Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Counterfeit Princess

The Counterfeit Princess

Jane Resh Thomas
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Clarion, 2005   ISBN: 978-0395938706

Iris has just finished having a wonderful ride when she sees the Duke of Northumberland's men riding into the courtyard of Linnetwood, her home. She barely has time to tell her parents about the visitors when her mother puts her inside a cupboard and locks her in. From inside the cupboard Iris can hear the Duke's men taking her parents away and she realizes that they have been arrested.

What seems like an age later, Iris is freed and taken away to the home of William Cecil. Cecil is "the faithful servant of the royal house of Tudor" and he is doing all he can to protect the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. Poor King Edward is dying and is beyond help. The Duke of Northumberland is scheming to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne and the Princesses lives are in grave danger. Cecil knew Iris's parents well and her parents paid dearly for their allegiance to the Tudors. Now Cecil wants Iris to help him protect Princess Elizabeth, and since Iris cannot go home, and since she is eager to have her revenge on the Duke of Northumberland, Iris agrees.

Thus begins Iris' new life. Where once she was an open and honest young woman, Iris now lives a secretive life pretending to be a kitchen maid in an inn not far from Hatfield, Elizabeth's home. Every day Iris carries eggs to Hatfield waiting for her chance, playing the part of a spy. At last that day arrives when she finally gets to do something. She is given a message to deliver to the princess. The journey is fraught with danger but at last the precious piece of paper is in Elizabeth's hands. Elizabeth finds out that her brother is dead and that the Duke wants to trick her into going to London so that he can imprison her. It is decided that Iris, who bears a striking resemblance to the princess, will go in her place, at least for a while, to buy the princess some time. It is hoped that the Princess Mary's forces will rally soon and remove the Duke from power once and for all.

And so the journey begins. The travelers dally as much as they can on the London road, and when it is feared that the Duke's men are coming from London to intercept them, Iris and one of Elizabeth's ladies head off into the woods to delay matters even more. They have to do what they can to keep the Duke's men away from the real Elizabeth. Iris takes little known paths through the woods until at last she is back home at Linnetwood. Of course her home is now the property of one of the Duke's supporters and she has to stay in hiding. Will there ever be a time when she will be able to be Iris, the real Iris, again? Will she ever be able to live openly in Linnetwood again?

In this fascinating story which is "a mixture of fact and fiction," Jane Resh Thomas takes her readers back in time to the turbulent years when Henry the VIII's children were struggling for power. Iris believes that she knows what she wants when she hears that her parents have been executed. Iris wants revenge. However, in the end, she discovers that being avenged  is not enough to fill a person's life.

This thought-provoking and superbly researched book paints a captivating picture of life in Tudor England, and it shows to great effect that though much has changed in the world since those times, conflicts within the human heart are much the same today as they were then. Today, as then, we seek to punish those who hurt us only to find that our revenge is hollow and pointless.

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