A young Welsh servant, Owen Tudor, wins a chance of a lifetime when he’s assigned to the dowager queen’s household after the death of her husband, Henry V. With her not quite one year old son, the heir to the throne and the future Henry VI, Catherine of Valois is a young widow adrift, far from her native France and caught between the political powers at court who fight over the chance to control her and her young son. When Parliament rules that any man who marries the dowager queen without permission will lose all his lands and titles, Catherine spites them by marrying her servant Owen, a man who has no lands and titles to lose. Their marriage is a happy one during which they welcome four children, but Catherine’s mental illness and the repercussions Owen faces at the hands of his enemies overshadow their later years. After her death, no one is there to protect him, and Owen is arrested and released repeatedly until King Henry VI decides to embrace his step father and half siblings. Trouble comes for King Henry when Richard, Duke of York and Richard, Earl of Warwick decide to challenge the troubled monarch for the throne. The Tudors must decide whom to support: Catherine’s son Henry – the mentally troubled, overly pious man who is ill-suited to rule or the Yorkists, powerful royal cousins bent on taking the throne for themselves.
A rarely mentioned ancestor of the Tudor dynasty, Owen Tudor (grandfather of Henry VII, the first Tudor king) finally gets his due in this first book in Mr. Riches’ Tudor trilogy. As always, the attention to historical accuracy, especially when it comes to scenes of battle, siege, sailing, and weaponry, is fantastic. The descriptions of food, castles, and clothing paint vivid scenes. That being said, I still feel that the deeper emotional turmoil within and amongst characters is not as apparent in this work as it could be, and that seems like a missed opportunity for greater conflict and a connection to the characters.
You won’t find a fact missing in this comprehensive look inside the very beginnings of the Tudor dynasty, but without that added emotional depth, it’s difficult to bond with the characters.
Other books reviewed here by Tony Riches include:
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