This is the sequel to SUCCESSION. It picks up the story where SUCCESSION ends, just after the Battle of Towton – which is still the bloodiest battle ever fought in England. When REBELLION begins, the Lancastrian cause is almost lost. King Henry and Queen Margaret have fled into Scotland, and from there the queen has made her way to France to petition the French king for help. She returns with a general, Pierre de Brézé, and a small army, to wage war in the north of England.
Margaret of Anjou’s adventures are truly astonishing. She is captured by outlaws in a forest, and, on another occasion, kidnapped on a boat. She endures poverty and starvation on the road. As her chronicler, Georges Chastellain, writes:
It was a piteous thing truly to see, this high princess so cast down and laid low in so much danger, dying of hunger and hardship, because she was forced to throw herself on the mercy of the one in all the world most set against her.
Through all her misfortunes she keeps her young son with her, determined to bring him to the throne.
But there are two Margarets in this novel; the other being Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.
At the end of SUCCESSION Margaret Beaufort was devastated because custody of her son was awarded to William Herbert, the man responsible for the death of his father. Henry Tudor was brought up in the Herbert household at Raglan Castle in Wales. While it is clear that Margaret stayed in contact with him, there is only one documented visit, in September 1467. In 1468, 1469 and 1470, she made determined attempts to get him back.
But this is not just a story about mothers and sons. There is also the new king, Edward IV, who has rapidly established himself as both a warrior and a womaniser. He has secretly wooed and married Elizabeth Woodville, much to the dismay of his family and court. Just like his grandson, Henry VIII, Edward IV falls for a woman who refuses to be seduced by him until he marries her. And when they are married, initially at least she produces only daughters.
The birth of his first son is as dramatic a story as any of the battles in the ‘Cousins’ Wars’ .
Edward’s most famous cousin was the Earl of Warwick, known to history as ‘kingmaker’ because he helped to bring Edward to the throne in 1461. As Edward’s reign progresses, however, the earl becomes disaffected, ultimately allying himself with Edward’s younger brother, George, and leading a coup. Edward is forced to flee the country, and his wife takes refuge in the Sanctuary at Westminster. She gives birth there to their first son, on 2 November 1470. Born in confinement, this son goes on to become one of the princes in the Tower…
There are so many other vivid and extraordinary stories in this era that I can’t do justice to them all here. I have to hope that REBELLION will do it for me.