The King’s Curse pans over forty years of Lady Margaret Pole’s presence in and around the Tudor court, as she and her family rise and fall from favour with Henry VII and then Henry VIII. How do Lady Margaret, her characteristics, and her goals change over the course of her life at and away from court?
Margaret at first is ambitious for herself and her brother, and then her sons, but she comes to realise that what is more important is that they survive.
Margaret’s goals change as the people she cares about die generally – her first goal was to help her brother, Edward Earl of Warwick, then Elizabeth of York, and then her husband and sons.
As Margaret becomes more experienced she begins to understand the politics of power and how her family came to fall from power, and grows to accept it to an extent.
The turning point in Margaret’s thinking comes with the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521, because Margaret thought him to be invincible in a way.
Discuss the meaning of the title, The King’s Curse. What is the actual curse? How does Henry VIII’s belief that he is cursed affect his behaviour? Do you believe that the curse that Elizabeth of York and her mother spoke against the Tudors comes to fruition?
I think the title refers to the curse that Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York are said to have enacted against the person who killed the Princes in the Tower.
The curse would affect Henry VIII if his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was the one who killed the Princes, as Gregory suggests in ‘The Red Queen’ as well as here.
I think in a way Henry VIII is determined to outrun the curse so he begins to kill off anyone with a claim to the throne so that the only heir left is his own son.
Eventually the curse does seem to come to fruition as the Tudor line dies out and the crown descends instead through the female line of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret, and the rulers of Scotland.
Consider how deeply Margaret is affected by the execution of her brother Edward, “Teddy,” the Earl of Warwick. How does this affect her familial loyalty and influence her actions? What does it mean to Margaret to bear the name Plantagenet? What does the White Rose mean to her?
I think that, at first, Margaret didn’t believe that Henry VII would execute her brother who was just a naïve boy – from all accounts he was mentally stunted from his time in the Tower.
When Margaret has children of her own she becomes even more determined that they won’t suffer the way she and her brother did for their Plantagenet blood.
I think at the beginning of the novel Margaret saw the name Plantagenet as marking her out as special and blessed, but towards the end she sees it more as a curse as it pulls apart her family.
Even towards the end Margaret believed that the White Rose was the rightful ruler, but she wasn’t willing to risk as much to bring it about.
Whom did you find the most interesting character in The Queen’s Confidante?
For me the most interesting character was Elizabeth of York, wife and queen to Henry VII, and mother of Prince Arthur.
I thought that the way that Elizabeth was portrayed in this novel was interesting – obsessed with what happened to her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, and determined to remember them.
The historical record doesn’t tell us much about what the Tudors thought about the fate of the Princes, aside from an insinuation that Richard III killed them.
I thought that Elizabeth’s love for and obsession with finding out what happened to her brothers and her son was admirable, and it also showed a softer side to Henry VII in the end.
Who would ever expect tyrannical Henry VIII to have had such a beautiful, loving mother? Do you know of children who have turned out very differently from their parents, in personality, values, and general attitude toward life? Does a parent really have so little influence over his or her children?
I think, had Elizabeth of York still been alive after 1503, she would have had a more marked influence on the future Henry VIII – her gentler ways would have softened Henry VII’s harsher approach.
I think a lot of children turn out very differently from their parents’ – I know I am very different from both of my parents, but not necessarily in a good or a bad way, just different.
A lot of what makes the child the adult they become is the environment they grow up in – if you grow up in a loving environment you are more likely to be loving to other people.
Henry VIII was loving like his mother, but his love had a darker edge and his love turned to hate, especially with Anne Boleyn.
If Prince Arthur had lived, how might English history have turned out differently?
Without Henry VIII having taken the throne, there likely wouldn’t have been an English Reformation, no Bloody Mary or Elizabeth I, and the English royal family probably wouldn’t have descended through the Stuart line.
Some historians suggest that Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur were in love and that their marriage was consummated and, if this were true, Katherine may well have had a son as well as daughters, without her seven-year widowhood affecting her fertility, as has also been suggested.
England might have entered a new golden age, as Henry VII had hoped, and the Tudor dynasty might have survived, but this is one of the great what-ifs of history – we might not have had the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution or countless other events which now define English history.
How would you describe the grief Elizabeth experiences in the aftermath of her uncle, Richard III’s death? What notable details about their relationship does her grief expose? How does Richard’s untimely demise imperil the future of the York line?
It’s not just the grief of a niece for her uncle but a young girl grieving for the loss of the man she loved, and whom she hoped to marry.
Her grief exposes just how close she and Richard were and her hopes for their relationship – she really doesn’t want to marry Henry VII because she knows she can’t love him as she did Richard.
Richard’s death imperils the York line because there are no more direct male descendents not touched by treason or bastardy – Warwick is the only notable survivor of Richard Duke of York’s line, and his father was executed for treason.
Elizabeth of York is the true heir to the Yorkist line, and it is this which underpins Henry VII’s claim to the throne and his ability to hold the throne in the face of so much opposition; people believed Elizabeth was on the throne as well and so the civil wars were at an end with the two houses united.
“Henry Tudor has come to England, having spent his whole life in waiting…and now I am, like England itself, part of the spoils of war.” (3) Why does Elizabeth consider herself a war prize for Henry, rather than his sworn enemy for life? What role does politics play in the arrangement of royal marriages in fifteenth-century England?
Through his marriage to Elizabeth of York Henry VII gained the support of the Yorkists in his attempt to keep the throne – in that sense she is a prize for him, the rightful heir of the York to unite the two warring houses of York and Lancaster.
Elizabeth can’t realistically be Henry’s enemy while they are married, or the marriage would never be successful.
I don’t think Henry ever really saw Elizabeth of York as an enemy – she was a pawn in the games of others to an extent in the same way that he was.
Politics is really the sole reason for a royal marriage – it is used to create alliances and gain new titles and wealth, but Edward IV, Elizabeth’s father, was the exception and married for love, as would Elizabeth’s son, Henry VIII.
Portcullis, greyhound, crowned Tudor rose, crowned hawthorn bush, red dragon
The portcullis is currently the symbol for parliament, an institution of justice and law, which Henry VII did revolutionise during his reign. The portcullis was also representative of his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as it was the symbol of her house.
Red is typically the colour that represents both military strength and magnanimity. The dragon represents valour and protection, and appears on the Welsh flag. This is possibly to demonstrate Henry’s Welsh roots (he was born in Wales, and the Tudor name is Welsh).
The greyhound represents courage, loyalty and vigilance. Henry VII courageously took the crown on the battlefield, and was vigilant for anyone looking to take it away from him. He appears to have been loyal to his wife, and we don’t know for sure of any illegitimate children he may have had, or even any mistresses. Continue reading →
The aims of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions were to replace Henry VII on the English throne with what the people saw as the “true heir”. Henry VII was a usurper, and the only Lancastrian claimant left since the death of Henry VI in 1471.
The cause of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions was the fact that Henry VII was a usurper with no real claim to the throne. He had taken the throne from the Yorkist Richard III, who had usurped it from the rightful heir, the son of Edward IV – Edward V – and supposedly then had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, killed in the Tower of London. Henry’s claim to the throne came through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from the illegitimate line of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. The Beaufort line had been legitimised but barred from succeeding to the throne. The people of England weren’t entirely convinced that the Princes in the Tower were dead and, even if they were, the Earl of Warwick was another contender with a claim to the throne. Simnel pretended to be the Earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s elder brother, George Duke of Clarence. Warbeck pretended to be Richard Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. Neither were entirely convincing. Continue reading →
Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Michael Jones, The Women of the Cousins’ War: the Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother (London: Simon and Schuster Ltd, 2011), Hardback, ISBN 978-0-85720-177-5
Title: Although the book is called The Women of the Cousins’ War, the book only examines a few of them – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. It doesn’t look at Margaret of Anjou or Anne Neville in a lot of detail. Nevertheless, a good study of those it does examine in detail.
Preface: The preface discusses several important questions, like why write about these women? What’s so important about them? It also goes a lot wider, looking at what history is, and what fiction is, and how they can go together. There is also a sub-section on women’s place in history. The introduction is a little long, almost as long as a chapter. Continue reading →
Lambert Simnel claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, the eldest son of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, who was in Henry VII’s care in the Tower of London.[i] The success (or failure) of Simnel’s rebellion hinged on the Earl of Warwick – Henry VII could prove that Simnel wasn’t Warwick.[ii] Obviously, Simnel wasn’t Warwick because Warwick was in the Tower, and can’t be in two places at once. The idea for passing him off as Warwick came about after it was rumoured that Warwick had escaped from the Tower. The initial idea was to have passed him off as one of the Princes in the Tower.[iii] After the death of Edward IV and the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, Warwick was the next in line to the throne, even though his father had been indicted for treason. What did sway public opinion were the actions of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, who supported Simnel and recognised him as her nephew.[iv] This added foreign support to Simnel’s cause, and it was probably only the fact that Henry VII could produce the real Warwick that saved his throne. Continue reading →
Foreign alliances were the backbone of the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603). They were a way to demonstrate support for a new dynasty, and cement its credentials. The claim of Henry VII to the English throne wasn’t that strong on its own, but was strengthened by political marriages, like that of Katherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur in 1501. However, wars also demonstrated that the dynasty had a right to the throne – Henry VII claimed that since he beat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Richard wasn’t the rightful ruler and Henry was. Foreign alliances were also used to neutralise threats from enemy countries, like Scotland. Several of these instances will be examined in the following essay.
The most important foreign alliance in the sixteenth century was the marriage of Prince Arthur, heir to Henry VII, to Katherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1501.This marriage demonstrated that the Spanish monarchy recognised the claim of the Tudors to the English throne. Refusing the marriage would show that the Spanish didn’t believe Henry VII to be the rightful King of England. Continue reading →