Henry Tudor—the victor of Bosworth who defeated Richard III to claim the crown and become Henry VII of England, beginning the Tudor dynasty – had a weak claim to the throne. Descended on his mother’s side from the royal prince John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, Henry was barred from the line of succession by this illegitimacy. But Henry’s father Edmund Tudor was half-brother to the king, through his mother’s second marriage to Owen Tudor, and this too brought a potential claim.
When Edward IV took the throne from Henry VI in 1461, amidst the complex politics and battles of The Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper fled to Brittany. It is the fourteen years that Henry spent in exile that is the focus of nearly the first half of The Welsh Dragon – a period of which little historical fact is known. Author K.M Butler therefore had a fairly free hand to imagine this time in Henry’s life.
Butler shows us a young man attempting to live a life free of the politics of court and crown, in love with a commoner, the competent merchant Jehane, and learning to be useful and skilled in trade. A small life, perhaps, but a free one. But his mother’s (and others’) letters from England, the emissaries who come, and his own sense of duty can’t let him forget who he is. Nor can his enemies: Henry’s life is frequently in danger.
History takes its course, and Henry accepts his role. Butler handles the complexities of factions, allegiances and intrigue well (a small caveat here: I am familiar with this period and the historical people portrayed here – for someone new to it, it might still be a touch confusing) and does not, thankfully, underrepresent the role of the powerful and politically astute women on both sides.
One of the enduring mysteries of this time is the fate of the Princes in the Tower, Edward IV’s last two legitimate sons, imprisoned by Richard in the Tower of London. While generally considered to have been murdered by Richard’s orders, there are other theories. The one proposed by Butler was new to me – but plausible.
Henry may have been reluctant, but his acceptance of the expectations of his birth and upbringing rings true; Butler portrays him as a sympathetic character who grows into maturity and what he sees as his duty, accepting his role in the larger tapestry of politics and history, rather than his personal desires. The book ends with the victory at Bosworth: it is the making of a king, rather than his reign, that is brought to vivid life in The Welsh Dragon.
2 thoughts on “The Welsh Dragon, by K.M.Butler”
This looks an interesting read – there is so much written about Henry VIII, it would be good to read about his father’s wilderness years!
I thought the same!