The Irish Princess

Written by Karen Harper
Review by Ann Chamberlin

She says she is sometimes mistaken for the English princess, Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth, with whom she shares a given name and the red hair, the heroine of this first-person addition to the Tudor industry. Born in Ireland claimed by Henry VIII, royal on both sides, daughter of the Earl of Kildare, Elizabeth Fitzgerald sees her home destroyed, her father dead in London’s Tower, her brothers in rebellious hiding, her whole family under interdict. Is it refuge or a state of hostage she finds in the English court? Here she brushes shoulders with a string of well-known figures: Lady Jane Grey, Catherine Howard, the princesses Mary and Elizabeth, Dudley. Married first to an old man much her senior, she is finally able to find a fairy-tale life, complete with pirate raid, with Edward Clinton, the English navy’s dashing admiral.

Seeing the well-known characters from this perspective is interesting, and Harper has certainly done her research. Perhaps because the time period is so well worn, I felt even a rebel princess in this treatment did not arise above the lackluster and contrived. She feels herself avenged on the impossible Henry VIII; I do not. Prozac might have been helpful to survive as a woman in this bloodthirsty time, but I did not think it helped this novel. Perhaps real life into old age requires acceptance and real events defuse.