The widely perceived image of Richard III is a murderer, tyrant and usurper of the English throne. In Phillippa Gregory’s most recent novel The Kingmaker’s Daughter, she humanizes his character by presenting him through the eyes of his wife Anne Neville, “The Kingmaker’s Daughter”; away from Shakespeare’s image of a withered hunchback. There is very little historical evidence on Anne Neville, other than her positions as Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick’s daughter, and Richard III’s wife. However in both her roles as a historian and novelist, Gregory attempts to fill in the gaps in history to construct a narrative that largely reflects the struggling position of women during the 15th Century.
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the fourth book in Gregory’s ‘The Cousin’s War’ series and looks at the period before the unforgettable reign of Henry VIII. The novel is presented from the perspective of Anne as it chronicles her life from the tender age of eight years old. Due to the lack of historical evidence surrounding the character of Anne, the novel I found to be intriguing as once again Gregory uses her skills as both an author and a historian to both educate and entertain her readers. Through Anne and her sister Isabelle, Gregory highlights the position of women within a rich society and encourages sympathy from her audience. Both Anne and her sister are continually used as pawns by their father in a ruthless and political game to satisfy his own desires of supreme power.
An interesting feature of the novel is the positive and sympathetic light that is cast over the characterisation of Richard III. Gregory moves confidently away from the Shakespearean image of Richard, which has served its propaganda purpose to blacken his reputation for centuries, and focuses solely on his actions as both a loyal brother and husband.
To those of you who prefer their historical novels to be strictly accurate and challenging, then Philippa Gregory’s novels are perhaps not for you; especially in this novel due to the lack of evidence surrounding Anne Neville. However, what she does demonstrate is a flair for dramatizing historical events and transporting the reader so that they become lost in the past. She also provides a voice for a woman whose story is often forgotten.