Thursday 20 February 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Will to Succeed: Lady Anne Clifford's Battle for her Rights - Christine Raafat

When the 15-year-old Lady Anne Clifford’s father died in 1605, she was his sole surviving child and expecting to inherit the Cliffords’ great northern estates. But the Earl of Cumberland leaves a will which ignores an ancient law and bequeaths the lands to his brother, in the belief that a prophecy by his great-grandfather will eventually come true and return the estates to Anne. She and her mother vow to contest the will.

Anne spends the next three decades battling for what she believes is rightfully hers. She risks everything by opposing her beloved husband, her family and friends, the nobility, the law courts, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the King. She steadfastly (and treasonably) refuses to accept the King’s decision, whatever the consequences, but is defeated and left with the prophecy as her only hope.

Widowed at thirty-four, she survives an anxious period alone with her two young daughters before surprising everyone with an ill-judged second marriage which gives her access to the highest in the land. But the Civil War destroys that power and confines the 52-year-old Anne to a grand palace in London for six years. Still convinced of her rights, will she ever attain “ye landes of mine inheritance”?

What did I think?

I consider historical fiction to be one of my favourite book genres and set during the Tudor/Stuart crossover, including the English Civil War, The Will to Succeed piqued my interest immediately.  I don't often remark on the format of books but Unicorn Publishing Group have done an amazing job; particularly the fold over front and back covers comprising a map of London within, which gives the book the feel of a quality historical novel and rightly so as it is very high quality indeed.

I am shocked that I have never heard of Lady Anne Clifford, especially now that I have read about what a remarkable woman she was.  Standing firm with her powerful motto of 'Preserve your loyalty, Retain your Rights', Anne did amazing things for women's rights in a time when only males could inherit land and property.  Although slight in stature, Anne was not afraid to stand up to any man for what she believed in, not even her King.  She is such a courageous, determined and admirable woman; she never gave up fighting for her inheritance, despite all of the threats that were thrown at her.  I think even a lot of men would have given in when surrounded by so many bullies telling them they were wrong.

It's huge praise indeed to say that I absolutely raced through this novel; as anyone who reads historical fiction will know, it's often a lengthy process and you don't often refer to an historical novel as a page-turner.  Christine Raafat brings Anne Clifford to life through historical facts, Anne's own words and a smidgen of creative licence, making The Will to Succeed more exuberant than you would expect from historical fiction.  I honestly couldn't put it down.

Anne's life spans the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I when England saw many changes in the way the country was governed.  What didn't change at all was that it continued to be a man's world.  Anne Clifford, in standing up for her rights, must surely be considered one of the very early feminists.  I certainly didn't think that there would be any examples of feminism in 17th Century England.  I was so interested in Anne's story that after reading The Will to Succeed, I scurried off to google to find a portrait of her and to see the photos of the castles that she was fighting for.  I recommend having a look at the Anne Clifford pages on Historic England and English Heritage which give a concise summary of Anne's battle for her inheritance and shows her portrait and castles.  It certainly looks like Lady Anne's Brougham Castle in Penrith could be well worth a visit if I ever find myself en route to the Lake District.

The Will to Succeed is historical fiction at its finest; it's interesting, entertaining and enlightening.  It's a fabulous eye-opening read about a truly remarkable woman and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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