When I consider all the books I’ve read where Edward IV and Richard III have been the primary focus (including Alianore Audley, reviewed above), I will always consider Meredith Whitford’s Treason to be one of the finest. Why? Simple – it flows, it’s real, the characters are honest, and their actions are consistent with their belief systems and their deepest feelings.
Told from the point of view of Martin Robsart, a fictional cousin of the Yorks, one of the fortunate ones who got to grow old during the Wars of the Roses, it is chock full of historical detail. After his family is slaughtered as a result of a Lancastrian vendetta, Martin, a young boy, comes to live, grow and learn along with Richard and his extended family at Middleham, Warwick’s stronghold. Martin is taught to fight at the side of those who would become his greatest allies, friends and confidants. There is no doubt that Martin is a Yorkist partisan, holding tightly to those values which Edward and Richard represent.
It’s fascinating stuff, watching Martin’s growing apprehensions about Edward’s ability to govern, including the relationship with Jane Shore, the drama leading to the death sentence of George, Duke of Clarence and Edward’s untimely death. Through it all, Martin remains Edward’s man, and after Edward’s death, becomes Richard’s man, with all that entails. What is made vividly clear is how honorable a man Richard is, and how the love between Richard and Anne is the mainstay of Richard’s life. After Anne’s death, Richard, although a shell of his former self, still holds true to those principles for which he fought his entire life. Martin, as the narrator of events soon to end Richard’s fledgling kingship, is an ever-vigilant comrade, both in arms and in heart. It is clear that Martin adores Richard, and that the feeling is returned by Richard.
Whitford’s new perspective on a well-known and often well-worn story is a joy. Her writing is impeccable, the point of view has just the right spin, and historical fact melds seamlessly with historical fiction.