The Last of the Plantagenets by Caroline M. Keteltas

The Battle of Bosworth: Richard III and Henry VII 

Oh, the Plantagenets... they really appeal to everything I love: drama, tragedy, adventure, political machinations, familial battles... how could any other European royal or noble family ever compete with the likes of the Plantagenets... It seems fitting that I chose a play about the Last of the Plantagenets to be my first read of 2020 as I've been obsessed with podcasts about the Plantagenet era lately. When I saw a woman writer from the 19th century I've never heard of wrote this play in response to Shakespeare's Richard III I just had to read it.

Unfortunately, we know nothing about the author of this play: Caroline M. Keteltas. When I say we know next to nothing about her we genuinely know absolutely nothing which definitely peaked my curiosity. All we know is this work was published in the New York in 1830 and was based on a romance by William Heseltine. There is also no information on him so it's all very strange...  Caroline did include a Preface to the Drama and she states she wanted to write the play to fix the misconceptions about Richard III/the bias of Shakespeare so it's fair to say she was an educated and well read woman. In her own words:

"... from a Christian motive... to endeavour to rescue [Richard Third's character] from some of the odium which rests upon it.... Shakespeare, though the first of geniuses, was a mortal; therefore, liable to error and prejudice." 

Keteltas then goes on to say people are a mixture of good and bad and history can be unkind to such characters like Richard III. She based a lot of the information in her play on William Heseltine's work and there are some glaringly wrong facts about Richard III's wife and their son but it's a remarkable work nonetheless. I loved every second of the play and read it in pretty much one sitting.

Bridget Plantagenet 
The Last of the Plantagenets covers the last days of Richard III's reign and the main players are Richard III, the future Henry VI, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, Bridget (daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV), the son of Richard III (Prince Richard) and other nobles. The play focuses on, amongst other things, the fictional "romance" between Bridget (who, like in real life, lived in a nunnery) and Prince Richard. In reality, Richard died when he was 10 but in this play he is almost an adult and doesn't know the identity of his father until the days before the Battle of
Bosworth. Keteltas does a remarkable job of drawing complex characters in such a small space, possibly with the exception of Elizabeth Woodville who is framed as a villainess of sorts. The play also focuses on Richard III losing power and his internal battle over that and Elizabeth of York's internal battle over being loyal to her family verses her future life as Queen to Henry VI. Although largely fictional Caroline Keteltas takes extreme care with the characterisations and you can tell she researched as much as she could. It's a tragic drama but stops just short of being over dramatic. It's a fine balance.

If you can get your hands on this play I'd definitely recommend it. Keteltas is a marvellous writer and it's definitely a shame we don't have more of her writing.


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NEXT: King Lear by William Shakespeare 


  1. Interesting! This year, I'm focusing on the era of English history just following the Battle of Bosworth. But I know very little of English history, so it's nice to see a familiar historical event in literature.


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