Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Review: THE FIRST PRINCESS OF WHALES by Karen Harper

Joan of Kent, her paternal grandparents were Edward "longshanks" and his second queen consort Marguerite. Her father Edmund was half brother to Edward II and brother in law to Isabella of France. Isabella was the beautiful French princess in the famous movie "Braveheart". Isabella stirred up all kinds of trouble in the kingdom. Siding with her lover Rodger Mortimer against her husband King Edward II. The mess Isabella had created would directly haunt Joan of Kent for the rest of her life.

In the beginning of Joan's early life she was raised at her family's estate of Lidell. The execution of her father mysteriously and swiftly haunted her family, her mother became a raving recluse and could not stand the sight of her own daughter. Who sadly was a constant reminder of the tragic loss of Joan's father Edmund of Woodstock. She grew up in solitude with her nurse Marta because her mother could not be around her, and her siblings were boys they did not stay at home where she was. She was given free rein to do as she pleased and did not have to awnser to anyone. She had a free spirit of a druid or a nymph of the woods. She constantly reminded me of a myth of the wood nymphs where a man would be lured to the woods and come across a beautiful woman who would run at the sight of a man and if caught would turn into a tree. The men being greatly disappointed would leave the tree and search again for that beautiful face in the woods usually to be lost forever in the forest. She loved to be in nature and it best suited her untamable spirit. Her quite beginning years at Lidell would come to a screeching halt when Queen Philippha sent for her to be raised at court with her cousins. Since her father was uncle to the current king Edward III of Windsor. It was only fitting for her to become the ward of the king and queen.

Upon her arrival at court, Joan being the forcefully independent young woman she was wondered away. In her wandering she by fate stumble upon some noise and went through a private door. Where she happened to see a spectacular site of a glorious man with one of his arms bound practicing his jousting skills. She unknown at the time was mesmerized by him in his full glory. After he took notice of Joan he stopped to ask her what she was doing there, she gave him some tart responses from her lightning quick silver tongue stating she was new to court and the new ward of the king and queen now. They separated not knowing each others names or titles, expecting to meet again at court, under more pleasant circumstances. Not knowing she had just me Edward "the black prince" she instantly felt the magnetic attraction between the two of them. Like a pulling at her soul. The wheel of fortune was turned towards them when they met but, could they make it when it was not?

Joan suffered at court even though she had found a kindred spirit in her sassy cousin the princess Isabella. Those two wild spirits together looked for trouble, and the trouble came from the king and queen. As her relationship with prince Edward deepened, the queen had grown tired of Joan's ways and plotted to keep her away from her son. Joan was secretly married off by the queen and was sent to live far away in France on her new husbands estate. But how doth' the wheel of fortune change bad to good, good to bad, and for Joan it seemed suck in bad.

She also had developed an extreme love and hate relationship between her and the prince. Which was quite amusing to read but at time I just wanted to reach into the book and slap "the fair maid of Kent" for all the brash things she said and did. The mystery's and secrets surrounding her own fathers treason execution would bring Joan to hate the people she loved. Causing fortunes wheel to spin out of control until it finally stopped. Denying her own destiny, she would defy them all even her own heart, until the fortune wheel stopped where it lay.

I gave this one 5/5 muses rating. Defiantly my new favorite. Even if it is defiantly is a chunkster at over 600 pages, which was so long. I loved it and bought it on used for a grand total of $4.81, the cost of shipping was more than the book itself! But it will be mine and it will on on my treasured book shelf where no one is allowed to touch.

"The daughter of a disgraced earl, she matched wits with a prince. It is the fourteenth century, the height of the Medieval Age, and at the court of King Edward III of England, chivalry is loudly praised while treachery runs rampant. When the lovely and high-spirited Joan of Kent is sent to this politically charged court, she is woefully unprepared for the underhanded maneuverings of her peers.

Determined to increase the breadth of his rule, the king will use any means necessary to gain control of France—including manipulating his own son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Joan plots to become involved with the prince to scandalize the royal family, for she has learned they engineered her father’s downfall and death. But what begins as a calculated strategy soon—to Joan’s surprise—grows into love. When Joan learns that Edward returns her feelings, she is soon fighting her own, for how can she love the man that ruined her family? And, if she does, what will be the cost?

Filled with scandal, court intrigue, and prominent figures of the Medieval Age, The First Princess of Wales has at its center a wonderful love story, which is all the more remarkable because it is true. Karen Harper’s compelling, fast-paced novel tells the riveting tale of an innocent girl who marries a prince and gives birth to a king".


  1. You know that the part in Braveheart with Isabella is completely false, right? Wallace died when Isabella was 10 years old and before she even married Edward II.

  2. Very insight full info. I have been working backward in history and this was the first book I have ever read with her mentioned in it. Know any good books about her?

  3. Do you mean Isabella of France? Well, I have several books about her but haven't read very many of them yet (many of them are out of print). These I've read: Follies of the King by Jean Plaidy covers the reign of Edward II and The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham focuses on Hugh Despenser (the younger)and his wife, but Isabella is in both of them.

    Out of print: Isabel the Fair by Margaret Campbell Barnes; The Lion of MOrtimer by Juliet Dymoke; and The She Wolf by Maurice Druon (translated from French)

    There is also one by Edith Felber but I've not heard anything good about it. So that might be one to stay away from! Alison Weir wrote a non-fiction book but sometimes her books are hit or miss depending on how biased she is for or against the person. I hope that helps!

  4. It did thank you very much. I have the Plaidy one.


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