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A Rose for the Crown

A Novel

About The Book


In A Rose for the Crown, we meet one of history's alleged villains through the eyes of a captivating new heroine -- the woman who was the mother of his illegitimate children, a woman who loved him for who he really was, no matter what the cost to herself.

As Kate Haute moves from her peasant roots to the luxurious palaces of England, her path is inextricably intertwined with that of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III. Although they could never marry, their young passion grows into a love that sustains them through war, personal tragedy, and the dangerous heights of political triumph.

Anne Easter Smith's impeccable research provides the backbone of an engrossing and vibrant debut from a major new historical novelist.

Reading Group Guide

A Rose for the Crown Reading Group Guide
Questions & Topics for Discussion
  1. The Prologue contains significant details about Kate and her two sons, one of whom dies tragically in these opening pages. Did having this information up front influence your reading of the story? Why do you suppose Anne Easter Smith chose to reveal these facts in the Prologue?
  2. When Kate is ten years old, her father tells her the story of how he came into possession of an ecu, a French coin, in order to help her understand the concept of loyalty. Loyalty is "when you stand by someone you love or honor and do not desert them even in the bad times," he says. What impact does this conversation have on Kate? How does the idea of loyalty play out in the story? Why does Kate give Richard the ecu to wear when it comes into her possession?
  3. When Kate's parents decide to accept Richard Haute's offer to have Kate join their household, John Bywood says to him, "As much as it do sadden us to see her go, we are obliged to do what is best for Kate." Even ten-year-old Kate acknowledges that "the thrill of a new life at the Mote must outweigh the loss." How do these same statements apply to Kate and her own children many years later?
  4. Kate is reluctant to marry her first husband, Thomas Draper, a man much older than she. But in what ways does Kate's marriage to Thomas come to benefit her? Why is Kate, a smart woman, then so deceived by her second husband, George, who not only marries her for her money but harbors a dark secret?
  5. When Kate finds out why George refuses to consummate their marriage, she decides to keep his secret. Why does she choose not to reveal what she knows, even though it could be the very thing that will free her from her marriage? After George dies, Kate dreams of him and believes this is God's way of "reminding her of the reason for [his] untimely death. If she had told him who her lover was from the beginning, he might not have attempted to find Richard and venture into Sherwood Forest." Does Kate bear any responsibility for George's death?
  6. When Kate travels to the Howard estate and unexpectedly attends the birth of their daughter, she strikes up a friendship with Margaret. In what ways does Kate's friendship with Margaret play an integral role in her life?
  7. When Kate first begins her affair with Richard, he's fifteen and she's two years older. What draws them together? Is their relationship based on more than youthful passion? After the initiation of their love affair at the Howards' home, Richard attempts to persuade Kate to accompany him to London as his mistress. Although she's tempted, as it would allow her to see him more often, why does Kate refuse Richard's offer?
  8. When they return to Bywood Farm in anticipation of Dickon's birth, Geoff remarks to his sister, "Who would have believed how our lives would change, Kate. If it had not been for your boldness...we would still think there was no bigger river than the Medway or town than Tunbridge!" Is their change in fortune due to Kate's "boldness"? Does Kate knowingly use it to her advantage? Is this quality more effective when it comes to the men in her life than the women?
  9. Why does Kate insist on telling Richard in person that Katherine has died? When she breaks the news to him, he says, "I have nothing to live for, Kate. I have lost my wife, my son, my brothers, my nephews, and now my beautiful daughter. I swear to Almighty God I do not care if I live or die.... I wish Richmond would come through that door this very moment and put me out of my misery!" Did Kate do the right thing by telling Richard about their daughter's death right before he went into battle?
  10. Both Margaret and Kate's cousin, Anne, disagree with her decision to send Dickon to Bywood farm to be raised as her brother's child. When Kate tells Richard, however, he commends her for caring about their child so much that she would do such a selfless thing. How do you explain these different reactions? Did Kate make the right decision, particularly in light of what transpires later in the story? What compels Kate to finally reveal the truth to Dickon?
  11. Richard says to Kate about his wife, Anne, "she is a simple soul, Kate, and too vulnerable. In many ways, you would be more suited as a queen." Compare Kate with Richard's wife, Anne, and the role each one plays in his life. If someone were observing their first meeting, what would they conclude about the two women? Why does Richard confide in Kate on numerous occasions after he becomes king?
  12. A Rose for the Crown is a bittersweet story, and the characters experience both moments of great happiness and intense sorrow. What is your overall impression of the book? How does it compare to other works of historical fiction you've read? Did you come away with an understanding of what it was like during, as Smith says in the Author's Note, "one of English history's most complex periods"?

Enhance Your Book Club Discussion
Set the scene -- and enliven your taste buds -- by serving tea and traditional English delicacies like shortbread, custard, sugared plums, and scones with jam and clotted cream. If your group normally meets at a restaurant, or if you'd like a change of pace, visit for a directory of tea rooms across the United States.
Select a nonfiction aspect presented in the book, find out more about it, and share your findings with the group. Then discuss its significance in the story, and in particular how it affects Kate. Possible topics include fifteenth-century laws about divorce and annulment, the use of plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, and taking a vow of widowhood.
Throughout history King Richard III has often been remembered as a usurper of the throne and possibly even a murderer. Conduct some research into how he has been portrayed -- in books, articles, and even entertainment sources like Shakespeare's plays and twentieth-century film adaptations. Compare your findings to how Smith presents the monarch in the book, taking into account the information she shares in the Author's Note. A listing of resources and links can be found at, the website of the Richard III Society, whose mission is to restore the reputation of this controversial historical figure.

About The Author

Photograph by Nancy Hayes

A native of England, Anne Easter Smith has lived in the United States for more than forty years. She was the features editor at a newspaper in New York State and now lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, Scott. You can visit her website at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (March 14, 2006)
  • Length: 672 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743276870

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Raves and Reviews

"Anyone interested in history, honor, and lost love will want to read A Rose for the Crown."

-- Sharon Kay PenMan, author of The Sunne in Splendour

"Move over Amber St. Clare! Here comes Kate Haute. The richly imagined story of the woman who might have been the mother of Richard's three illegitimate children, this tale plunges the reader into the treacherous politics of the War of the Roses."

-- Judith Merkle Riley, author of The Oracle Glass

"Remarkably assured debut spins a romantic yarn around England's much-maligned King Richard III.. a delightful, confident novel that should be a favorite with lovers of the genre. A strong new voice in the field of historical romance."

-- Kirkus Reviews

"In her first book, writer and musician Smith has produced a vibrant story full of careful historical detail and well-developed characters. More than just retelling historical events, Smith creates an empathetic and fascinating heroine in her own right. As Kate witnesses the monumental events that take place at the highest levels, the reader becomes engrossed in her story...highly recommended."

-- Library Journal

"Anne Easter Smith has done a remarkable job of weaving contemporary sources and scholarly evidence into the romantic, touching story of Kate and Richard's abiding connection to one another. The love Kate and Richard share is almost painful in its intensity. Kate is an appealing, fully drawn character who grows and ripens as the story progresses. Smith's Richard is certainly not the vilified hunchback king who killed his nephews in the Tower, but the fiercely loyal younger brother of Edward IV and later, husband of Anne. The Author's Note, extensive and wonderful, supports the existence of Kate or a Kate prototype.

This is a marvelous book, long and complex, deeply satisfying and a great read. Highly recommended."

-- Historical Novels Review

"This is a strong biographical fictionalized account of the life of Kate Bywood that provides a warmer loving side to Richard III through the tender eyes of his paramour...Kate is a fabulous heroine whose story makes for a fascinating indirect look at another perspective of Richard III."

-- Harriet Klausner

"Move over, Amber St. Clare! Here comes Kate Haute, mistress of Richard III. The richly imagined story of the woman who might have been mother of Richard's three illegitimate children, this tale plunges the reader into the treacherous politics of the War of the Roses. With Richard, Kate shares passion, regal glamour, and, in the end, partakes of the bitter cup of loss."

-- Judith Merkle Riley, author of The Oracle Glass

"Anyone interested in history, honor and lost love will want to read A Rose for the Crown."

-- Sharon Kay Penman, author of The Sunne in Splendour

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