To Hold the Crown – Book Review

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.

Buy this book on Amazon.

22 comments to To Hold the Crown – Book Review

  • Sounds interesting! I’ll have to check this one out.

  • I saw this book reviewed somewhere else just yesterday. you both did a great job because I’m very intrigued and am considering reading it.

    Yeah….they’re real hotties aren’t they?

  • Laughing over here! Maybe you just had to live back then to get the handsome thing! He had to have looked better in person (you would hope).

  • Lol about the handsome men! I always think about that too, and wonder what they really looked like.

  • It seems like there is a lot of great historical fiction coming out for this time period. Sharon Kaye Penman is high on my list nut I just haven’t been able to get to her yet!

    and Philip is not all that.

  • Most historical nicknames actually come from chroniclers and monks writing about the king/queen/prince, not actual nicknames they had, especially when they were numbered. There are exceptions, but this is by and large what happened. So in Philip’s case, it’s entirely likely that some monk found him hideous and decided to label him handsome just for fun, or he could have spread that nickname about himself to get a better reputation. I don’t know for sure, but it seems more likely to me based on your evidence. 😉

    Then again, we have anecdotal evidence for Edward IV being considered a ravishing guy, but I don’t think so! Either that or they just failed at painting realistically attractive men, which is another very strong possibility.

    Henry VII drives me up the wall, so I’ll be skipping this one, but based on your appreciation of her I have several Plaidy books on my TBR pile now. =)

  • Just stopping by from Natasha’s Blog. I’ll have to check this one out. My husband is British. Unlike Meghan, I find Henry the VII really interesting. A man who was really truly into himself. I find it amazing that he got away with all that he did. I love historical fiction.

  • I haven’t read this one yet, but I like Plaidy and I don’t have a problem reading about Henry VII. If only I had enough time to read everything I have on my wish list.

  • I just read your previous post about the book’s original title, “Uneasy Lies the Head”, and I couldn’t stop laughing. What a great title for a book about Henry the VII. Wait…I can’t remember my Roman numerals V is 5 and each I is one more…8 is VIII then right? Ten is X? Nine is IX and 11 is XI?

    Sheesh I don’t know. I think we all know we are talking aboout Henry the 8th! I’ve gotten way off-topic. I think they should have kept the original title…way, way funnier.

  • This one sounds good, yet another for the wish list. I’ve never understood their definition of good looking either.

  • I agree with you…I never see what women then saw in their men!?

    I have this one on the shelf and glad to see that you enjoyed it. I really like Plaidy books!

  • Ali

    I just read somewhere (Raucous Royals, maybe) that black teeth were considered attractive back then because the royals ate so many more sweets than anyone else that their teeth rotted earlier. So maybe we’re just not seeing the “best” of Philip in this portrait, LOL.

  • Oh – I just love historical fiction. It helps to shed a little light on life in those times, and the intrigue that could be found!

    :) Wendi

  • Maybe the portrait adds ugly just like the camera adds 10 pounds. LOL! I suppose times can change what is viewed as handsome, but I wonder if fear of reprisal had anything to do with it.

  • This sounds like an excellent book! I love these kinds of books…definitely going on the TBR list!

  • Thanks for the wonderful review! This book is on my TBR!

  • I just finished this book. I have enjoyed it very much. I agree with you in saying that it’s one of Jean Plaidy’s better works. I really like how she has portrayed Henry VII, I can emphatize with his character. He was very committed to his title and worried sick over it. He was the parent that paved the way for the child who will ultimately, over spend and over indulge. Also the way she portrays young Henry cracked me up, she has all but called him a rude, spoiled brat, a forshadowing of the man he will become.
    I’m sure there is a great deal of conjecture in her portrayal, but all in all it was a very interesting book a good read that I recommend.

    Susie’s last blog post..A Scottish Treasure…

  • […] go read Jen at Devourer of Books’ review of To Hold the Crown and you’ll know why I sent you over […]

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  • […] from “Devourer of Books” has an insightful and funny review you need to read of  To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy, who is the queen of  books on that subject.  Plus, check out the picture […]