Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou

Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou

3.8 21
by Susan Higginbotham

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What would happen if this king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did, or would she learn from mine?

Susan Higginbotham writes her own historical fiction blog, Medieval Woman, and is active on Twitter. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and is a regular contributor to its publications. Susan

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What would happen if this king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did, or would she learn from mine?

Susan Higginbotham writes her own historical fiction blog, Medieval Woman, and is active on Twitter. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and is a regular contributor to its publications. Susan co-founded the bulletin board Historical Fiction Online, a popular website for lovers of historical fiction. She lives in North Carolina with her family.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of Higginbotham's strengths is taking the reader into this world and letting them feel what day to day life was like. This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction. It really filled in a gap in my knowledge of this period, and may do so for many other readers. The reader will enjoy Higganbotham's research and ability to bring an era and its characters to life." - Booksie's Blog

"Susan Higginbotham writes a good book. Research, honesty and genuine historical accuracy — the hallmarks of her work — show through in Queen of Last Hopes as they did in The Stolen Crown. Her books can be trusted, and this isn't something that can be said about a good many authors of historical fiction." - A Nevill Feast

"This story was absolutely wonderful with vivid scenes that pop before your eyes. The characters shower you with feelings so raw that you can't help but feel as they do. This is a story that is very difficult to put down." - Yankee Romance Reviewers

"The Queen of Last Hopes is a winner and will please Higginbotham's fans and attract new readers from the adherents of the Lancastrian faction." - Historical Novel Review

"Of all 4 of Susan Higginbotham's historical novels, this is my favorite. Add this one to your wishlists and TBR piles—it's a good one!" - Historical-Fiction.com

"Kudos to Susan for taking on a character so reviled by history and shedding new light on her actions...All in all this is a good book." - At Home with a Good Book and the Cat

"I could not put it down; I was so entertained by Higginbotham's telling of Margaret's story which is why I endowed the five star rating.. Readers will become immersed in the quest for the rightful owner of the crown of England, as history's mysteries also seep through to help add to the titillation of the reader." - The Burton Review

"The book is hard to put down once started. Each chapter is written in the voice of an important figure of the time so it is not one sided at all. Ms. Higgenbotham takes some liberties with history for the sake of her novel but she explains them clearly in the notes at the end. It is after all a NOVEL and entertainment is part of the package. And I was entertained as well as educated. What more could one ask from a historical novel?" - The Broken Teepee

"Last year I finally read my first Susan Higginbotham novel, The Stolen Crown and was hooked. I was anxiously awaiting her latest novel, The Queen of Last Hopes and was lucky enough to receive a review copy. I was not disappointed. 4.5/5 stars" - So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

"This is a brilliant piece of historical fiction and is highly recommended" - Readin and Dreamin

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Product Details

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6.48(w) x 8.94(h) x 0.98(d)

Read an Excerpt

I became my Henry's queen long before I saw him: at Tours in 1444, to be precise. I was fourteen. My marriage was supposed to end a conflict between England and France that had been going on for decades before I was even born.

"You will be our lady of peace," my uncle by marriage, King Charles VII of France, informed me. I had come to Tours with my father, King René of Anjou, whose sister Marie was Charles's queen, and my mother, Isabelle. The English delegation had just inspected me, though "introduction" was the word everyone had used.

"They were satisfied, then?" I asked.

"My dear, how could they not be?"

"I have always said that I had a treasure at Angers," my father said.

Charles halfway raised his eyebrows before he caught himself. I suspected that he was thinking that I was my father's only treasure, for it was true that my father was not, for his position, an especially wealthy man. Though he was known as King of Sicily and Jerusalem, Duke of Bar, Lorraine, and Anjou, and Count of Provence, his title to Jerusalem was flimsy, it had to be admitted, and he had given up his quest for Naples two years before. His lands of Maine were under English occupation. "What dowry shall I have?" I asked. It seemed only right that I as the bride should know.

"Majorca and Minorca," my uncle said, and I winced. If anything was as empty as my father's claim to Sicily and Jerusalem, it was his claim to Majorca and Minorca.

"And twenty thousand francs. Well, of course the English shall get a two-year truce; I suppose that counts also."

It was humiliating being sold so cheaply, even with the truce thrown in.

My distress must have shown on my face, for Charles said, "You see, my dear, they want this marriage and peace as much as we do, and frankly, they need it more. The sixth Henry isn't the warrior his father was, by all reports. Not a warrior at all."

"But a good man, they say," added my father, putting his arm around me.

"Don't worry, my dear."

I was formally betrothed in the Church of St. Martin at Tours on May 24, 1444, with William de la Pole, then the Earl of Suffolk, standing proxy for Henry. My uncle led me to the choir where the Bishop of Brescia, the papal legate, stood, and Suffolk and I promised to love and cherish each other. If a heart can break more than once, mine was to break for the first time six years later, when the whoresons-but that is for another time. I like to remember my friend Suffolk as I saw him that day at the altar, his dark eyes alive with amusement as he gave his strong responses following my somewhat shaky ones. "Don't worry, my lady, you'll be an old hand at this when it comes time to marry the king in person," he whispered as the ceremony ended and we processed to the Abbey of St. Julien, where I was to be feasted like a queen.

There was dancing much, much later in the evening. Whether I was a trifle affected from the wine that had been flowing in abundance or simply from it being well past my usual hour of retirement-for my life at Angers was not a boisterous one-I was feeling giddy when Suffolk partnered me at the dance.

"If you were a proper husband to me, you wouldn't stare so at one particular lady," I said demurely.

He followed my eye to where his had just been: fixated upon the figure of Agnes Sorel, my uncle's mistress. Suffolk gave an excellent English version of a French shrug. "I beg your pardon, your grace. But it is difficult not to look, you must admit. She is very lovely-though not, of course, as our new English queen."

"Flatterer," I said, and Suffolk did not gainsay me. Agnes Sorel was blond and stately; I was little and darker, though not, I knew, charmless. "She is my uncle's official mistress," I babbled on-quite unnecessarily, I realized later, for Suffolk, who was in his late forties, had been serving in France since he was a young man and probably knew as much about the court here as I did, if not more. "Do you have such things in England?"

Suffolk shook his head gravely. "We are not nearly as advanced, I fear. Our mistresses are entirely unofficial." We paused to take some intricate turns, to general applause, for my grandmother, who had had the rearing of me, had never stinted on dancing masters, and Suffolk was an accomplished partner.

"I shall be returning to England shortly. Do you have anything you would like to ask me about the king?"

I considered this question as best I could while dancing. As I turned in harmony with Suffolk, Agnes Sorel once again passed into my line of sight, which suggested a natural topic. "Does he have a mistress? I suppose I should know these things in advance."

My partner nearly stumbled, and had to put a hand to his mouth to stifle laughter. "I beg your pardon, your grace."

"I do not see how that is such a foolish question," I said frostily.

"In the case of most men, it would not be-but for anyone who knows our king! He is a very pious man. Indeed, some of the entertainment here tonight would have appalled him. Those rather underclad Moorish dancers we had earlier-There's none such to be seen at his court. Nor will you find any mistresses in your husband's life, in or out of court. You'll have nothing to worry about on that score."

Did that mean I had to worry about anything else? But the dance had ended and it was time to take my place back at the dais beside the Queen of France, so I never got a chance to ask my next question.

Though I was Queen of England in name now, further preparations and negotiations had to be made before I could come to my new country, and my uncle and my father had military affairs to take care of, so I returned home to my father's castle of Angers. There I passed nearly another year before it was at last time to begin my journey to England. Though I kept myself busy learning the language of my new country, I also devoted much time to reminding all at Angers of my new position, for as the youngest of my father's four legitimate children I had hitherto been of limited importance, and previous proposals for my marriage had come to nothing. In enjoying my chance to preen I was, after all, only human, and only fourteen.

At last, in February, my family traveled to Nancy, where my older sister, Yolande (who had long been affianced to Ferry de Vaudemont and thus had missed the opportunity to become Queen of England herself ) was to finally marry her betrothed. It was an important occasion for me as well, for I was to travel on to Rouen and thence finally to my husband across the Channel. It was a grand occasion, at which my uncle King Charles and most of the French nobility were present, and a hugely expensive one, but my uncle found leisure to call me to him during one of the rare moments of inactivity. "Queenship suits you," he said, nodding at me. "You've grown taller since you were last here."

"Yes, your grace." I forbore from pointing out that I was still at an age where one could be expected to grow.

"It is time we spoke of your duties as queen."

I frowned, hoping that this was not the sort of talk my mother had had with Yolande and me as we traveled to my sister's wedding. "I know my duties," I announced. "I am to be virtuous, to manage my household carefully, to intercede with my husband's subjects, to-"

The king cut me off impatiently. "Yes, yes, all those. But you are a daughter of France, my dear. It is your duty to your country of which I speak."

"I am Queen of England," I reminded him.

"Yes, but you will never cease to be a Frenchwoman. You have the opportunity to do much good with this marriage. Good to our country, and even to England."

"Through peace?"

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