King Edward of England looks to secure his annexation of Wales and resolves to put the heir to Gwynedd’s throne, the orphaned infant Princess, Gwenllian, out of mind, secure and forgotten in a Lincolnshire Priory. The lady Rowena, ever loyal, undergoes many an ordeal to find, comfort and protect the miserable child, whose identity has been cruelly kept from her.
Eighteen years later when the King conceives a plan to settle any question of Welsh succession and news of the Princess leaks to those who would free her, Rowena finds herself faced with the most agonising of choices.
I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.
The Forgotten Princess is a historical novel based on actual history. It’s about when Wales is conquered by King Edward of England and Gwynedd is killed. His young daughter, Gwenllian, heir to the throne, is taken to a priory to be cared for but forgotten. At the end of the book, James Holden-White explains which characters were real and which were fictional as well as the creative license that he took.
Gwenllian’s wet nurse Rowena follows her to the priory. It takes many years for her to become a Gilbertine and is finally able to watch over her sweet princess. The perseverance of Rowena is commendable. She feels responsible for Gwenllian and would give her life for her princess if needed.
I don’t usually care much for reading about the history of this time period, but it is presented in such a way in The Forgotten Princess that I enjoyed learning about it. I especially liked the occasional comments about bugs and lice even bothering the king, a reminder that things were quite different in those days.
I definitely recommend The Forgotten Princess if you like historical fiction.
About the Author:
James Holden-White was brought up in Bath and studied law at Swansea University. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife and children where they share in a small holding and keep an allotment. He has a passion for the countryside, travel, history and rugby and is a serving Police Officer.
Excerpt from the novel:
“She left them in a stunned silence, rocked by the news, and they had no choice but to obey. For the younger two, the prospect was frightening, but they would find new friends if not wiser ones in time, but for Rowena this was totally devastating. She had laboured amongst the lay Sisters for eight and a half years in the shadow of the Gilbertine priory, sustained in part by the distraction of educating Alethea and the naive enthusiasm of the unassuming Edith, but always harbouring nothing but hope that one day she would make her way inside and be reunited with the imprisoned princess, the only drive and inspiration which had kept her alive. But now all hope was cruelly taken from her and dashed against the wall like the head of the spitted rabbits which waited for the feast, she was to be sent to the remotest of the priory’s farms, miles from the child.
Rowena made her way sorrowfully back to the lode, perhaps it was time to give up her siege of the Gilbertines, perhaps patience would never bear fruit. She must turn her back on it all or try to rescue what she knew by now would be an indoctrinated child, a plan likely to expose them both to mortal danger. Feeling hopeless and utterly frustrated, she turned her face to the approaching banners of the prior’s guests and the tears flowed down her windswept cheeks.”
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