A Dangerous Inheritance

Written by Alison Weir
Review by Gwen Sly

Being born with royal blood running through the veins can be a most significant disadvantage. Alison Weir, getting into stride as a historical novelist, shows how such a tincture can destroy the lives of those with a dangerous inheritance. Interweaving fact and fiction, she gives a portrait of two Katherines: kinswomen from different ages.

Katherine Plantagenet is the bastard daughter of Richard III who, when he fell at Bosworth Field in 1485, left his illegitimate children without a claim to the throne. Henry Tudor, with even less claim, became King Henry VII by conquest. Kate wishes to quell the rumours surrounding the loving father she no longer recognises, with the seeming implications of the disappearance of his brother’s sons.

Katherine Grey is tainted as the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey, whose brief reign as Queen ended in 1533. Being rightly heir to Elizabeth I through her Grandmother Suffolk, she marries without consent and is imprisoned when her pregnancy is discovered; a male child would be a challenge to Elizabeth’s already shaky throne. Consigned to the Tower, she hears voices calling for help.

Thus the Katherines are brought together across time to debate the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Although the character of Katherine Grey is written in the first person and that of Kate Plantagenet in the third, the story tends to be slightly bewildering as the time-slips occur frequently and readjustment is required for place. This detracts from the cohesion of the novel.

Each Katherine is worthy of a book to herself, and writings about the Princes are legion. By creating a story from all of these facets, the author introduces an imaginative narrative and clearly wishes to have the reader persuaded as to the plausibility of chronicled events. The mystery, however, remains, echoing down the centuries, the truth just out of reach.