Author Anne Easter Smith coming to Edwards
Vail CO, Colorado
In the 15th century, women had to be strong in order to make their own way. In “Daughter of York,” Anne Easter Smith took on the daunting task of humanizing and illustrating the historical figure of Margaret of York. From maid to matron, we follow Margaret on a journey from innocence to mastery.
Margaret lived in times of uncertainty, of poverty and of warfare, times when people needed great rulers. She was not only royal, she was strong, sophisticated and romantic. When she was 15, she was playful. She loved rose petal jam. She was sister to King Edward IV of England and eventually became the duchess of Burgundy after years of marriage negotiations with Charles, count of Charolais.
Indeed, one could pore over Margaret’s many endearing characteristics forever, but Smith said that she believes Margaret is remembered so well because of what she did in real life.
“In all of her dealings with people, she really won over the Burgundians ” who she had to go preside over. It must have been because she was intelligent and fair,” Smith said.
And it is this kind of strong woman that is truly captivating. “My whole process was to show how she learned from her mother and then went over and became her own person, just like we all have to,” Smith said. “Women in this time period were very strong. They were having to take care of their husbands, castles, farms, children, and were given an awful lot of responsibility.”
Smith not only researched Margaret’s life, but also went to all of the settings in her novel in order to be able to describe them thoroughly.
“I had to go to the places where (Margaret) lived like Bruges, Ghent, and London, and I’m from London. There are some of the streets (in the novel) that aren’t there anymore. I walked into the churches, the cobblestone streets, the castles, the manor houses, and then I can envision my characters in those places,” Smith said.
Though the novel is based on history, the tale was embellished by Smith to include not only Margaret’s basic story, but her emotions and thoughts as well.
Through all the trials of Margaret’s life ” from losing her father, Richard of York, and her brother, Edmund, while she was young to living a life without love to enduring cruelty at the hands of her husband ” she is said to have been stoic and proud.
After her marriage was brokered, she became one of the wealthiest women in Europe and was a great diplomat.
However, very few people were beloved to her. In her life, she had her family, to whom she felt extremely strong ties, her retinue, which included her ladies in waiting and her favorite, Fortunata, a dwarf, and her lover, Anthony Woodville.
Smith chose to bring love into Margaret’s fictional life because she had none in her marriage. Charles was a tyrant who barely had time to spend with her because he was waging war so often. When they did meet as husband and wife, it was to the point and ” more often than not ” brutal.
In fact, real rumors existed surrounding Margaret’s virginity. Some say she had many lovers, but she was adamant on her wedding night that she was a virgin, and Charles ” although he did not love her ” deeply respected her. He even threatened to have people drowned if they disrespected her by spreading rumors.
She receives the mantle of duty and power with dignity even while secretly hoping to be united with her true love, Anthony. The romance is a driving force in her joie de vies: When Anthony is present, she is happy. When he is not, she looks upon life as a duty and nothing more.
They first meet after her brother seizes the crown of England from Henry VI and the two share a favorite pastime: literature. “She loved books,” Smith said. “(Margaret) is just is a wonderful personality, just very literary.”
Anthony and Margaret spend time together talking about books and sharing their passion, and they sustain their love affair across the ocean by writing to one another under the names of Lancelot and Elaine to escape detection. Margaret lives for these small tokens of Anthony’s affection and only sees him a few more times during her reign in Burgundy. However, her thoughts are always with him.
It’s a good thing, then, that true friendship is there to warm Margaret’s heart between times when she can see Anthony. Fortunata is her confidante as well as her entertainer, and although her size could have been misconstrued in those times to be a sign of evil, Margaret brooks no ill will toward Fortunata. Together, they face many trials and they both share awkwardness ” Fortunata because she is so small and Margaret because she was extraordinarily tall for a woman in that time.
The root of this novel, however, is no romantic story or beautifully described fairy tale. It is merely history, which Smith said she enjoyed researching. Her goal was to bring an appealing, historical novel to 21st century readers, she said.
And in all senses ” historic, romantic and realistic ” she has. From the moment of Margaret’s nightmare at the beginning of the novel to the moment when she is sailing back to Burgundy from England and hoping Anthony will come to her, Margaret of York is a captivating woman who is brought to life by the deft pen strokes of Anne Easter Smith.
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