The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the story of Anne Neville, youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick or the ‘Kingmaker’, and later wife and Queen of Richard III. The novel follows Anne from her early childhood with her sister Isabel, through the twists and turns of history (and her father’s ever-changing allegiances) to her eventual bid for freedom and ultimately, the English crown. This book is the fourth instalment in Philippa Gregory’s “The Cousins’ War” series.
I really enjoyed this book. Married first to the heir of the House of Lancaster then later to a brother of the House of York, Anne’s life was short but almost relentlessly exciting. Philippa Gregory strives hard in this series of novels to place female characters at the centre of events, to create players rather than pawns. With Anne Neville her task is a hard one, and at times it is difficult to get away from the fact that Anne is very much a chess-piece, first for her father, then for King Edward and finally her husband Richard. There’s no doubt that Anne regains some of her autonomy in her choice to run away and marry Richard, but it is also evident that Richard has his own motives for the match, thus dulling any sense of true victory for Anne.
I found Gregory’s Anne very likeable: she is a privileged woman with an inherent sense of arrogance and entitlement, but she is not without humour and good nature. I also enjoyed Gregory’s portrayal of Anne’s marriage to Richard; for all their political manoeuvring, they both clearly loved one another. I also liked seeing Richard through Anne’s eyes – Philippa Gregory does a fantastic job of painting a picture of a shrewd politician, a fair and honourable man, and a loving husband, whilst also hinting through Anne’s own words that there is another side to him, one which Anne is either unable or unwilling to see. I think that ultimately this is what I love most about all of this series of books, this one included: it is essentially the same story, but the heroes and villains change depending on the point of view of the storyteller. In this book, the White Queen Elizabeth Woodville is Anne’s grave enemy, painted as a powerful witch, a seductress, and a murderer – a far cry from the motherly beauty of the White Queen indeed!
I look forward to reading the White Princess next, where the story will move on a little to the advent of Tudor England, and I suspect where we will get to see a different version of Anne’s King Richard altogether.