Daughter of York

Written by Anne Easter Smith
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In Easter Smith’s second voyage into the lives and hearts of the children of the House of York, Margaret is put into clear focus after centuries of attention paid to her brothers, Edward IV and Richard III.

The story of the York progeny is one of legend. But as she did in A Rose for the Crown, Easter Smith takes a more creative approach to the retelling. She pairs Margaret with the one man who could have been her lifelong love – Anthony Woodville, Edward IV’s brother-in-law. Although there is nothing in historical annals that compels a finding that Margaret and Anthony were lovers, Easter Smith uses this “invention” to take whatever literary freedoms she needs to make Margaret a flesh-and-blood woman of her time, and one to whom modern women can relate.

Politically astute, gutsy and wise, Margaret understood the way of the world. While recognizing that her marriage would be a political one – Edward married her off to Duke Charles of Burgundy, a miserable wretch by most accounts, notwithstanding his brilliant military mind – Margaret remained a significant player in political circles. Her counsel was often sought, even by Charles’s advisors and Charles himself. While Margaret remained childless (perhaps the greatest pain she bore), she was a generous, loving woman to her servants, her brother George’s illegitimate son who she raised, and the Burgundian people.

Easter Smith does an extraordinary job navigating through Margaret’s early life immediately after her father’s death, through the throes of young womanhood and into maturity, all with impeccable detail to period (costume, court intrigues, music, dance) – yet never letting us lose sight of Margaret as a fully realized woman. The pages of this sizeable novel are peopled not only by the Yorks, but also by William Caxton, for instance, who clearly plays an important role in the Margaret-Anthony connection.

A dense, pleasurable read; highly recommended.