The Welsh Dragon: A Novel of Henry Tudor
The tail end of the Wars of the Roses has often been told focusing on Richard III, from Shakespeare’s love-to-hate villain to the recent discovery of the twisted and hacked body in the Leicester car park. Illegitimacy and female inheritance might have consigned Henry Tudor to the sidelines, but this novel makes him the hero who would eventually bring the civil-war-ravaged land through the deaths of other princely heirs in the Tower to a change of dynasty and Tudor stability. After Lancastrian losses, ill winds blow Henry’s desperate escape to Brittany for a fourteen-year exile. Even here, the drop of royal blood does not lend safety to him or to those he loves, so just past the midpoint comes the great line ending a section with a chill down the spine: “I’m coming for you, Richard.”
Butler shows great skill at choosing the most telling scenes and then writing them with clarity and passion that help us understand motives and well-known characters. His cast never knows how the history they are living will turn out, so readers are with them on the edge of their seat. The narrative is mostly Henry’s point of view, but at key junctures, others, including “The Public” and powerful women get a say. This is especially well done on Bosworth Field, where the antagonists Henry and Richard as well as their commanders get rapid-fire perspectives, a very effective way to cover all the ground of a broad battlefield.
My only quibble would be with the presence of carriages, which I had always understood to be impractical due to terrible roads until the middle of the Tudor reign. I would have overlooked the anachronism, but these are pivotal equipment in scenes we are told are fabricated, subtracting from their verisimilitude. I recommend this book nonetheless.