Monday, February 2, 2009

Guest post from Sandra Worth, author THE KING'S DAUGHTER

New month, new book! My friend and fellow historical novelist Sandra Worth recently published her second historical novel with NAL, Penguin. THE KING'S DAUGHTER is the untold account of Elizabeth of York, whose dynastic union with Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty and brought an end to the bloody York-Lancaster conflict known as the War of the Roses. Sumptuous and elegantly written, Elizabeth comes to life in this tale of intrigue, betrayal, passion and sacrifice; while the Tudors have been very well covered in fiction, Elizabeth remains a shadowy figure, largely passed over for her more glamorous counterparts; and Sandra has unearthed a wealth of research in order to portray this valiant queen and her importance in history. Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Sandra Worth!

First, thank you, Christopher, for hosting me again on Historical Boys!

The last time I posted was for LADY OF THE ROSES, my novel on John Lord Montagu and his beloved Isobel— lovers who bear a remarkable resemblance to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But unlike their fictional counterparts, John and Isobel’s love affair ended happily, and they did marry and have children together—lucky for us! I say that because they’re the direct medieval ancestors of both FDR and Churchill, who saved our world from Hitler’s tyranny.

In this way, they’ve touched us all intimately, whether we know it or not—and just a few days ago, to my great delight, I was honored to learn that they touched a chord with reviewers as well. LADY OF THE ROSES was awarded the 2008 CataNetwork Reviewers Choice Award as one of the best books reviewed by Single Titles last year! This brings my total number of awards to thirteen, but it’s my first for LADY OF THE ROSES, and I’m very happy—not only for myself, but also for John and Isobel, whose dramatic life story has never been told before.

But I digress. My invitation here is to talk about my latest novel, THE KING’S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL OF THE FIRST TUDOR QUEEN, so let me plunge right into the heart of the thing.

The infamous Tudors are a well-known family, and reams have been written about Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Bloody Mary, and Elizabeth I, et al. But the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, “Elizabeth the Good,” is neither well-known nor infamous. In fact she remains a mystery. Five hundred years later, the smattering of facts on her would be hard-pressed to fill a page or two. There is only one biography, and the author, by her own admission, was forced for dearth of information to resort to novelistic techniques.

Some of you are familiar with Elizabeth of York from the last book of my ROSE OF YORK trilogy, where she made a cameo appearance and closed out the book in an epilogue. Frankly, I didn’t think there was much more to relate about her, and certainly I had no thoughts of writing a book on her life. When I was picked up by Penguin for LADY OF THE ROSES in a two book deal, I had to make a decision on the subject of my next book, and something her biographer said resonated with me. That she “brought hope to those in despair, comfort to those in pain, and restraint to those in power.” If there’s one thing I admire, it’s integrity, and this was a woman of great compassion and integrity.

Hoping to learn more, I perused every major account of Henry VII’s reign—Gairdner, Storey, Temperley, Simons, Griffiths, Bacon, Chrimes, Lockyer—to mention a few. And always I came across references to Elizabeth as “invisible,” holding a “shadow” court, where access was near “impossible” to attain. When she was seen in public, it was always with her mother-in-law at her side—usually dressed exactly like Elizabeth!

Francis Bacon reports that her mother, Bess Woodville, thought her daughter “not advanced but depressed,” meaning she considered Elizabeth not a true queen, but a puppet. I was intrigued. How could this be? Why was so little known about her when so much is known about her son, Henry VIII, her husband Henry VII, and even her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort?

It was a mystery, and in the course of unraveling it, I found my answers. Gathering them together, they make quite a story of greed, lust, ambition, betrayal, and blood –altogether a very dramatic life indeed! For example, Tudor propaganda has always claimed that Richard III murdered her brothers, the Princes in the Tower—but did he? Was Elizabeth in love with her uncle, Richard III? Did the Tudors keep her captive, and why should she be a threat to them? Did she believe the Pretender, Perkin Warbeck, was really her lost brother, the younger prince in the Tower, Richard Duke of York? Was Henry VII in love with the Pretender’s wife, and what was behind his incredibly brutal treatment of the young man?

In my novel, crafted in long discussions with a Ph.D. medievalist friend, and based in part on Ann Wroe’s THE PERFECT PRINCE, Elizabeth reveals her shocking story, from her turbulent childhood during the Wars of the Roses to her reluctant, but courageous, marriage to Henry Tudor that made the Tudor dynasty. Historians agree that she exercised much influence over her Henry VII for good, since, after she died, his character began to degenerate and his actions grew more violent, debased and vile. Through these thousands of pages of academic texts, like her biographer I had a sense of Elizabeth hovering behind Henry, gently advising him, restraining his hand when she could, and praying for him when she couldn’t.

And as I wrote this book, I have to tell you—Elizabeth won my heart, too. I turn her over to you with affection, admiration, and deep respect for her great courage, compassion, faith and sacrifice. I hope you'll find THE KING’S DAUGHTER worth reading (excuse the pun!).

Thank you, Sandra! We wish the best of success with this new novel. To learn more about Sandra and her work, please visit her at


Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

What a great post Sandra! I never knew that FDR and Churchill were descendants of John and Isobel...learn something new every day!

I really enjoyed The King's Daughter, as much as I liked Lady of the Roses. And I am so looking forward to reading your Roses of York series!

Thank you for creating such awesome novels for us readers! You truly rock!

C.W. Gortner said...

This is from Sandra: she's had trouble logging in to comments.

Amy, you sound like a lot of fun-- and thank you for the compliment!!!

Sandra Worth