A Dangerous Inheritance


Alison Weir




Date Reviewed:

February 16th, 2020

his book tells the interleaved stories of two Katherines who lived in England during the time of the Plantagenent and Tudor kings. The first is Katherine Plantagenent, the daughter of King Richard III. The second is Katherine Grey, the sister of Lady Jane Grey (the nine day queen). The dangerous inheritance in the books title is that both possess royal blood, and so are in line for succession to the throne. The lives of the two Katherines are separated by about 80 years of time.

There is no historical link between the two Katherines, Weir invents a story-telling device by having both of the Katherines develop an interest in the fate of the two young princes who were confined to the tower of London, and then disappeared, presumably murdered at the command of King Richard III. The two boys were the sons of King Edward IV, who died unexpectedly of a sudden illness. While they lived, the two were rightful heirs to throne, and thus a threat to the claim of King Richard III. Because Katherine Plantagenent is the daughter of King Richard III, she can't believe her father would be capable of such a vile deed. Katherine tries to investigate if her father really would have done such a thing. 80 years later, Katherine Grey is confined to the Tower of London because Queen Elizabeth sees her as a threat to her throne (Queen Elizabeth has not designated an heir, and so Katherine Grey's royal blood makes her a potential tool for powerful players - such as the Spanish - who might like to see Elizabeth replaced.) Confined to the Tower of London, Katherine Grey wonders about the two young princes who were imprisoned in the same building years earlier. Especially after Katherine gives birth to a son, a potential king, she fears that the ruling Queen will have her son eliminated to remove him as a threat. So Katherine, with lots of idle time, speculates about the ultimate fate of Edward IV's sons, and wonders if the same dire fate will happen to her own son.

The nobles of the realm seem to be obsessed with obtaining the throne. Everyone is always vying to rule, even though kings and queens don't seem to remain in power for long. The constant scheming and civil wars are always stressing the kingdom, but apparently the desire to rule overwhelms any desire for a long prosperous life of peace. Alison portrays Katherine Grey yearning to be queen herself, despite the beheading of her own father and sister as traitors.

I wish there wasn't so much weeping in the book. There are many scenes where the women are in anguish or fear, and so weep loud and long. I guess it was the custom of the day to be so demonstrative in their emotions, but not all of the events that cause this lamenting come as a shock.

Alison Weir can't help the redundancy of names because she is writing about historical figures, but it is constantly confusing to keep track of who is who due to the fact that so many people are named Edward, Elizabeth, Katherine, Jane, Richard etc. There are a couple of family trees shown in the beginning pages of the hardcover edition, and I referred back to them many times during my read, but even then I was not always clear which chararcter was which. It doesn't help that sometimes characters are reference by their titles (such as the duke of Gloucester) rather than their names.

A while ago, I read, and greatly enjoyed, The Sunne in Splendour, which is Sharon Kay Penman's take on the tale of King Richard III. It is interesting to see a different spin on the same set of events and characters. A Sunne in Splendour is a better book than this one, but A Dangerous Inheritance is still an interesting read.