The King's Daughter. A Novel of the First Tudor Queen
by Sandra Worth

Published: 2008-12-02
Paperback : 416 pages
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Elizabeth of York, England's first Tudor queen was born into the era of violence that ended the valiant Plantagenet dynasty and ushered in the reign of the Tudors. She lived at the very epicenter of the Wars of the Roses and knew intimately four very different kings: her golden father, Edward IV, ...
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Elizabeth of York, England's first Tudor queen was born into the era of violence that ended the valiant Plantagenet dynasty and ushered in the reign of the Tudors. She lived at the very epicenter of the Wars of the Roses and knew intimately four very different kings: her golden father, Edward IV, who she adored; her unfortunate brother, Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower; her uncle, Richard III, who she loved; and her husband, Henry VII, who she pitied. For a brief moment in history she alone held her own destiny, and the fate of her people, in her hands. Through the shocking twists and turns of her dramatic life, England's beloved queen, “Elizabeth the Good” would come face to face with the consequences of her decision, one that changed the face of England forever, and sealed the fate of those she loved.

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Daughter of the King, 1470

Hoodman's Bluff was so much fun with my fa-

ther! I hid behind a pillar and peeked out. He was heading toward me, fumbling like a blind man. “Elizabeth, Elizabeth!” he called. “Where are you? I can't see you.” I laughed. Of course, he couldn't see me! He was blindfolded with the black silk scarf I had tied tightly around his eyes. I ran through the chamber, shrieking with delight as I evaded his outstretched hands.

As he headed in my direction, I abandoned the pillar and fled around the big table in the center of the room, across to the win-dow seat. I waited there and tried to be silent, but I burst into a fit of giggling when he bumped into a wall and knocked over a candelabra. There was no one else I'd rather play with, not even my sisters Mary and Cecily, who were younger than I, for they cried too much. But my father was al-ways laughing. He was nearly as big as the dragon he had told me about in one of his tales, yet he was beautiful, not scary. He looked nothing like a dragon with his blond hair tumbling around his blindfold. Though I couldn't see the twinkling blue light in his eyes behind his scarf, his love en-folded me as warmly as my favorite blanket as he chased me about the room.

Papa was close now, as if he knew I stood on the window seat. I looked around the room to see where I should go next. In the corner, behind the coat of armor! I scrambled down from the window seat and ran there, shriek-ing. Smiling servants stepped aside to make way for me. The nobles who had been gather-ing for the past hour gave me smiles, too.

My father turned around as if he could see from the back of his head, and made for my direction again. I squealed with fear and ran toward the silver cabinet against the opposite wall. I crouched be-side the chest, not making a sound, not even daring to breathe. The man-at-arms by the door turned to give me an encouraging look.

More nobles entered the hall. This was a bad sign. My father would soon have to stop our game and meet with them around a table behind closed doors. But for now they dropped their gloomy looks to give me kindly smiles as I ran past them into my father's privy chamber. In spite of his blindfold, my father seemed to know exactly where I was, for he moved to follow. He nearly caught me several times as I fled, but I ducked, and he grabbed the arm of a chair instead and bumped the corner of a table. I was glad to be alone with him. Away from his lords, Papa might forget about them and we could play a while longer.

There was nothing in the bedchamber but a four-poster bed, a tall chest, and some large chairs and cushions by the hearth. Papa would never catch me on the bed, for it was huge and I could easily elude him there. I caught at one of the bedposts and hopped up.


My mother's sharp voice stopped me in my tracks. I ceased my giggling and stood very still on the bed, trying to keep my balance on the soft feather mattress that was cov-ered with a shiny silk bedspread of golden suns and white roses, my father's emblem. I didn't smile anymore, and neither did my father. He took off his blindfold and looked at my mother. She stood in the door-way, her face stern, her gold hair like a halo under her cone-shaped velvet headdress and gauzy veil. But then, unlike my father, my mother seldom smiled. When she entered the chamber, I knew she was angry about something.

“Edward, sometimes I do wonder about you! Playing Hoodman's Bluff with Elizabeth as if you had no care in the world. When your council awaits to discuss urgent matters with you.”

“My dear Bess, what cares do I have? What urgent matters await?” Papa laughed. “Is there not peace in my kingdom? Do my nobles not love me, every last one?” He went to my mother and bent down to kiss her cheek, for though she was tall, he was taller than any man I had ever seen.

“Edward, you do try my patience, you know,” she sighed.

He knelt at her feet and took her hand as if he were Sir Lancelot before Queen Guinevere. “Dear love, tell me how I can get you to smile?”

Her lips curled up a little. “There is a way, Edward.”

“I knew there would be, Bess,” he said, rising to his feet. “There always is.”

The joy had gone out of him, and he was different. I couldn't tell why, but I knew something was wrong.

“Leave us, Elizabeth,” said my mother.

I jumped down from the bed. My mother and father watched me leave the room. I shut the chamber door. The happiness had gone out of me, too.

Outside, the nobles around the table watched me, and they no longer smiled ei-ther.

My father came to me later that night. I was

in my shift and Nurse was brushing my hair and getting me ready for bed. “Papa!” I cried, running to him in my happiness. He swept me up in his strong arms. I always felt safe there. He gave me a kiss. His breath smelled of wine. Then he looked over at Nurse and threw her a nod of dismissal. She curtsied and shut the door quietly as she left.

“My sweetheart, we had fun today, didn't we?”

I nodded happily. “Wagons and wagons of fun, Papa!” I gave him a tight embrace and kissed him on the cheek

“Sometimes we amuse ourselves, and some-times we must tend to weighty matters.”

He sat down with me in a chair by my bed. I snuggled in his lap, my arm around his neck. I waited for him to speak again, for he had fallen silent.

“Your mother wished me not to inform you,” he said at last. “But I have decided you should know.”

“Know what, Papa?”

“I have betrothed you to George Neville, nephew to the Earl of Warwick.”

“Warwick the Kingmaker?”

“Warwick,” my father corrected. “'Tis a mistake to call him Kingmaker. I owe my crown to no man.”

Papa must have known how bad I felt, for he kissed my brow, and said in a different voice, “George is a nice boy about your age. I feel sure you will like him, and if you don't, you will forgive me, Elizabeth? I had to do it.”

“Why, Papa?”

“'Tis hard to explain, but let me try. The Earl of Warwick has a brother who is a great general. He is loyal to me, though Warwick leads the rebellion against me.”

“His brother, the Earl of N-North-amber-land?” I got a bit tongue-tied on the long word, and Papa laughed.

“Northumberland. You are bright for your age, Elizabeth. Your mother said you wouldn't understand, but you do understand, don't you?”

I nodded vigorously. My mother didn't like me because I was a girl, not a boy, and thought me stupid. I wasn't stupid. I just didn't say much because I liked to listen. I reached out and drew my favorite blanket to me from the bed. It was wine and blue velvet, and stroking it between my fingers always helped soothe me.

“Warwick has broken faith with me,” my father said and fell silent again.

Because of Mama, I thought. But I didn't say it.

My father spoke. “And his brother, North-umberland, leads my forces. He will have to fight for me against his own kin. I cannot trust him to do that, so I have taken his earldom away from him. In return I have be-trothed his son to you, so he can feel he received something precious in return for the loss of his power.”

I drew my blanket closer to me as I con-sidered this. I am ashamed to admit I still cuddle my blanket when I sleep, for a maiden of nearly five years should have no need of it. But one thing I surely know. Though I shall give up my blanket one day, I shall have need of my father always. Hap-piness is being in his presence; happiness is sitting on his knee for a story and bal-ancing on his shoulders as he carries me around the castle halls. Even when I think I'm going to slip off, I'm not frightened, for I know he would not let me fall. How could I ever live without him?

“Will I have to leave you, Papa?” I held my breath as I waited for his answer.

“Not for a long time, my sweet.”

The warmth returned to me. “That's good. I don't want to leave you, Papa. I want us to be together forever, and ever.”

My father laughed. Then he gazed at me solemnly. “I love you, my beautiful Eliza-beth. May God in His mercy grant thee hap-piness all the years of thy life, my sweet little girl.”

It was a blessing, but the way he said it made me feel very sad.

All at once, life changed. My father left to

fight a battle, and in his absence my mother wept and cried, “Woe, woe!” Grand-mother Jacquetta kept telling her, “All will be well, my child. I know it will-” but Mother didn't seem to hear, for she would wail even louder. All around me, pan-icked servants rushed hither and thither as if the devil were chasing them, and crossed themselves in fear and cried to the Holy Virgin to save them. But no one would tell me what was wrong. “When is my father com-ing back?” I'd ask them. They'd burst into tears again, cover their faces and run away. These same people had laughed and made merry for my birthday in February, and I didn't understand how everything could be so different now. I felt very lonely and afraid.

One day my mother burst into the chamber where I was taking a music lesson and told me to hurry, we had to flee.

“Where are we going, Mama?” I called out as I ran after her, clutching my lute. But “Hurry, hurry!” was all she would say. We rushed along the castle halls with my half-brothers Tom and Dick Grey leading the way and servants carrying my sisters Mary and Cecily, and fled down the tower stairs, across the windy garth and into the clois-ters of Westminster Abbey. A gathering of monks met us and threw open the door of the chapter house and we hurried inside.

“You shall be safe here in sanctuary,” they said, “no matter what happens,” and lit some tapers, for dusk was falling.

The octagonal room was large, cold, and empty. My mother sank down into the straw on the floor, and sobbed. Grandmother Jac-quetta knelt beside her. “Have faith, Bess. Be strong. Remember the babe you carry in your belly. Edward will return. You shall deliver him a son, God willing.”

“Mama, I'm hungry,” I said.

“O woe, woe!” my mother cried.

“We have nothing to eat, Elizabeth,” Grandmother Jacquetta explained. “Maybe, if you're good, the monks will bring us some bread in the morning. Now go to sleep.”

I did as she bid and curled up on the straw. I dreamt of my father that night, and for many nights afterwards.

As the weeks passed, my brothers, Tom and Dick Grey, who had always resented me be-cause my father was a king and theirs had been merely a knight, grew meaner in their teasing. They were born of my mother's first marriage to Sir John Grey, killed in battle before Mother married Papa. From their behavior it was hard to guess Tom was nearly a man at thirteen, and Dick only two years younger, for they were more like rowdy boys than well-mannered courtly youths.

“This is all your father's fault!” they cried. “He has lost his throne and run away!”

“He has not, he has not!” I cried back, bursting into tears. But I learned that they were right. The Kingmaker's brother, whose son, George Neville, was my be-trothed, had turned against Papa and forced him to flee England. Now Papa was in Bur-gundy, trying to gather an army so he could fight for his throne.

The days bore down heavily on us. We were always cold and hungry, and we had few visitors. One who came was a butcher named John Gould. He wore a bloody apron but the meat he brought us of his own charity glad-dened my heart and much eased the growl in my belly. In gratitude, I included his name in my daily prayers. Another frequent visi-tor was Friar Bungey, whom I didn't like as well, for there was something odd about him. My mother and grandmother scarcely felt the same way, though, and they wel-comed him heartily, for he brought them news. In a corner of the chamber, they would huddle together, whispering and shar-ing secrets.

On All Hallows Eve, when my mother was close to giving birth, my brothers invited me to play with them. Then they locked me in the wine cellar. It was dark and damp, and I was frightened alone. I banged on the door and screamed for help as long as I could, but it did no good, and no one came. I finally grew tired and fell asleep on the stone floor among the kegs of wine.

Strange sounds woke me, and I sat up, rubbing my eyes.

It was a chant, and it came from behind the wine casks near the far wall. Torch-light threw shadows all around, but I made out three dark, hooded figures.

Anu, Enlik, Enk . . . Anu, Enlik, Enk-

la Nergal-ya! La zi annga kampa-

I wanted to run away, but I was too afraid to move. Gathering courage, I crept closer and peered around a barrel of wine into the shadows ahead. Though the walkway between the kegs was narrow, I could see straight through to the small torch-lit area between the stone arches and the stairs that led up to the chapter house. A black-draped altar stood against the wall, set with a metal offering bowl and a bra-zier. A few candles flickered on the floor around the figures, making it hard to see their faces as they moved in the uneven light, but I made out a chalk drawing of a gate on the stone floor at their feet. Four candles burned on the floor, one at each corner of the gate picture.

I stared hard at the three black figures in hooded cloaks. The fat one could be Friar Bungey. The other two had no shape beneath their hooded cloaks, but they looked familiar. They stood against the light, in deepest shadow, their backs to me, their faces hidden.

“In the name of the Covenant sworn be-tween Thee and the Race of Man, I call to thee! Harken and Remember! From the Gates of Hell I call Thee!”

I shivered at the hooded man's harsh voice. He threw a handful of something into the brazier and flames gushed out, then a puff of smoke went up into the air. A mo-ment later the air grew fragrant with in-cense.

“Nergal, Lord of the Offering of Battle, Ravager of the Enemy's towns, Devourer of the flesh of Man, remember!” He flattened himself on the floor. “For what comes on the wind can only be slain by he who knows the wind; and what comes on the seas can only be slain by he who knows water. Thus it is written in the ancient covenant.”

He rose again, took the offering bowl, set it on the floor and removed something from behind the curtained altar. A white rabbit squealed as he held it by the scruff of its neck. The man knelt and raised the knife. The animal cried and struggled for freedom. The blade flashed in the torch-light. He plunged it down hard.

“Nergal, God of Sacrifice, remember!” He lifted the offering bowl high in the air before setting it down again, and poured white flour around the circle twice. He turned back to the altar and raised his arms up over his head. I scooted forward to the cask in front of me and squinted into the shadows, my heart pounding hard, for I knew I wasn't supposed to be here.

“Know that evil spirits are seven, for the seven maskins that tear away the heart of a man and mock his gods.”

I shrank back behind the cask and covered my mouth to smother my gasp. The man had donned the hide of a donkey! For a moment I was frightened they'd heard me. He placed the metal pot on the brazier, worked it for a while and took it off. He removed a waxen image from the bowl and held it up. I strained to see what it was through the smoke. A bear? He threw it into the pot.

“Boil! Boil! Burn! Burn! I invoke you, Gods of the Night! The Bear is plagued with pain. He cannot stand upright or lie down, neither during the day, nor during the day. His mouth is stuffed with cords! His joy is sorrow, and his merriment is grief!” He took a knotted cord and threw it into the flames. “The word of his doom is spoken. His knot is broken. His work destroyed-”

My teeth began to chatter. Who was the Bear? Why did they want to break his knot? What did that mean? I didn't understand any of this, but I knew enough to will myself to be still. For if they discovered me, they might throw me into the boiling pot, too. I crunched my-self into a tighter ball and hugged my knees so I could keep myself stiff and mo-tionless.

The three figures were moving in a circle now, chanting. Their heads were bowed, and they seemed to be looking at the picture they had drawn on the floor. Their song gathered speed and they danced faster and faster. They screamed their words:

My images have thrown you to the ground of the dead

My images have buried you in a coffin with the dead

My images have given you over to destruc-tion!

The hoods fell off two cloaked figures. They were women: one, grey-haired; the other fair. They followed the donkey-man, black cloaks whirling, arms thrashing in a wild frenzy. I was terrified now. I couldn't breathe. These were witches, and everyone knew witches cut people's hearts out and ate them.

“God of the Night, issue a spell to cause consternation to the enemy and infuse his thoughts! A spell to cause ultimate de-struction! Spirit of the Graves, remember! His is the dark times!” The donkey-man held a book in one hand and sprinkled water with the other. One of the fearful figures moved out of the shadows. The smoke cleared. Her face was painted white and she was grinning like a madwoman. She kept whirling, kept moving out of the shadows into the circle of light. All at once she stood framed by an arch. The torches flared on her face. I stared. My mouth opened for a scream that reached my throat and trembled there, but no sound came. The witch-woman with the white face-

She was my mother.

No one knew what I had seen, for Tom and Dick

had told my mother I was in the privy when she'd asked about me. Soon afterwards, on the second of November, my mother grabbed her pregnant belly, gave a cry of pain, and almost fell down. My grandmother rushed to her side.

“Come, Bess-” my grandmother said. She led my mother behind the white silk curtain that divided the room.

“O woe is me!” my mother sobbed behind the curtain. “Woe, woe! A pallet on the straw instead of my beautiful room at the Tower for the birth of my child-how can this be? How, Mother?”

“Hush, daughter. If Edward wins the bat-tle, you will soon be back at the Tower.”

“'Tis the fault . . . of the . . . Nevilles,” my mother panted. “I shan't for-get it.”

“No, we won't forget.”

“If Warwick's brother . . . hadn't gone back . . . to his side, none of this would have happened . . . Edward would still . . . be king.”

“I know, daughter. I know.”

“A curse on that beast . . . that bear, Warwick . . . Kingmaker he calls . . . him-self! When I am back in the Tower . . . and queen again, Warwick will . . . wish he were dead!”

“Sssh!” said my grandmother. “It will be so. Did not the friar assure us? Now con-centrate on giving birth to this child. And make it a son.”

“A son!” my mother cried. “O God, give me a son!” Her voice went very loud and was filled with a terrible pleading that frightened me. Then she fell silent, except for her whimpers of pain.

There was a knock at the door of the chapter house. I rushed to open it. An old woman with big yellow teeth curtsied to me. “Marjory Cobb, midwife, m'little lady,” she said.

I threw the door wide open. With quick curtsies to me and my sisters, she hurried to my mother and grandmother behind the curtain.

“Me Graces,” she said. “I come at Dr. Sergio's call. His horse went lame and had to be re-shod. He's a-comin' soon as he can get another, m'ladies.”

I heard whispering and knew my grand-mother was telling the midwife about my mother. “Good, good,” the midwife kept mur-muring. After a short silence, broken only by my mother's moans, she said, “All's well enough. Should be soon now.”

I sat on the straw in the corner of the room, near the door, hugging my knees and rocking to and fro as my mother wailed be-hind the curtained partition. Within the hour, there was another knock at the door. I jumped up and sprang the latch. Dr. Ser-gio rushed in. His cloak was wet, for it was raining outside. He didn't greet me but went directly behind the curtain. The grown-ups murmured together while my mother screamed and sobbed.

“Push!” the midwife called. “Push, now, hard!”

“Hard!” said Dr. Sergio. “One more time!”

My mother screamed again, much louder this time. I hated that she was hurting so badly. My sisters did, too. They hollered and cried, and there was no consoling them, so I gave up and covered my ears, but it didn't help. My sister Cecily pulled my sister Mary's hair, and then screamed for my mother, and tried to run to her behind the curtain, but I stopped her. She strug-gled in my arms and cried louder. If my grandmother hadn't forbidden me to leave the chapter house, I would have fled to the cloisters to be with my brothers, Tom and Dick. Their joyful shouts as they played ball came to me through the window that was cranked open for air. I envied them. I gave Cecily a comb to play with and set her down. Bowing my head in my lap, I tried to remember the song my father used to sing me at bedtime.

“God be thanked!” cried the midwife. “'Tis a boy!”

“A son,” my grandmother said with wonder in her voice. “An heir!”

“A son and heir!” my mother cried. Her voice was strong again, and there was such pride in it. “A king!”

The next few weeks were filled with much ado about the babe. My mother fed him at her own breast, since we had no wet nurse and little food except the meat brought us by John Gould, the butcher. He gave it to us of his own charity, for we had no money or gold. Dr. Sergio came often to check the babe's health, and pronounced it good. He also brought us news of Papa.

“King Edward is still in Bruges, Your Grace, and his brother-in-law, Charles of Burgundy, refuses to see him. But in time King Edward will prevail. He always does.”

As Dr. Sergio was leaving, he passed me in my corner by the door and took my hand in his. “Child, why are you so cold? Why do you sit at the door as if to flee your fam-ily? Here, draw near to the brazier so you can get warm.”

I shook my head and recoiled. The brazier reminded me of the wine cellar.

“She has been acting strangely of late,” my grandmother said. “We can do nothing with her. She refuses even to eat the meat that the butcher brings us, and keeps her distance from us all.”

Dr. Sergio returned to her side and bent his head. He murmured something and I caught the word jealous.

Let them think what they wanted.

One snowy day, just before Yuletide, I opened

the door to a heavy knock. “Abbot Milling!” my mother called out before I could ex-change greetings with him.

I stepped aside and he rushed past me. Abbot Thomas Milling was a familiar face, and my mother always asked him the same question the moment she saw him.

“What new?” she demanded breathlessly,

I knew she was more anxious for the tid-ings he carried than for the food he said he brought for our souls, and on this occa-sion Abbot Milling was bursting to tell her.

“God be praised, Charles the Rash-I mean, the Bold-has seen fit to look with favor on King Edward's cause. He's outfitting a fleet for him as we speak.” He lowered his voice to a whisper and glanced over his shoulder. “Come, my daughters, let us gather round and pray for the success of King Edward against Warwick . . .”

I screwed my eyes shut hard. No one would pray harder for my father's victory against Warwick than I. To have my father near me again, to run with him around the castle halls again! All this seemed a dream to me, as if it had never happened, for it was so long ago . . .

Abbot Milling took confession from my mother and grandmother, and left.

On my fifth birthday, the eleventh of February, 1471, three days before the Feast of St. Valentine, Abbot Milling brought me a small slice of cake. I divided it into eight slivers; two for my sisters, two for my brothers, two for my mother and grand-mother, one for the abbot, and one for me. That meant no one got much more than a few crumbs, but oh, how sweet they tasted! He poured us wine and then he gave us the news.

“King Edward has left Burgundy for Eng-land. He is expected to return soon to give battle. But Henry VI's fiery French queen, Marguerite d'Anjou, has not departed France yet. 'Tis said she doesn't trust Warwick, though he has kept his word and restored her mad husband to the throne. 'Tis said she would rather dally in France than fight at his side for her husband.”

This news cheered my mother and grand-mother. They clinked their battered iron cups and laughed merrily as they drank, ig-noring the babe's cries for the first time since he was born.

“Now let us gather round and pray. Prayer is food for the soul, and food for the soul is as important as food for the body, is that not so?” Abbot Milling said, as was his wont.

Dr. Sergio and Abbot Milling came many more times, bringing us small gifts and whispering their news. Then on a blustery day in March, Friar Bungey came. I opened the door at his knock and shrank back when I saw who it was. Leaving the door to slam in the wind, I fled to the back of the room and hid my head in my arms.

“Elizabeth! How rude of you,” my grand-mother said angrily while my mother opened the door to him again. Grandmother came and stared down at me. “Whatever is the matter with you, child? Come and apologize immedi-ately!”

I didn't move. I didn't even lift my head to look at her. Then I felt my mother's shadow fall over me. Slowly, I peeked up from between my arms.

She pulled my head back by the roots of my hair and slapped me hard across the cheek. “Come this instant, Elizabeth,” my mother hissed through the ringing in my ear, “or you shall receive a beating you will never forget.” She took my hand and pulled me to my knees. I was so afraid that I wet myself. Ashamed and miserable, I made a curtsy to Friar Bungey, hoping no one no-ticed. Friar Bungey nodded and made the sign of the cross over my head, but he didn't appear to see me. His eyes held a strange glitter, and he turned his atten-tion to my mother right away.

“The battle will be fought very soon, Your Grace. Warwick has refused to lay down his arms for a royal pardon if he submits. But not all the tidings are ill. The king's brother, George, Duke of Clarence, has abandoned Warwick's side and joined King Edward's-where he belonged from the first, God be praised!”

“Amen!” my mother and grandmother cried together.

“Both sides are marching to join battle. You must pray.”

It was very silent in sanctuary after he left. My mother and grandmother didn't say a word and went about their tasks without talking to one another. My sisters and the babe cried, but I tended them as best as I could. I, too, dwelled on my thoughts, which were of my father, and I didn't speak unless spoken to. When the abbey monks be-gan to chant their hymns for Vespers, we all knelt and prayed. Even my little sis-ters placed their palms together and mur-mured along with us.

The days passed, but no news arrived un-til after Easter. One night as we were din-ing, seated on straw in our bare room, there was a commotion of men outside. The door burst open, and soldiers stumbled in. We leapt to our feet and stared at them. We all knew they brought news of battle.

“York has lost!” cried one of the men, collapsing against the wall. “York has lost . . .”

I looked at my mother and grandmother. Both had gone as white as the sheets we used to sleep on. Slowly, my grandmother let herself down on the floor and sat there, not saying a word. My mother stood in the middle of the room. She looked be-wildered, as if she had not understood. Her mouth moved to speak, but no words came.

Then she fell wailing to the floor.

I lay awake in my corner on the straw all night,

curled up with my sisters. My mother cried, and my grandmother comforted her, and the church bells struck the hour, and the monks chanted their hymns.

“We are undone!” my mother kept sobbing. “Warwick will slay us.”

“Hush, daughter. Warwick would never do such a thing. He is a knight, and takes his knightly oath most seriously.”

“He can't let us go!”

“He may keep us confined, but he wouldn't kill us. We are no threat to him-” She broke off. A silence hung in the air.

“We are not,” my mother said, “but the babe is.” She burst into a fresh fit of sobbing.

“Daughter, we know not for sure what hap-pened at Barnet. First reports of battle are often wrong. Edward may still live. Ed-ward may have even won. I remember at Agin-court-”

My mother sobbed louder.

All through the night it went like this: my mother thinking dire thoughts, and my grandmother telling about her life. She had been a princess of Luxembourg, and had seen much in her time. She had wed the Duke of Bedford, and since King Henry had no queen then, she'd been first lady of the land be-fore she'd ever wed my grandfather, Sir Richard Woodville.

As dawn broke, our chamber filled with light. My sisters awakened and the babe stirred and cried for his food. My mother gave him the breast. When a group of monks came to our door with a few eggs, some cheese, and some bread, we said our prayers and gathered round to break fast. We had just finished the eggs and taken a sip of wine when a great noise came from the abbey courtyard. Horses snorted and men shouted, and there was the clank of armor.

“Can we go see what's happening?” Tom asked.

“Can we go see what's happening?” Dick asked. He always repeated what his brother said, for he was only ten and wanted to ap-pear as grown as his older brother.

“Go,” my mother whispered, “but be very careful, and keep away from them. They might be Lancastrians and take you cap-tive.”

The boys ran to the door.

“Don't forget to come back and tell us what you learn,” Grandmother said.

My mother and grandmother took one an-other's hand as they waited and bowed their heads in prayer: Ave maria gracia plena dominus te-cum . . .

As the voices of men and clanging of ar-mor grew louder, and the footsteps drew nearer, I looked at my mother. She had gone very pale, and her voice was a low murmur. Suddenly the chamber door burst open and my magnificent father stood there, laughing. He shone like a king from an illuminated manuscript, his plumed helmet with the golden emblem of sun and roses under his arm, his fair hair falling around his face. He was beaming from ear to ear, and he lit up our drab chamber like a torch.

“Papa, Papa!” I cried, tears blinding me. I ran to him and he swept me up into his arms. Oh, how wonderful it felt to be in his arms again! I hugged him tight. He was the sun, and the moon, and the stars in the sky! He was the rainbow, and laughter and light. I didn't dare blink in case he dis-appeared. I heard my mother's cry of joy and my sisters' giggles as they threw them-selves against his legs.

“Fortune has turned her wheel and smiled on us again,” my grandmother marveled. “Welcome, King Edward!”

My mother held up my brother. “Behold thy son!” she said. “I have named him Edward!”

I shall never forget the look of joy on my father's face as he saw my brother for the first time.

We moved into the palace that night. How

good it felt to have sweets, and soft sheets, and to be surrounded by velvet again instead of straw! Gathered around the fire, seated in my father's lap, my broth-ers and sisters at his knees, we learned what happened at the Battle of Barnet.

“We were outnumbered, as usual,” my fa-ther laughed. “But we were victorious-as usual!”

“How, Papa? Tell us how!” I insisted, jumping up and down in his lap, and then all my sisters and brothers chimed in to demand the same.

“You will not believe it. 'Twas almost supernatural!” my father said, a look of wonder in his eyes. “On Easter Sunday, just before we gave battle, a great mist came down from the sky. It descended over the field of Barnet and confounded my enemies, so they did not know who was their foe and who their friend. And they slew one an-other, not knowing who they slew. That's how we won!”

A strange chill stole over me.

“And Warwick?” my mother asked quietly.

“Warwick is dead.”

My mother smiled. “And his brother, John Neville?”


My father put me down and rose abruptly, the smile gone from his face.

He left before dawn the next morning. There was another battle he had to fight. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. From her youth, Elizabeth of York displays an extraordinary generosity of spirit, buoyed by the affection of her father, Edward IV, and her uncle, Richard III. As the wife of Henry Tudor, do these earlier relationships afford Elizabeth the courage to face a difficult future or blind her to the devious natures of those who dominate the Tudor court?

2. Elizabeth falls deeply in love with Richard III; on her deathbed, his queen, Anne Neville, encourages the girl to comfort Richard when she is gone. How do you feel about Elizabeth's love for her uncle Richard and Anne's unusual request? Is it shocking? Is it possible to remain faithful to the memory of love?

3. Confinement is a recurring theme in Elizabeth of York's life, in sanctuary with her mother, Bess Woodville, through Anne Neville's long journey towards death and years of virtual imprisonment by Henry and Margaret Beaufort. How do such restrictions define Elizabeth's world and the choices she makes?

4. Elizabeth of York is a pawn to her mother's ambition, and Bess's consummate greed rivaled only by Henry Tudor's mother, the overweening Margaret Beaufort. Discuss the relationships of these three women. Why is Elizabeth so unlike her mother and mother-in-law?

5. When Richard III is killed at Bosworth Field, the Age of Chivalry dies with him; the victorious Henry Tudor, crowned Henry VII, initiates a reign of terror, impoverishment and war. As Henry's wife, Elizabeth is powerless against a vindictive husband and a mother-in-law who controls her every move. How does Elizabeth adapt to her changed circumstances?

6. In Henry VII's revisionist history, Richard III is a hunchback, “two years in the womb”, a monster. From the advantage of Elizabeth's perspective, do you have a different opinion of Richard? Would such a man be capable of murdering the princes in the Tower?

7. The royal daughter of Edward IV, Elizabeth is loved by her subjects, relieving the suffering of her subjects whenever possible. How does Elizabeth of York's popularity contrast with the country's hatred of Henry VII and his mother? Why does Margaret Beaufort replicate Elizabeth's gowns, shadowing the queen's every move?

8. After the devastation of the War of the Roses, Elizabeth hopes to unite the kingdom through her marriage to Henry Tudor. But after the death of Perkin Warbeck and Elizabeth's cousin Edward, it is clear Henry will destroy any perceived threat to his throne. Given the consequences of her union with Henry, has Elizabeth made a terrible mistake in thinking she alone can change the course of history? Why/ why not?

9. Witness to Henry's every heinous act, Elizabeth later regrets her lack of assertiveness: “All my life I had avoided confrontation so much that I rarely voiced thoughts when they were unpleasant.” Is Elizabeth's penchant for peacemaking a flaw or a gift? Explain.

10. Because of her enduring love of Richard III, Elizabeth has a profound empathy for Catherine Gordon, widow of Perkin Warbeck, who may be Elizabeth's brother Ned, one of the princes in the Tower. Which suffers the most despair, Catherine, who publicly grieves, or Elizabeth, who must hide her feelings? Do the memories of Richard sustain Elizabeth or bring her more pain?

11. One of Elizabeth's great conflicts is her feelings toward her sons. She adores Arthur, a noble son and heir to the throne, and is frightened of the arrogant Harry, who flaunts his cruelty (“He's a Tudor and Arthur was a Plantagenet.”). Why does Elizabeth so easily love her eldest son, yet find it impossible to feel the same way about his brother? What might she have done differently with Harry?

12. Reflecting on Anne Neville's unabated grief, which contributes to Richard's despair, Elizabeth endures; after many losses, she declares, “Death has grown over fond of me and refuses to release its embrace.” Discuss Elizabeth's belief in God's will and her reliance on prayer to survive the most difficult of circumstances.

13. The fate of the princes in the Tower remains history's great mystery? After reading The King's Daughter, what do you believe might have been the fate of these boys? Who was responsible for their deaths? Was Perkin Warbeck really Elizabeth of York's brother, Ned?

14.. How do you feel about Elizabeth of York's life: the short years of Richard's devotion, the marriage to Henry Tudor that fails to fulfill its promise, the heartbreaking irony of Arthur's death and young Harry's frightening pragmatism, the boy who will become Henry VIII? Daughter of a king, sister of a king, wed to a king and mother of a king, what is Elizabeth's legacy?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

What made you want to write this book? What was the idea that sparked your imagination?

Elizabeth of York made an appearance in my previous novel on Richard III, The Rose of York, and I couldn't forget the young, compassionate princess who had fallen in love with her uncle, and who later won the hearts of her people and became known as Elizabeth the Good. I found myself wondering what it was like for her to be married to Henry Tudor, and to be mother to the future Henry VIII. My research led me into the dark corners of her life, and with the help of a medievalist friend, we made some amazing and dramatic discoveries. When Penguin asked me for another book, there was no question -- I knew it had to be Elizabeth of York!

What do you want readers to take away with them after reading the book?

I would like my readers to remember this lost queen who is virtually forgotten by history, and what it was like for her back in that time. She found the strength, courage and faith to see her through her challenges, and perhaps, across the centuries, Elizabeth can reach out to us and inspire us to do the same.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Historical figures from the era are presented in an intriguing and interesting manner that leads to many discussions."by Bernice J. (see profile) 03/10/09

Our book club held a phone conference with Sandra Worth. I enjoyed the whole experience. I was a bit apprehensive at the idea, but she impressed me with her depth of knowledge of the historical period... (read more)

  "Elizabeth of York was a very wise woman who was full of wisdom and emotion and love,"by Mary L. (see profile) 03/10/09

I had a hard time in the beginning because I had a hard time keeping up with so many characters. After the first 100 pages I got engrossed in the book and felt more at ease with all the characters. the... (read more)

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