Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Uneasy Lies the Head - Jean Plaidy

After having read Victoria Holt in my teens and having heard rave reviews of Jean Plaidy's historical fiction novel I finally tried one - Uneasy Lies the Head is the story of Henry VII. The man who defeated Richard III at Bosworth, united the Lancaster and York Houses and spent his ruling years getting rid of potential rivals to the throne.

In the aftermath of the bloody Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor has seized the English crown, finally uniting the warring Houses of York and Lancaster through his marriage to Elizabeth of York. But whilst Henry VII rules wisely and justly, he is haunted by Elizabeth's missing brothers; the infamous two Princes, their fate in the Tower forever a shrouded secret. Then tragedy strikes at the heart of Henry's family, and it is against his own son that the widowed king must fight for a bride and his throne...

I liked Plaidy's voice although at first I was a bit confused with the different point of views. I also would have preferred if the story had started a bit earlier. Henry VII acceptance as a king was a in part due to his marriage to Elizabeth of York and it was a bit odd seeing her so dependent of him when she must have been an important part of the day's politics.

But mostly the book is about Henry's political moves to guarantee his power, to prevent rebellions by York claimants. He had to deal with two fake pretenders - Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck - and kept a tight hold on the ones who might be a potential danger like the young Earl of Warwick. He comes across as cold, scheming and a detached murderer. He has no strong feelings - love or hate - towards anyone but he doesn't hesitate to murder, or better said convict with fake charges, the one's who might threaten his power. Unavoidably part of what bothers him is to explain the disappearance of the prince's in the tower in a way that doesn't make him look guilty.

Another important thing is the begetting of heirs to strengthen the dynasty. Having had the fragile Arthur, Henry and Elizabeth keep having more children and next come Margaret, Henry and Mary and a few other babies who didn’t survive. Their children are also an important part of the book and we follow the negotiations for Arthur and Katharine of Aragon's marriage and the early years of the princess's stay in England. The author also develops a bit of the future Henry VIII personality, presumably to set us on the right path for the next books.

All in all an enjoyable read which follows the historical facts closely but gives them a lighter and fictionalised approach.

Grade: B

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