Loyalty and Honour are two books by Matthew Lewis that very cleverly spans across two reigning families, the Plantagenets and the Tudors. Both books alternate between eras effortlessly with Hans Holbein linking the two eras.
Loyalty opens with the painter Hans Holbein receiving a mystery summons by Sir Thomas More where they meet and More begins to tell a story that will change Holbein’s perception to history and the rise of the Tudors. It certainly had me gripped to learn what Sir Thomas More had to say.
The story then jumps back 56 years to when King Edward IV was on the throne. The King and his younger brother Richard are approaching the Battle of Barnet and their return to England. The story focuses on Richard and his thoughts and feelings to the events. The story is fast paced and covers all the key aspects of Richard and his rise to taking the throne.
We continue to come back to Sir Thomas More and Hans Holbein who recap the story and move through any parts that have not been covered. Like Holbein I found myself wanting to get back to hearing more about Richard and the story that was being told.
Loyalty sticks with Richard through Edward’s reign and tells a different story to the one we know, we see Richard’s reaction to his brother negotiating with France and why he left the country early, Lewis also puts forward a touching relationship between Richard and his soon to be executed brother, George. Seeing a different interpretation on these events and relationships really puts forward a more sympathetic view on Richard.
The most interesting point for me was Lewis’ take on what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Many theories have flown around over the years, did Richard kill them? Was it the Tudors to help secure Henry’s claim? Or as Lewis puts forward did they simply go into hiding after it was discovered that they were illegitimate. Loyalty goes on to explore Richard’s reign and how he ruled when he was one of the only people who knew the fate of the princes.
For me personally, the backbone of Loyalty was the story of Richard and Anne and their marriage. How Richard rescued her, their married life, the birth of Edward and how they suddenly found themselves King and Queen of England. It was so beautifully written that I found myself so emotionally involved that when Richard and Anne said their final goodbyes I found a tear or two falling at their loss.
The Tudor elements of Sir Thomas More and Hans Holbein are great as you really feel as if Holbein is being told this story and you are also sat listening and being transported back in time.
Loyalty ends with the Battle of Bosworth and the fall of Richard III. However, Honour begins immediately after the battle is lost with Francis Lovell escaping the battlefield. We again meet Hans Holbein but this time he is summoned by King Henry VIII himself who tells the Tudors side of what happened to the princes during the reign of his father.
In Honour we see Lovell and the remaining followers of Richard flee from the Tudors and plot their revenge. When they learn of the fate of the two princes, who everybody believed were dead and Richard was to blame, we see a focus for the rebellions that also brings in the children of the Duke of Clarence, Edward and Margaret. Edward is also smuggled out of the tower and hidden, later to be another force for Henry VII to contend with.
Hans Holbein has a wider role in this book; he has been tasked by Henry VIII to create a portrait that contains many hidden meanings as a test for a wider position. Holbein interacts with Henry and Thomas Cromwell as well as Sir Thomas More and you really get a sense that Holbein is caught between two powerful men who are both telling him stories.
With the addition of Henry VII a new danger has been included as now Lovell and his men are the underdogs and I found myself willing them on in their quest, despite knowing the outcome.
Both books are so well written that you will find yourself turning each page wanting to know what happened next. Lewis has offered a fresh pair of eyes on history that is well known and although it is a work of fiction you can’t help but wonder what if?
Honour leaves the story open for more and I for one can’t wait to read it.