Thursday, April 8, 2010
Review: The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Trade Paperback, 560 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks
Seeking power and prestige, grim, ambitious Yorkshireman Edward Morland arranges a marriage between his meek son Robert and spirited Eleanor, young ward of the influential Beaufort family. Eleanor is appalled at being forced to marry a mere “sheep farmer”; she is, after all, secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York.
Yet from this apparently ill-matched union, Robert and Eleanor form a surprising connection that soon will be tested by a bloody civil war that divides families, sets neighbor against neighbor, and brings tragedy close to home.
Edward Morland is a rich Yorkshire sheep farmer who has money but no titles or connections. To remedy this he forges an alliance with the Beaufort family (yes, the same Beauforts who were descended from John of Gaunt and thus closely aligned with royalty). Morland marries his remaining son and heir, Robert, to Eleanor Courteney, a woman with connections but no dowry to speak of. Luckily for Eleanor her upbringing and no nonsense nature enable her to manage with this difficult situation.
York is a tough and wild place to forge a new life, and Edward Morland is a tough as they come as far as in laws go. His choice of Eleanor pays dividend however, because without her, the Morland Dynasty would have never been. Eleanor is the one who makes the Morland family into a dynasty. She is the MATRIARCH (yes capitals are required) of the family and with her sheer will, determination, and tough choices leads the Morland family to prosperity.
For all of these wonderful accomplishments, Eleanor is quite a cold person. Her first impression of her husband Robert was quite poor and she treated him with disdain most of their life together. This is also due in large part to her unrequited love for Richard of York. Eleanor is a Yorkist through and through, and it often led to arguments with her own husband. Eleanor warms up to Robert towards the end, but for me it was too little too late. Robert for his benefit never truly realizes how is wife feels towards him, and goes happily through life loving and worshipping Eleanor. Robert may not be an aggressive person, however that is no excuse to treat him so coldly.
Regardless, Eleanor's ideas for growing the family business were spectacular, and she made very shrewd business decisions, which included marrying her children to improve the family business. Cold and calculating, Eleanor grew the family coffers.
As for the rest of the family, each one had their own personality however most of them were pretty forgettable. I didn't dislike any of the children or grandchildren, they were just part of the overall story. Eleanor had 13 children, and it did get a bit confusing form time to time. Fortunately there is a family tree in the front of book, which I referred to quite frequently. As my friend Marie pointed out, it lists both dates of birth and death, so it can be a bit of a spoiler. That didn't bother me though, as I had trouble keeping track in the first place.
This book is not so much about the War of the Roses, of which the Morlands have a part, but more of a story about a family and how they weathered the times in which they lived. I liked that the Morlands were far enough from Court that they got their information second hand from family members serving there. This story does have a Yorkist slant and is pro Richard III, which should come as no surprise. It is in keeping with Eleanor's character, and she is the focus of the story.
Love them or hate, the Morlands are quite a handful and I am looking forward to continuing their story. This is truly an epic story, that I'm sure will entertain as I read through the years. There are 33 books, you know.
My Rating: 95/100. A solid A. I liked the story, the way it was written and the family was inserted into history. I look forward to continuinng through history with the Morlands.
See more reviews at The Burton Review and Passages to the Past.
Thank you to Sourcebooks for my copy.
2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction