Friday, August 27, 2010

The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

As a child I was homeschooled for a very long time -- second grade until my junior year of high school -- there were positive and negative aspects to being homeschooled, but one of the most positive elements was the concept of a Unit Study.  My mother had the flexibility to indulge me my nerdish wants.  Essentially, in our family, a Unit Study meant that I would spend a month (or sometimes more) studying a subject or time period to death.  During my "Native American" phase we built a teepee in the backyard -- it was huge -- and I embroidered symbols on burlap.  The "Explorers" phase began my girlhood crush on Sir Francis Drake and I was often distracted during Math because I was plotting Magellan's path on the map above my desk.   My biggest ever phase was the "Queens and Kings of England" phase; I read constantly, designed my own heraldic arms, and beheaded my little sister on more than one occasion (pretend beheadings, of course).  Today's teens agonize over Team Jacob and Team Edward; I was conflicted between choosing Team Queen Elizabeth and Team Mary Queen of Scots.

All this to say, that I still think in Unit Studies.  Last year -- and yes it is still lingering -- I was obsessed with everything Victorian.  However, most of this year I've been obsessed with British History (again).  Specifically, I find myself OBSESSED with the War of the Roses.  It all started when I read The White Queen last winter.  Now, having completed Susan Higginbotham's The Stolen Crown.  I find waking up dreaming about the House of Lancaster and the House of York and the fight for the crown.  Yes, I am dallying between Team Lancaster and Team York.  I can't decided if Richard III was evil or has been maligned by history.  Folks, I'm crazy over War of the Roses.

The Stolen Crown is truly what sealed the deal.  In this novel, Higginbotham follows Kate Woodville - younger sister of Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward IV - and her husband Henry (Harry) Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.  The historical research put into this novel is impeccable; anytime there is a lengthy list of characters, an in depth author's note describing liberties and truths in the text, and a bibliography, I feel like I'm in good hands.

The particular genius of this novel is the title:  The Stolen Crown.  This can mean so many things.  If Elizabeth Woodville WAS NOT lawfully wed to Edward IV and Edward was indeed a bastard, then they stole the crown.  If every thing was legit, then Richard stole the crown.  And then there is all the in between attempted stealing (for example, George Duke of Clarence) and the beforehand stealing (all those prior wars and grievances) and the afterwards stealing Henry VII.  Of course, I'm using the word "steal" here in a facetious manner, I haven't really figured out who REALLY deserved the throne and I doubt I will ever have an impenetrable argument for either side.

For those interested in The War of the Roses, The Stolen Crown is a wonderful place to begin.  I've plans to continue my obession, I've recently purchased Susan Kay Penman's tome The Sunne in Splendour which is a pro-Richard III historical novel and I plan on reading Alison Weir's non-fiction work The Wars of the Roses*.

To illustrate how fanatical I am, I'm actually thinking of a War of the Roses themed chest piece tattoo.  Yup, that's obsession.**

* I'm currently reading Weir's Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, but that is for another post.

** My friend Traci's husband, also suggested I get a Katharine Howard tramp stamp tattoo.  LMFAO!


josjottings said...

I picked up The White Queen yesterday as I have missed Philipa Gregory books! Strange but true. I look forward to reading it.

I love historical fiction and have an Alison Weir on the go, but it is something I have to be in the right frame of mind for.

Jo said...

The Sunne and Splendour is SO GOOD!!! I had pretty vague notions about the War of the Roses and a decidedly negative opinion of Richard III thanks to Shakespeare, but I adored Sunne and Splendour. But be warned: Penman's goal in writing the novel was to redeem the historical Richard III from the overshadowing of Shakespeare's fictional portrayal, so the book might leave you decidedly Team Richard!

I will have to check out the Stolen Crown. Thanks for the review!

Traci said...

Definitely adding this to my tbr pile!

Lindsey Sparks said...

I love the War of the Roses too, and British history in general! I became obsessed when I read Shakespeare's Richard III in college. I've read War of the Roses and The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir and both were wonderful. I'm a little bit in love with her. I also like Jean Plaidy's fiction works on the time period, although I've read more of her Tudor-era books. I'm kind of obsessed with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn as well. That started back when The Other Boleyn first came out and I obsessively started reading other books on the topic. I think even though I wasn't homeschooled, I tend to operate in unit studies! I even did that as a child because I was a nerd who thought it was fun to create my own outside of school learning schedule. It's a good thing my dad taught me to stick up for myself at a young age! I'll have to check this book out!

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