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Secrets in the Royal House of York - an Editorial Review of "The Godmother's Secret"

Book Blurb:

If you knew the fate of the Princes in the Tower would you tell? Or forever keep the secret?

May 1483: The Tower of London. When King Edward IV dies and Lady Elysabeth Scrope delivers her young godson, Edward V, into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Elysabeth’s sister Margaret Beaufort conspires with her son Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne.

Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal and power of the last medieval court, defying her Yorkist husband and her Lancastrian sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe. Bound by blood and rent by honour, Elysabeth is torn between the crown and her family, knowing that if her loyalty is questioned, she is in peril of losing everything—including her life.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Or did the young boys vanish for their own safety? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John blends her family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing story about what happened to the Princes in the Tower.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth St. John’s critically acclaimed historical fiction novels tell the stories of her ancestors: extraordinary women whose intriguing kinship with England's kings and queens brings an intimately unique perspective to Medieval, Tudor, and Stuart times.

Inspired by family archives and residences from Lydiard Park to the Tower of London, Elizabeth spends much of her time exploring ancestral portraits, diaries, and lost gardens. And encountering the occasional ghost. But that’s another story.

Living between California, England, and the past, Elizabeth is the International Ambassador for The Friends of Lydiard Park, an English charity dedicated to conserving and enhancing this beautiful centuries-old country house and park. As a curator for The Lydiard Archives, she is constantly looking for an undiscovered treasure to inspire her next novel.

Elizabeth's books include her trilogy, The Lydiard Chronicles, set in 17th Century England during the Civil War, and her newest release, The Godmother's Secret, which explores the medieval mystery of the missing Princes in the Tower of London.

Editorial Review:

The truth of my appointment yawns like a gorge between us; the men may fight across hill and dale, but the women draw their own York and Lancaster battle lines across planked and herb-strewn chamber floors.

Many, many stories and speculations have bloomed throughout the centuries about the fate of the famous princes of the Tower – Edward and Richard, or affectionately known as Ned and Dickon – the two little boys who disappeared one night from the Tower of London, one as heir to the throne of England and the other as a Duke of York. Offspring of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the two boys stood in the way of others seeking the throne, such as Richard of Gloucester, Edward IV's brother, and Henry Tudor, the son of Margaret Beaufort. As stated, many stories have been told of this event, all with their own slant, but this one is presented with such finesse and skill, with such clarity and authenticity, as to sway a mind and heart in a way that a work of artistic literature should do. This fictional account of what possibly happened is so moving and so well-developed, a reader might close the book on the speculations and say, in effect, “This is it; this is what happened. No doubt.”

These wars. These wars that men fight and women endure, waiting for news, for their men to return home - - or not. This new prince, born into conflict, swaddled by dispute, and nursed with vengeance. This wheel of destiny as old as mankind. No one questions if it can be halted. At least no man does. And the women walk behind God's chariot of war as they always have and salvage the wreckage.

To summarize this astounding work, as this reviewer will strive to do, does not even render the force with which Ms. St. John gifts this story to us. And it is a gift, a splendid gift of pure cerebral enjoyment, the epitome of what a historical fiction book should be.

We come to know on a very intimate level the character of Elysabeth St. John, Lady Scrope (and the author's ancestress), who becomes the godmother to a king-in-waiting the night she assists Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen of England and wife of Edward IV, in childbirth. The Queen gives birth to her son, Edward (Ned), and Lady Scrope makes a vow to protect the boy from harm for the rest of her life. As the author states in her notes at the end of the book, who better to know what exactly happened to the boys than their godmother who was with them for the majority of their life? Thus, the story follows Lady Scrope as she maneuvers and protects the boys from the day of their birth, until the day Edward IV dies and his son is taken to the Tower by his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, to prepare for the boy's coronation. In short order, his brother, Richard (Dickon) joins him there.

Sovereynté, King Arthur's tales tell me, is what women desire the most. The power to make our own decisions. Freedom from control. More than love, more than friendship, we desire power. And when the power of sovereynté was given to me in the form of an urgent appeal and a pearl crucifix, I grabbed it with both hands. Just three weeks ago, I was at home by the hearth, the woman's natural place, my life spinning before me in the predictable warp and weft of family and friends. Today, because of my sovereynté, I am riding with the King of England to prepare for his coronation.

Yet, behind the scenes of the political chaos brewing, you truly come to know this woman who is as loyal as anyone might be in these trying times. A very poignant scene where there is a discussion about choices of mottos, when the young Edward decides his motto (“God and My Right”) and his uncle, Richard, quotes his motto, Loyaltié me lie (loyalty binds me), where you get a sense of Lady Scrope's own mind, and how her sovereignty, her right to make decisions as a woman, plays out in this story, which sometimes puts her at odds with her own husband and with her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort. While Lady Scrope thinks only of the boy's safety and happiness, others seek their own advantage. Margaret seeks the throne for her son, Henry Tudor, who is in France and looking for an opportunity to seize the throne as the true heir; and Richard, Edward IV's brother, who takes the throne after Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville is declared as invalid, thus rendering the children bastards.

Remember the inn, when you told us what women want?”

Sovereynté,” I say.

Yes,” he replies. “The power to make their own decisions.” The king pauses as we approach the castle walls, flexes his shoulders as if they ache. “You are left behind to be in charge. This is your sovereynté. You are tasked with the most important power of all. Keeping the boys alive and sending them safely to their next destination. Wait for Catesby's instructions. Enlist Oliver's help. And, most of all, remember my words. Remember the stalking horse.”

Again and again, Lady Scrope tries to check on the boys while they are in the tower, worrying as Edward falls sick, and herself falling into different schemes conjured by Margaret and the Duke of Buckingham. Time after time, she comes close to very traitorous situations, yet with her husband, a faithful and loyal defender of King Richard, and showing her own loyalty by upholding her vow, she is witness to and, ultimately, a party to the eventual outcome for the two boys... a quite unexpected and different outcome as revealed in accepted history. And not only that, but you are privy to the inner heart and mind of a woman very close to all of these historical events and people, as well as how it might have felt for a woman facing loss, love, betrayal, fear, and anxiety while showing incredible strength, loyalty, determination, and courage while those around her fought for the hollow crown. Not much is actually known about Lady Scrope, but with this tale being told by a descendant, Elizabeth St. John, the author, the authenticity and historical research displayed within this story is immense and exquisite. Ms. St. John is sure to be a new found favorite for fans of not only this fractious time in English history, but of all historical fans who adore rich, immersive prose.


“The Godmother's Secret” by Elizabeth St. John receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence by The Historical Fiction Company


1 Comment

Elizabeth St.John
Elizabeth St.John
Dec 13, 2022

Thank you so very much. I am beyond thrilled with the award and thank you for such a wonderful review. This book was a leap of faith, and I'm delighted my ancestors steered me well! 😅

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