Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou

Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou

by Susan Higginbotham


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Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou by Susan Higginbotham

A man other than my husband sits on England's throne today.

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?

Margaret of Anjou, queen of England, cannot give up on her husband—even when he slips into insanity. And as mother to the House of Lancaster's last hope, she cannot give up on her son—even when England turns against them. This gripping tale of a queen forced to stand strong in the face of overwhelming odds is at its heart a tender tale of love.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham will once again ask readers to question everything they know about right and wrong, compassion and hope, duty to one's country and the desire of one's own heart.

Praise for Susan Higginbotham

"A beautiful blending of turbulent history and deeply felt fiction, Susan Higginbotham's The Queen of Last Hopes brings alive an amazing woman often overlooked or slandered by historians. Higginbotham has given readers of historical fiction a gift to treasure." —Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The Irish Princess

"A compelling, fast paced, and well-written saga that is destined to both entertain and educate anyone interested in the spirited and fascinating Margaret of Anjou for generations to come!" —D. L. Bogdan, author of Secrets of the Tudor Court

"The Queen of Last Hopes is an inspiring novel of a woman who, in the face of betrayal and loss, would not surrender. Susan Higginbotham brings Margaret of Anjou to life and tells the story of the Frenchwoman who was one of the strongest queens England has ever known." —Christy English, author of The Queen's Pawn and To Be Queen

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402242816
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 01/01/2011
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 567,226
Product dimensions: 6.48(w) x 8.94(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

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.

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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Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
In The Queen Of Last Hopes, Susan Higginbotham traces the life and marriage of Margaret Of Anjou. She leaves her French home at the age of fourteen to marry Henry VI. The book covers their lives from 1444 to 1482, when Margaret dies. Her life went from that of an honored queen, welcomed by the London townspeople and loved by all, to one in exile, alone and reviled by the English people. What caused such a life change? After eight years of marriage, Henry, never a strong man, went "mad". Mad is the description that was given to him, and the descriptions seem to describe a catatonic state that lasted for a year and a half. During that time, Margaret finally gave birth to their only child, a son, Edward. Those who follow history know that power hates a vacuum, and Henry's illness started the change of events that led to the war between the House of Lancaster (Henry) and the House of York (Edward). The fight for the crown and the ability to rule England tore the country apart for years, dividing men who had served on the battlefields as brothers, severing families and spreading death and destruction for decades. Margaret spent years as the power behind the throne, advising Henry and finding men and money to fuel their attempts to regain the throne once it was lost. One of Higginbotham's strengths is taking the reader into this world and letting them feel what day to day life was like. The fate of women was not a pretty one. Used as pawns in political powerplays in their marriages, once married they were to do nothing but produce babies. Their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and uncles were also pawns as they fought in wars and political maneuvers. One day a family might be rich and powerful; the next, having chosen the wrong side in a powerplay, impoverished and subject to long years of imprisonment or even death by beheading or other barbarous methods. Any woman who dared to step outside this stricture was subject to rumours and disgust. 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. Margaret's strength and resourcefulness is now being reevaluated as the stigma of being a strong woman is being examined by historians. The reader will enjoy Higganbotham's research and ability to bring an era and its characters to life.
ZQuilts More than 1 year ago
First of all I have to confess that Susan Higginbotham's books are among my favorites in historical fiction. I am not associated with either the author or the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark. I am just a happy reader! This book follows the story of Margaret of Anjou - also known as the "mother" of the house of Lancaster- and her marriage to King Henry VI who, after 8 years of marriage descended into the oblivion of madness and religious obsession- leaving the rule of his country to Margaret . Margaret in turn protected the interests of her son, Edward of Lancaster and refused to accede to the claims of the Yorkist faction. Margaret's fight to win the rights of her son and the Lancaster line led to her becoming a vilified woman during her life and history has not been any kinder. Susan Higginbotham's novel brings the life of this rare, female ruler, into focus and sheds a kinder light on the history of this strong woman. Although the outcome of her life still brings to mind a domineering, and inflexible woman, this book provides us with a sense of the back story to Margaret's fierce determination - even in the face of defeat. King Henry is portrayed as religious devotee and his mental frailty paints a portrait of a sensitive man not strong enough to be King. Edward is a pliable youth whose life is cut terribly short through his mother's staunch fight to preserve the House of Lancaster at all costs. As with all of her books, Susan Higginbotham's research is impeccable. Her grasp of the the characters and their place in history is remarkable. British historical figures, with their many titles and names, can read like a quagmire at times. I have never been able to sort them all out but Ms. Higginbotham grasps all of the nuance, names and titles and makes them easy to follow though the narrative. In this book, rather than the dominatrix of Britain, Margaret of Anjou is portrayed as good - almost too nice. Most likely the reality of her character probably lies somewhere between vilification and saint hood. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - as I have all of Susan Higginbotham's work. I couldn't put it down. It should have wide appeal to anyone who loves historical fiction - especially British historical fiction!
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jomom5 More than 1 year ago
I love Susan Higginbotham, and this book does not disappoint. It is a fascinating read about a little known part of English history - the rule of Henry VI and his queen, Marguerite d'Anjou. As usual, I found Ms. Higginbotham an absorbing read, and I learned a lot about the events of the War of the Roses. For lovers of "real" historical fiction (stories about actual historical figures, not just stories set in a particular time period), this is a must read.
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I liked the part where King Henry's son was talking about all the things he had seen at his grandfather's court.
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[Okie dokie. Brb. Gonna do bio?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stormheart goes to sleep while Thunderclaw sits next to her.