The King’s Mistress

Written by Emma Campion
Review by Ilysa Magnus

The story is based on the theory that Alice Perrers’ first husband, Janyn Perrers, was embroiled in some dark secret concerning Edward III’s father, Edward II and his queen, Isabella of France. When Janyn dies mysteriously whilst away in Europe, Alice is given the protection of the court and becomes a lady in waiting to Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife to Edward III. Gradually, over the years and with the increasing infirmity of the queen, Alice becomes the king’s mistress.

There are two schools of thought about Alice: one that she was greedy, grasping and out for all she could get, and the second that she was of a much gentler nature, although very clever, and was more the victim of circumstance than a scheming woman with an eye to the main chance. Emma Campion’s book follows the second one.

Although I knew that Edward III fathered a large number of children, not all by his wife, I had not come across this particular character before, but she certainly existed. Woven around real people of the age, the story gives an excellent insight into the period and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but I did feel that in writing it with Alice’s ‘voice’ there was rather too much introspection in places, which tended to hold up the action. Alice herself says, ‘When had I a choice to be other than I was?’ Read it and judge her for yourself.