To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy
Originally published as Uneasy Lies the Head
Just over a week ago I read the fantastic “Sunne in Splendor” by Sharon Kay Penman, which chronicled the majority of the War of the Roses and the life of King Richard III of England. Following the reign of Henry VII from the birth of his son Arthur – not long after his defeat of Richard at Bosworth Field – “To Hold the Crown” was a perfect follow-up by another masterful writer.
“To Hold the Crown” is not the story of Henry VII himself so much as the story of his reign. The third person narrative is omniscient in turn with specific characters: Henry VII; Elizabeth Woodville; Elizabeth of York; the future Henry VIII; Katherine of Aragon; even Katherine’s brother-in-law Philip I of Castile, also known as Philip the Handsome.
Here I just need to take a quick detour to say that I really don’t understand the 15th/16th century concept of beauty. THIS man is “the Handsome”????
Philip didn’t have that much to do with the story, though, so enough about him. The meat of it was Henry’s worry about his throne when members of the House of York – either real or imagined – threatened his claim to the crown, his worry about his heirs – weak Arthur and flashy Henry, and his attempt to be recognized by other heads of state as a legitimate ruler.
Although I didn’t particularly like Plaidy’s description of Elizabeth of York as a woman who was quite content to be a milquetoast, the book as a whole was very engaging, perhaps even one of Plaidy’s better works. Plus, I quite enjoyed reading about a man who is usually skipped over in historical fiction, overshadowed by his infamous son and his controversial predecessor.