VI and was waiting for the dust to settle before forever bonding his son to the Grey's.
It is while living at Pembroke that Katherine discovers a portrait, a necklace and a bundle of notes bound by a hair ribbon in an old portion of the home while exploring with her husband. Katherine is immediately drawn to her discoveries and feels she was led to them by someone who wanted her to find the truth. She quickly discovers that Kate resided at Raglan Castle, the home of the Earl's grandfather "Black William", and that the chest of documents came from Raglan which was no longer among Pembroke's properties. Katherine is haunted and captivated by Kate and through these notes she recalls the "Princes in the Tower" and wonders about their true fate. Shortly, Katherine too is intimately connected to the mysteries and horrors of the Tower as the lives of her sister Jane and their father the Duke of Suffolk, Henry Grey, along with Guildford Dudley are cut short behind its imposing walls. After the death of her sister it is Katherine who assumes her place in the line of succession and feels bonded to the fate of the Princes as she too realizes that royal blood can hasten one's death, as it had so cruelly taken her sister.
Kate Plantagenet is depicted as a vivacious adventurous woman. Though an illegitimate child of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, she has been raised in a loving family home and Anne Neville has loved her as if she were her own. Kate loves and admires her father, and seems to have every reason to until Kate's world is forever changed by the swift tide of events following the death of her uncle Edward IV. Her father is pulled from home to assume the role of Lord Protector but she senses a change in him which nags at her for the rest of her life. When Richard declares the children of his late brother bastards and claims the throne for himself Kate further questions the character of her father, who she so dearly loves, and no longer seems to understand.
These two women become bonded through the quest for answers about the fate of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, framed by each woman's own place within the events of their own time. I won't spoil this wonderful novel for you, but rather will let you discover the fates of each woman on your own. As expected, Alison Weir does a wonderful job blending historical fact and fiction and clearly explaining both in her Author's Note. I appreciate her bringing these two marginal but significant women to life in A Dangerous Inheritance and though I might never discover any additional concrete facts about either I will never forget Kate Plantagenet or Katherine Grey.
This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #3
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #3