Elizabeth Woodville

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The White Princess – Philippa Gregory

Published April 20, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

The haunting story of the mother of the Tudors, Elizabeth of York, wife to Henry VII.

Beautiful eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville – the White Queen – the young princess Elizabeth faces a conflict of loyalties between the red rose and the white. Forced into marriage with Henry VII, she must reconcile her slowly growing love for him with her loyalty to the House of York, and choose between her mother’s rebellion and her husband’s tyranny. Then she has to meet the Pretender, whose claim denies the House of Tudor itself.

What did I think?:

I’m a huge fan of Philippa Gregory, especially her Tudor series, but her new Cousins War adventures have a lot to recommend for themselves also. They focus on the Plantagenet dynasty (the family before the Tudors) which I did not know much about before reading these books yet the author has as with all her historical fiction, brought the period alive in a new and exciting way. The White Princess is the fifth book in the series, each novel focusing on a different female lead and the subject of this one is the mother of the notorious Henry VIII – Elizabeth of York. When the story opens, Henry VII has just defeated Richard III, King of England in battle and seized the crown for himself, as his mother Margaret has always predicted he would. Elizabeth is obliged to enter into a contract of marriage with the victor to bring peace to an England fractured and almost destroyed by the effects the continuous wars between the Lancasters and the Yorks have had on the land.

The marriage has multiple issues that Elizabeth must contend with, the main one being that Richard III was Elizabeth’s lover and she must now wed and bed the man that killed him. Furthermore, there is still the mystery of the disappearance of the princes in the Tower (Elizabeth’s brothers) and Elizabeth and her mother are no closer to understanding what has happened to them, and indeed if they are still alive. The plot thickens considerably when news of a young boy claiming to be one of the young Princes arises, and there are fears that he may take the throne back from the first Tudor king. This is particularly poignant news for Elizabeth and the rest of the York family as even though this man may be her lost brother and have a stronger claim to the throne than Henry, Elizabeth must remain loyal to her husband first and foremost.

As I mentioned before I have loved the books in the Cousins War series, and while I don’t think this is one of the strongest, Gregory still wove her magical spell and I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It is true that we do not know all the historical facts of this family with one hundred percent certainty, but it is obvious that the author carries out meticulous research into all her books being a historian primarily, and I enjoy the blend of fact and fiction that results from her study. I have also relished reading about another family besides the Tudors and believe that the Plantagenets have a large variety of interesting and independent women that we can both learn about and learn from. I felt incredibly sorry for Elizabeth as a character having to marry a man that she didn’t love through duty and suffering the agonies of a loveless marriage. The only slight criticism I would have of this particular novel is that when compared to the rest of the series, not much seemed to happen and everything revolved around the potential “Pretender” to the throne. However it was very illustrative and important to show how Henry VII’s paranoia increased with every challenge he was faced with and a good portrait of the beginning of the Tudor regime.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):