Elizabeth Fitzgerald, nicknamed Gera, is the daughter of the ninth Earl of Kildaire, one of the powerful Irish nobles of 16th century and so called uncrowned Kings of Ireland. Her parent’s marriage is a loving one and she has grown up coddled among her siblings in the Irish countryside. All of that comes to an abrupt end when her father is summoned to England -he tries to play it off, but everyone is concerned since the King summoning him is Henry the Eighth. Afraid of the Earl’s unbridled power in Ireland, VII has him imprisoned in the infamous Tower of London. Things get even worse, when her brother, Silken Thomas (that name just doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it?), the tenth Earl of Kildaire, rules in his father’s stead and hot-headedly challenges the English King over his treatment of his father and Ireland. Ultimatums are issued, disaster ensues. Gera, with vengeance in her young heart, is shipped off to England after the destruction of her family. Way to go Thomas.
In The Irish Princess, Karen Harper explores some of the history and nobles living during the reign of Henry the Eigth who weren’t a) Henry himself, b) Anne Bolyen, or c) Henry’s spawn (Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward). For that alone, this promised to be a fascinating read, and the actual history in the reader’s guide accompanying the book was fascinating. The Earl of Surrey wrote a sonnet about her, and Gera ended up married to one of Elizabeth I’s most trusted advisors, and indeed, was a good (and rare) female friend of Elizabeth, who evidently would imprison her in the Tower of London when she was mad at her (nice!).
Harper is a capable writer, but I think most of my problem getting into this book stemmed from the time period she chose to set the first hundred or so pages of story. Gera is about ten when things start to fall apart for her family. It’s fair to say that she is a child (even by those fast Tudor standards when you are an adult at like seven), so watching her run around half-cocked enacting one tedious and childish scheme after another to avenge her father, brother, uncles and anyone and everyone else in Ireland, just got old. Time after time she says that she will bide her time and learn to play the game and then get her revenge, but she’s a tween, so I guess it’s hard for her. The next thing I know she’s holding a knife on someone or trying to steal important papers. You could probably call it being spirited, but I just found it bratty. And foolish. Uh, what happened to biding your time?
I wanted someone to sit this child down somewhere. Her future husband tries to, but at the time he is twenty-two to her twelve and in between giving her advice, he’s also giving her the eye and talking about the pleasure she will some day give a man. Ick. I know… that was the thing back in the day, but Gera had the maturity and impulse control of a five year old…so it was just gross.
Anyhow, by the time I gave this up at page 140, I think she was around fourteen, and maybe ready to be more of a grown up (any page now), but by then I was just annoyed by her and a little bored, so I decided to move on. Die-hard Tudor fans might want to check this one out because while Gera’s ardent desire was to kill Henry (get in line kid, who didn’t want to kill Henry?), she also apparently traveled in the same circles as all of the time period’s major players. As for me, I plan on checking out some more of her history on my own.