The Plantagenet “fam” was my favorite to write about in my thesis, so this book makes me very happy.
The Usurper King (The Plantagenet Legacy Book 3) by Mercedes Rochelle released in April in the historical fiction genre.
From Outlaw to Usurper, Henry Bolingbroke fought one rebellion after another. First, he led his own uprising. Gathering support the day he returned from exile, Henry marched across the country and vanquished the forsaken Richard II. Little did he realize that his problems were only just beginning. How does a usurper prove his legitimacy? What to do with the deposed king? Only three months after he took the crown, Henry IV had to face a rebellion led by Richard’s disgruntled favorites. Worse yet, he was harassed by rumors of Richard’s return to claim the throne. His own supporters were turning against him. How to control the overweening Percies, who were already demanding more than he could give? What to do with the rebellious Welsh? After only three years, the horrific Battle of Shrewsbury nearly cost him the throne—and his life. It didn’t take long for Henry to discover that that having the kingship was much less rewarding than striving for it.
Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
AUTHOR’S INSPIRATION: THE USURPER KING
For a long time my only knowledge about Henry IV came from Shakespeare. How typical! I suspect he would have been amazed at how literally we took his memorable characters. Interestingly, although Shakespeare wrote two plays about Henry IV, the king played a minor role in both. It is thought that because Henry was a usurper, the great bard didn’t want to ruffle Queen Elizabeth’s feathers; too many of his fellow playwrights ended up in prison. It was so much more diverting to give the spotlight to Falstaff! And of course, Prince Hal was safe, since he wasn’t responsible for his father’s actions.
It seems that other scholars followed Shakespeare’s example, possibly because Henry IV’s reign was sandwiched between two much more dynamic kings. Fortunately, modern historians have taken another look and discovered there is plenty to talk about (though much credit is due to the Victorian historian James Hamilton Wylie who wrote a four-volume biography about him. Try finding it!).
Originally, I had only planned to write my two volumes about Richard II’s life. But I got caught up in the whole usurpation story and realized that Henry’s point of view was just as interesting as Richard’s. It was too much to include in volume two, and I realized that I might as well take the Plantagenets all the way to the end. Every one of them has a story to tell—even Henry VI.
I found Henry’s story to be very sympathetic. Although it was more than a little unethical to break Thomas Mowbray’s confidence and start the whole brouhaha that got them exiled (see THE KING’S RETRIBUTION), the punishment was certainly disproportionate to the offense. What was the crime? Why was he declared a traitor? Once he returned to reclaim his lost inheritance, he realized that he had to go “all the way” or else risk losing his head to a vindictive Richard. There were to be no half-measures here. Luckily for him, practically the whole country rallied behind his banner.
But that’s only part of the story. All the good-will built up between him and the populace was exhausted pretty quickly. Promises were broken, expectations were disappointed, the exchequer was empty, law-and-order disintegrated. Repressive measures led to even more discontent. Poor Henry was quick to learn that that that having the kingship was much less rewarding than striving for it.
But the proverbial die was cast. Once he had established the Lancastrian dynasty, he was determined to make it stick. However, on more than one occasion he nearly came to disaster, and his reign might have become the shortest-lasting kingship in English history. The Epiphany Rising—a mere three months after his coronation—and the Battle of Shrewsbury were only two of the rebellions he had to face in the first four years of his reign. So as you might guess, Henry IV will require another two novels to finish this part of the Plantagenet Legacy.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Rochelle/e/B001KMG5P6?