Philippa Gregory's latest novel 'The Kingmaker's Daughter' is the fourth in the Cousins' War series, following The Lady of the Rivers
. The kingmaker of the title is Richard, Earl of Warwick, a very ambitious and wily man and the most wealthy and powerful English nobleman of his time, who has already engineered the downfall of King Henry VI and put Edward IV on the throne. When King Edward secretly marries the very beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, instead of entering into the marriage with a French princess that Warwick has negotiated with King Louis XI of France, Warwick feels betrayed and humiliated. Unfortunately for him, Warwick has no male heirs, so he decides to use his daughters, Isabel and Anne, as political pawns in his dangerous game of politics and power.
The story is narrated by Warwick's younger daughter, Anne, who is eight years old when our story begins and it is through Anne's eyes, as she grows up, that we follow the political machinations of Warwick as he marries his elder daughter, Isabel, to King Edward's brother George, the Duke of Clarence, who is next in line to the throne. However, Warwick's ambition does not end there, because when that marriage does not bring him the power he craves, Warwick then marries Anne to Henry VI's son, Edward Prince of Wales. With his ambition for power still not satisfied, Warwick organizes an uprising that fails catastrophically and results in the earl losing his life and the death of Anne's new husband, leaving Anne fatherless and widowed and in an extremely precarious situation. I could continue, but if you know your history, you won't need me to, and if you don't know the outcome, then I don't want to spoil it for you. However, I will just say that this fourth novel takes us into the realms of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.
For this and her last three novels, Philippa Gregory has remained in approximately the same period of time, telling her stories from the perspectives of different characters. This has enabled the author to make the best use of her research in a period of time that she finds interesting and rewarding and one which many of her readers also fortunately find fascinating. Some of us may already know the fate of some of the characters in this novel, but the present tense used by Gregory makes us almost feel as if we don't have that prior knowledge and that her characters might just be able to escape their fates and, in doing so, she has written a story that is suspenseful and well driven. This novel, blending fact with fiction and full of plotting, scheming, treachery and treason is a story which both lightly educates and entertains. If you prefer your history sophisticated, challenging and strictly historically accurate, this may not be to your taste, but Philippa Gregory certainly has a flair for dramatising historical events and this is an ideal read for those times when you just want to lose yourself in the past, making this a good choice for effortless holiday, weekend or bedtime reading.