I absolutely loved Joanna Hickson’s brilliant First of the Tudors, about the often neglected Jasper Tudor, but I was left wanting more! So I have been looking forward to this second historical fiction, The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson, which continues the same story from the point-of-view of Jasper’s nephew, Henry Tudor.
In September 1471, we join the fourteen-year-old Henry Tudor, as he flees for his life across the channel to seek asylum in France, with his uncle Jasper Tudor and Lord Jasper’s young half-brother Davy, his mistress Jane Hywel and their youngest daughter Sian. Henry is the only son of Lancastrian heiress, Lady Margaret Beaufort, which – with the return of the Yorkist king, Edward IV to his throne after the dubious deaths of Henry VI and his son, Edward – puts Henry’s life in danger, because he is now one of only two remaining Lancastrian male heirs.
Blown seriously off course, in a perilous crossing, they eventually land safely in Brittany, where Henry is promised the protection of Duke Francis II. He then spends the next 14 years being raised in a style befitting a lord, but always as a relative prisoner. These years give us plenty of time to get to know Henry and see him grow into a strong, pragmatic man. Like Jasper in the previous novel, I had never read a novel solely about Henry – in Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen, Henry is portrayed as an old, fickle and penny-pinching king – so it was interesting to see him as a young man in exile.
Through all these years his young half-uncle Davy becomes his constant companion, when he is sadly separated from his uncle Jasper and his childhood governess, Jane is sent back to England with her daughter. Again Hickson has cleverly pieced together the little that is known about Henry’s exile and believably filled in the gaps. Even creating a love interest for Henry in the form of the mysterious Catherine de Belleville, based on the historic fact that once king, Henry granted a position and pension to an unknown Roland de Belleville (which caused suspicion he was his illegitimate son).
Meanwhile the real drama is unfolding back in England with the sudden death of Edward IV, Richard III usurping the throne and the princes in the Tower. All of which we learn about through the eyes and letters of Henry’s mother, Margaret. Hickson continues her more sympathetic portrayal of Margaret – very different to that in The Red Queen – even showing the love and care she had for her ‘nestlings’: young wards she took in and raised in her own household. While this was an interesting, new side of her for me to see, I am not sure I completely believed this softer Margaret could have survived, thrived and ultimately put her son on the throne in this turbulent time.
All in all, I thought The Tudor Crown was a fascinating glimpse into the lost history of Henry Tudor’s exile, but sadly I just didn’t love or believe in Henry and Margaret like I had Jasper and Jane in the previous book. Good read.
Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Or read anything else about Henry Tudor?