Discussion Questions – ‘The Kingmaker’s Daughter’ by Philippa Gregory
Anne, only eight years old when the novel begins, grows up over the course of the book’s twenty-year span. In what major ways does her voice change from the beginning of the novel to the end? At what point in the novel do you feel she makes a real transition from a young girl to a woman, and why?
Anne becomes more cynical towards the end once she has been through war, betrayal, death and everything that comes with it, losing many of the people she loved along the way.
The point when I feel Anne really made the transition from girl to woman was when she was forced to marry Edward of Lancaster – from that moment she experienced life in a way she didn’t want to, and that changed her.
Anne begins naive and thinks that everything will go right for her because she is a Neville and they are one of the greatest families in the land; this changes when her father, Warwick, turns his back on Edward IV and Anne realises that her name now marks her out as a traitor.
Anne becomes wiser throughout the work, but also more paranoid. Her high point is late in the reign of Edward IV when she is a happily married wife and mother, then it starts to go downhill as Richard III gains power.
Consider the major turning points in Anne and Isabel’s relationship. How does their relationship progress as they grow up, marry, become mothers, and vie for power? At what point are they closest, and at what point are they the most distant? How do their views of each other change?
The point at which Anne and Isabel are closest is when Isabel is pregnant for the first time and they have to flee overseas with Warwick and Clarence; they both seem so scared they forget their enmity.
The sisters are most distant from each other after Edward of Lancaster is killed at Tewkesbury and Isabel and Clarence take Anne into their household – I think Isabel distances herself from Anne because she doesn’t want to be tainted and likes to lord it over her sister.
At first Anne sees Isabel as the all-knowing big sister, but I think she comes to realise that Isabel is in fact very vulnerable and puts on airs and graces to cover it; she likes seeming powerful.
I think in a way Isabel becomes jealous of Anne, as Anne seems to marry for love to Richard and be very happy with her husband in a stable relationship, whereas Isabel’s husband, Clarence, is volatile and unpredictable – Richard also seems to hold Edward IV’s trust, and so power stems from it, where Clarence does not.
If The Kingmaker’s Daughter was narrated by Isabel instead of Anne, in what major ways do you think the tone of the novel would change? How might the main characters be portrayed differently from Isabel’s point of view?
I think there would be a lot more remarks from the beginning about how unsuitable Elizabeth Woodville is to be queen and how horrible she is, rather than Anne’s admiring tone.
From Isabel’s point of view I think she would have tried to portray Clarence in a flattering light, whether she really saw him that way or not, because she would want to justify her position as a royal duchess, and try and get one over on Anne.
Anne seems a lot more tolerant than her sister Isabel and so I think Isabel would get a lot angrier about how her family is treated, whereas Anne seems to, not accept it, but tolerate what happens to her family when they flee abroad.
The event that would appear most differently told from Isabel’s eyes would probably be the period when Anne was in Isabel’s household after the Battle of Tewkesbury, as no doubt she would see Anne’s treatment completely differently to the way Anne saw it – protecting her rather than imprisoning her.
Anne’s feelings toward Elizabeth Woodville grow colder as the novel progresses. Consider the below quotations from the beginning of the book, and discuss: What might the Queen Anne presented in the novel’s final pages have to say about her earlier words? – “She is breathtaking: the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life. At once I understand why the king stopped his army at the first sight of her, and married her within weeks” / “We don’t like the queen.” / “I cannot see the queen as my enemy, because I cannot rid myself of the sense that she is in the right and we are in the wrong.”
I think Anne’s feelings towards Elizabeth Woodville grow colder as the novel progresses because she comes to understand the import of Edward IV marrying her and ignoring Warwick’s advice – if Edward hadn’t married her Warwick might not have felt he needed to rebel to retain power.
The first quote implies Anne’s youthfulness “most beautiful woman I have ever seen” and naivety, and the older Anne probably would have tinged her awe with a sense of witchcraft, using hindsight to attribute her beauty to what she was later accused of.
The second quote is very blunt and unequivocal, incorporating the feelings of her whole family, but Anne’s feelings in particular seem to have been more complicated towards the end of the novel – in a way she envies Elizabeth Woodville and her large and beautiful family, and even felt sorry for her when she lost the Princes in the Tower.
The final quote is a little haunting, and I think that Anne would still agree with it at the end though the “we” has changed – the initial “we” in the quote is the Neville family, whereas at the end it would refer to Anne and Richard on their thrones. Both times the Nevilles displaced Elizabeth Woodville on the throne.
“You can go very high and you can sink very low, but you can rarely turn the wheel at your own bidding.” The tarot card the Wheel of Fortune is a theme that runs throughout the novel. Discuss the Wheel of Fortune and its implications for each of the main characters. Does fortune favour any character in particular? Do you feel that the characters are at the mercy of fortune, or do they make or choose their own fates?
The Wheel of Fortune seems particularly apt when applied to the Wars of the Roses because the fates of the main players seems to be completely out of their control most of the time, depending a lot on luck.
I don’t think fortune favours any character in particular as they all have their ups and downs – Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou have particularly bad luck, and the Warwicks don’t come out very well either.
Elizabeth Woodville and her family survive, but only through the female line as Elizabeth of York was the mother of the Tudors and, through her eldest daughter, Margaret, the current royal family descends.
There is a mixture of luck and making their own fates – Edward IV loses the throne in 1470 by bad luck for example, but wins it back a year later through a combination of luck and skill on his part.
Isabel is forever changed when she gives birth to a stillborn baby boy in a storm at sea. Anne notes that many people blame the tragedy on witchcraft, or an evil curse. Do you think Isabel agrees with their assessment? Who do you think Isabel, in her heart, blames for the death of her son: Her father? Herself? Anne? Who do you think is ultimately to blame, and why?
I think Isabel is so frightened and distraught through the whole experience that afterwards she tries to justify it in any way possible – she can’t think why god would want to punish her, hence it must be malign forces.
Isabel seems to blame her husband and father for the death of her son because it is they who made it impossible for them to stay in England and have to flee overseas to be safe from Edward IV.
I can understand Isabel blaming her husband and father as they forced her to travel overseas and I think, in her condition I would probably have blamed them too.
From what I understand it is difficult to not blame oneself in this type of situation and I think Isabel does apportion part of the blame to herself, wondering what she has done to offend god.
It is clear that the men in the novel play a large part in shaping the destiny of the women around them—but what major decisions do the women in the novel make for themselves? Which female character do you feel is the most in control of herself and her path? Consider that character’s status in the novel; do you think her power, or lack of it, at court contributes to the power she holds over her own life?
Elizabeth Woodville decides for herself that she will petition Edward IV for the return of her dower lands and that shapes her whole life, Anne Neville decides to marry Richard Duke of Gloucester having had no say in her first marriage because it will keep her safe.
Generally, it seems that the women in the story only really have control once they have been widowed and are free to make more of their own decisions, otherwise they are at the mercy of their fathers or husbands.
Elizabeth Woodville is the character most in control of herself as, because she is a widow from the beginning of the story, she can choose whether to marry again and who, and she plays on her femininity to gain power.
Elizabeth is powerful in the novel because she marries into power (the royal family) and then marries her family into powerful families as well, so there is a web of Woodvilles at the heart of power.
What role do the mothers in the novel play? Discuss how they are viewed and treated by their children, their daughters- and sons-in-law, and their husbands; do you think they are deserving of the treatment they receive? Also consider what it means to be a mother during the time period in which the novel takes place; what are a mother’s main responsibilities, and which mother in the novel do you think fulfils her responsibilities most successfully?
Motherhood in the 15th century had a main role of having and rearing children and in this sense Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Elizabeth Woodville were the most successful mothers as they had scores of children, most of whom survived into adulthood and had children of their own.
Margaret of Anjou and Anne Neville were less successful mothers in terms of the numbers of children produced, and neither had any grandchildren either, so their lines ended.
The mothers have ambitions for their children – notably Margaret of Anjou with her son Edward of Lancaster, and Isabel Neville is very aware that she needs a son in order to cement her husband’s power, so she wants children less for herself.
The mothers generally seem to be looked up to by their children, and by their sons- and daughters-in-law, though they also seem awe-inspiring figures to the latter – as to husbands, it seems that mothers are either seen just as that, a vessel in which to carry a son and heir (Isabel Neville), or cherished figures at the heart of the family (Jacquetta of Luxembourg).
Anne learns how to be a queen from both Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville. What virtues do each of these queens teach her, whether directly or indirectly, and how does she employ those virtues when she finally becomes the Queen of England? Ultimately, which queen do you feel had the stronger impact on Anne’s regal style?
Margaret of Anjou teaches Anne to be strong and to hide her emotions, as she does when faced with Warwick’s death and having to fight a battle she will probably lose – she shows Anne how to lead, but inadvertently teaches her not to overtly take power from her husband.
Elizabeth Woodville in Anne’s eyes seems to be everything a queen shouldn’t be – she is too pushy and openly flaunts the king’s love for her and their little flirtatious behaviours towards each other, where Margaret was more withdrawn.
Anne becomes the kind of queen between Elizabeth and Margaret – generally she is considered unremarkable as she didn’t make waves or vie for political power, or flaunt her husband’s love, and learned to hide her emotions.
I think Margaret of Anjou had the stronger impact on Anne’s regal style because she learned to hide her emotions to deal with the death of her son, as Margaret of Anjou did, and the flirtation of her husband with his niece, Elizabeth of York.
“I see Richard’s warmth toward her and I wonder again, what is courting and what is charade?” Consider the relationship that develops between Richard and young Elizabeth. How much of it do you think is truly a calculated political move by Richard to discredit her betrothal to Henry Tudor, as he protests, and how much of it is for his own pleasure? Further, how does his relationship with Elizabeth change his feelings for Anne? By the end of the novel, how has their love changed?
The way that Gregory tells the story it seems that there really are feelings between Richard and Elizabeth, as neither seem to care about the waves their relationship is making, or how it makes Anne feel.
I think Richard excuses it to Anne as a calculated political move to try and discredit Elizabeth’s betrothal to Henry Tudor, but in reality he is instead trying to justify his flirtation with his niece to himself.
Richard comes to realise that he is falling in love with Elizabeth and I think he feels a little guilty, as Anne is his wife and, as far as we know, he remained faithful to her, but this new relationship throws a spanner in the works for the first time.
By the end of the novel and Richard and Anne’s love and their relationship in general has changed from the very close and emotional relationship of their early years together towards the more typical formal king and queen relationship (typical aside from Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville).
Anne and Isabel’s father, the powerful and ruthless Earl of Warwick, is known throughout England as a powerful Kingmaker—yet, he is not the only “kingmaker” in the novel. Which other characters might you consider to be a maker of kings, and why? Which kingmaker do you feel is the most successful?
I think that Richard Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) is a kingmaker because Edward IV wouldn’t have been able to regain his throne in 1471 without him, and he did make himself king as well in 1483.
I think Warwick, because he is known as the kingmaker, has a certain kudos if he’s on your side, because he did help Edward IV become king, and turned against him because of a loss of power, and then made Henry VI king in 1470 before being killed.
The Duke of Clarence tries to be a kingmaker but fails miserably – he wants to make himself king above everything else, but there are too many others in contention with better claims, including his own elder brother.
Warwick and Richard seem to me to be equal in status as kingmakers as both made two kings, but were killed before they could fully consolidate their power and come into their own.
Consider the different Kings and Queens who take the throne during the events of the novel. Who are feared by those around them? Who are liked? Who are respected? Of these three values—fear, love, and respect—which do you feel is the most important for a royal family to command from their subjects, and why?
Henry VI is revered more than liked for his constant piety, where his wife Margaret of Anjou is feared and even hated as a French foreigner trying to rule her husband.
Edward IV is loved and respected, as he managed to hold the throne and reign peacefully for over a decade after the Battle of Tewkesbury; with Elizabeth Woodville I think people didn’t quite know what to make of her in general, but the nobles hated her low birth.
Richard III was quite a respected general and soldier, and probably would have been a greatly respected king had it not been for the murder of the Princes in the Tower, but it is quite difficult to gauge thoughts on Anne Neville as she seems to have kept out of the spotlight.
Out of fear, respect, and love I think that the most important to cultivate is respect because that means that the people can understand when you have to make difficult decisions, and respect that you made the decision where neither side really wins. Love and fear are very one way actions, and neither will result in the respect of the people.
I have an MA in History, with a thesis entitled 'The Many Faces of Anne Boleyn: Perceptions in History, Literature and Film'. I have an interest in the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses along with my love of reading and literature.
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