Review: Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith


It is 1461: Edward, son of Richard of York, ascends to the throne, and his willful sister, Margaret, immediately becomes a pawn in European politics as Edward negotiates her marriage. The young Margaret falls deeply in love with Anthony Woodville, the married brother of Edward’s queen, Elizabeth. But Edward has arranged for his sister to wed Charles, son of the Duke of Burgundy, and soon Margaret is setting sail for her new life. Her official escort: Anthony Woodville. Margaret of York eventually commanded the respect and admiration of much of Europe, but it appears to history that she had no emotional intimate. Anne Easter Smith’s rare gift for storytelling and her extensive research reveal the love that burned at the center of Margaret’s life, adding a new dimension to the story of one of the fifteenth century’s most powerful women.

My Review

My potential interest in Margaret of Burgundy was her political influence as Duchess, especially after the death of her brother Richard III. Alas, I was destined to be disappointed, since this story ends before Edward IV’s death. If you are one of those readers who favors historical fiction with a serious romantic flair, this is certainly the book for you. Margaret’s lifelong obsession with Anthony Woodville—and their frustrated affair—fills the pages, even though the author admits this love affair was pure speculation. Personally, I found the whole Anthony sub-plot a bit tedious, and it certainly added many passages to this unusually long book, which tops out at over 550 pages. I was glad when it was over. However, with all that said, the story is well-written, and I couldn’t help but sympathize with this York princess—sacrificed for her brother’s political needs—sent to live in a foreign country as the wife of a brute. Charles the Bold apparently had very few redeeming qualities:  

Margaret froze in her tracks. ‘Nay, Charles, I beg of you. Let us not quarrel,’ she tried to sound calmer than the rising panic she felt. She might be taller than he, but she knew she was no match for his brute strength, as she had found to her cost on more than one occasion. He advanced towards her, and she put up her hands to fend him off. ‘Forgive me if I offended you, my lord, please—‘ But her words fell on deaf ears. She found herself once more flung on the counterpane, her wrists pinned to the bed. As he sat astride her, staring down into her terrified face, he grinned in triumph. 

Not a very happy outcome for a political pawn. Fortunately, Charles spent most of his time in the field, trying to conquer more French territory, so Margaret is able to make the best of a bad situation. Her acuity holds her in good stead, and she gains the respect of many Burgundian advisors. In the background, we follow the progress of her family as the Wars of the Roses continue, as well as the Ill-fated campaigns of Duke Charles. We get a good grounding of the history of the period.


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