A Dangerous Inheritance – Alison Weir

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A Dangerous Inheritance is a novel about Kate Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard III, and Katherine Grey, sister of Jane Grey, who were born 70/80 years apart but are linked by their obsession of finding out what happened to the Princes in the Tower. It is a split narrative between the two main characters. Both women are fiesty and headstrong and are ruled more by their heart than their head which is dangerous given their close proximity to the throne at a time when the succession is an issue.

Katherine is tainted because of her association with her sister, Jane Grey. She converts back to the Catholic religion during the reign of Mary I and when Elizabeth comes to the throne many rally round Katherine, seeking to depose Elizabeth and install her on the throne instead with or without her consent. She is heir to Elizabeth and sees herself as the logical successor. She knows one wrong move could put her in danger but she marries Edward Seymour without Elizabeth’s consent anyway and is imprisoned when it is discovered that she is pregnant. It is a male child which makes her situation even worse. I felt that many of the ordeals faced by Katherine under Elizabeth were caused by her own poor decisions.

Very little is known about Kate Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard III. I didn’t even know she existed until I read this novel. But Weir painted her in great detail from the scant information there is on her.

The portrayal of Richard III in this book is an interesting one. Richard was a well-loved administrator during the reign of his brother, Edward IV. He loves his wife Anne and treats her and his children (legitmate and illegitimate) well. However, when Edward IV dies his personality seems to do a complete u-turn. He just changes. He becomes ruthless and pushes Anne away. He turns into the tyrant he has been portrayed as in history. I have have never been 100% on board with the whole Richard did it theory. Why would he kill his nephews? Surely, he knew he wouldn’t get away with it? He would have known people would turn on him, Yorkists and Lancastrians. There is no logical explanation as to why he would do it. The Tudors had more to gain, they knew people would turn on Richard paving a way for them to come in and take the throne. And as we know, the victor writes the history so Richard’s name was blackened. That’s just my opinion though.

At points you forget how young Kate and Katherine are, especially Kate who is only 17 when she dies having been married for a few years already.

There are short interludes towards the end of the novel in Elizabeth’s voice which I think are to help us understand her draconian treatment of Katherine but I don’t think they do. I really didn’t like Elizabeth in this novel.

At one point in the novel Elizabeth I tells Katherine ‘We poor creatures are but pawns on a chessboard.’ and this is true for women at the time. Married off for financial or political gain, at the mercy of their fathers and then husbands with no rights of their own. Even the rich and royal women of the time had no freedoms.

This book could be two completely different novels. The only thing linking the two main characters is the fact that they are both trying to discover what happened to the princes in the Tower but it does work having the stories weaved together.

I enjoyed the novel. I would recommend it.

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