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My historical book leaning has claimed my mother as a victim and so it was that The Red Queen appeared in my life, something that I wouldn't have predicted on the basis of my feelings on The White Queen (also reviewed). Both stories were drawn together in the BBC adaptation of The White Queen, but the book of the same title, which focused entirely on Elizabeth Woodville, left me somewhat cold and decidedly hacked off with the massively abrupt ending.
Would The Red Queen leave me feeling equally disappointed?
The Red Queen tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, a hugely pious member of the House of Lancaster during a time when York take power. Convinced of her religious importance and relationship with God, she is still powerless to stop herself being given to a marriage contract at the age of twelve; it is a marriage which results in one child, the birth of which nearly kills the mother. But both she and the child - Henry - survive, although she is to see little of him in his first near-thirty years of life as his guardianship goes to his uncle. Whilst she is soon remarried after her first husband dies, in later life she gains power over her own choices and marries to further the cause that she is convinced was her divine birthright - that of her son's claim to the throne as King of England.
I'm very pleased to say that this was far more engrossing and enjoyable than The White Queen, and whilst it had a similarly abrupt ending, it wasn't nearly so irritatingly ill-timed.
Beaufort is not an easy woman to like; first of all I knew this from the TV adaptation, but for all her religious fervour (I don't do religion), I can understand her drive and obsession. What I didn't expect from the character after seeing the TV version was a depth to her from her frustration as a woman forced into marriage, later kept from her son, frustrated at her previously royal lineage being usurped by the House of York. I was amazed to find that I actually understood and even supported the character towards the end of the book. Where The White Queen felt shallow, this book has much more depth of character. Beaufort's first husband doesn't have much characterisation and her ensuing passion for her first brother-in-law never truly washes, but her second and third husbands have much more credibility about the way they are written.
But this is a tale told from the protagonist's perspective and so you only see so much of the overall story; I think that the BBC had it right when pulling all these tales together. Would I go on to read the Anne Neville account of the Cousins' War stories by this author? Perhaps not. I am intrigued by The White Princess but I can't see myself reading all of Gregory's books on this particular literary bend...this is far better, in my opinion, than The White Queen but I think it does have to be taken as part of a bigger body of work - were I asked to read and review it as a stand-alone piece, then I doubt that I would rate it so highly and I think that it is also better for reading after first going through The White Queen.
On balance, a good book, a good read if this is the type of book that you enjoy, but very much part of a grander scale of work.
I picked up 'The Red Queen' after reading its prequel, 'The White Queen', and following the BBC TV series, based on this series. While I enjoyed 'The White Queen', I thought there were some notable gaps in the story, and characters much neglected by the narrative, and so my hope was that 'The Red Queen' would fill in these gaps, and provide a fuller account of a fascinating period of British history. To some extent, this is what the book did, but there were other issues I had with it.
The story covers a wider period of time than 'The White Queen' did. It begins during the reign of Henry VI, the king whose illness was the impetus for the Wars of the Roses. The story is narrated by Margaret Beaufort, the king's cousin, and a prominent member of the Lancastrian house, who is married at twelve years old to Edmund Tudor. Margaret must move to a desolate castle in Wales to live with the harsh Edmund, and his brother Jasper, and within a few years, she has given him a son, Henry Tudor. However, Wales is troubled by the rebellions of Yorkist supporters, and Edmund is captured and killed. At first, Margaret thinks she is free of his tyranny, but almost immediately, her mother arranges her second marriage into another Lancastrian family, forcing her to leave her baby son behind with Jasper Tudor. While this marriage to Henry Stafford is better than the last, Margaret quickly comes to despise her husband for his cowardice; for he refuses to ride out to war to support King Henry VI against the York forces. When York is eventually triumphant, and Edward IV is crowned, it is he whom Stafford supports against the Lancastrian counter-rebellion. With Henry VI dead, Margaret knows her son is the rightful Lancastrian heir, and so he flees to Britanny for his safety, and to begin raising an army. Meanwhile, Margaret engineers a third marriage to give herself a more influential position at court, and begins working towards her son's triumph. The story culminates with the famous Battle of Bosworth.
I thought this book did a far better job than 'The White Queen' at portraying the complex political situation of the period, though I admit, the constant references to battles did leave me a little lost at times. The problem with telling the story of such a well-known historical period is that the ending is known, and there is no dramatic tension; I suspect that most readers will already know the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth between King Richard III and Henry Tudor. The emphasis therefore has to be on the characters, yet this is another issue. Margaret Beaufort is without a doubt a strong woman, unusual for this period, and the reader is lead to admire her cunning and the strength of her belief in her cause. However, as an individual I found her thoroughly unsympathetic and arrogant. Philippa Gregory does her best to justify these character faults be showing Margaret's difficult upbringing and the hardships of her first marriage. It is indeed feasible that these could have caused Margaret to take refuge in religion and become convinced of her own 'specialness'. Being a noble woman in medieval England cannot have been easy, and I do have some sympathy for her, but I found her arrogance and jealousy incredibly annoying, especially when she spent so much time telling us how she lacked these sins! To paraphrase her third husband, Thomas Stanley, it is remarkable how often God's will coincided exactly with her own. Her one saving grace might have been her love for her son, but for the fact that she admits herself that she is only interested in him for his claim to the throne. It was interesting to have read the story of the Wars of the Roses from both the Lancastrian and the Yorkist side, but I couldn't really warm to this book.
'We may be of the same family but that is the very reason why we are not friends, for we are rivals for the throne. What quarrels are worse than family quarrels? We may all be cousins; but they are of the house of York and we are of the house of Lancaster. Never forget it.'
It is the year 1453. Margaret Beaufort, at nine years of age, dreams of a celibate life in service to God. But as the heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret cannot choose a life for herself, and she's forced into a marriage at the age of 12 to Edmund Tudor,a man twice her age and half-brother to King Henry VI.
Married for the purpose of conceiving a Tudor heir, Margaret gives birth to a son, at thirteen, who she names Henry. Margaret is determined to put her son on the throne, despite the strength of York, and concocts one of the greatest schemes of all time.
I devoured this book. I really enjoyed The White Queen, but for some reason, this book grabbed me even more. The White Queen intrigued me and gave me a real interest in this time period, so perhaps seeing the story from the side of Lancaster is what entrapped me in this book. Since the book is set over the same time frame as The White Queen, I knew most of the events that were going to take place. But seeing them from the other point of view, having an insight into the mystery of the disappearance of the princes in the tower, and an insight into the mysterious character that is Margaret Beaufort, really made this book difficult to put down.
At the end of The White Queen, we know that there is going to be a battle between Henry Tudor and King Richard III, but what we don't know is the outcome of the battle, as the book ends before the battle begins. The mystery is cleared up in this book, I won't say anymore or it will ruin the story, but this was the main reason why I loved this book and why it kept me gripped at all hours of the day.
I can't say that I really liked Margaret's character. She's certainly a strong woman, and she's definitely determined to fight for what she believes in. But at times, she was so conceited that she frustrated me. The cover model on the edition of the book that I read, has a very smug and superior look to her, so this was an accurate representation in my opinion.
That being said, I don't believe that Margaret would have been so insufferable had she not been forced into two marriages at a young age. As a young girl, she felt that she was special and that everyone should be able to see that she is special, since she believed that she was chosen by God and he sent her visions, but she wasn't a cruel person. Her mother drills into her from a young age, that although York are their cousins, they are also their enemies and Margaret should never forget that. Therefore, Margaret grows up with a strong belief that the house of Lancaster is superior, and she will stop at nothing to put her son on the throne, and become 'My Lady, the King's Mother.'
Philippa Gregory continues to amaze me with this book, and has made me intrigued by the history behind her novels. I'm about to read the third book of the series 'The Lady of The Rivers', which focuses on Jacquetta, the mother of The White Queen. I'll be reading all of the books in the 'Cousins' War' series, and looking out for more fascinating books by Philippa Gregory.
This is a review of the 2010 book "The Red Queen" by Phillippa Gregory, an author whom I enjoy reading (but not back to back books by her). She writes fictional historical books based on true, usually Royalty based accounts. I didn't realise this was the second book in the trilogy and jumped straight in to book two but it didn't really spoil it as each book tells an account from a different person's view point.
A bit about
in the Red Queen, the book starts in Spring 1453, and this is during the War of the Roses between The Royal Houses of York and Lancashire. The main character is nine year old Margaret Beaufort who is pious and religious. She hopes to become a nun and devote her life to God but that is not her mother's plan for her who wishes to use her royal lineage (she is cousin to the king) to make a potential heir to the throne. She is betrothed at this young age and married at the young age of 12 to Edmund Tudor with strict instructions to give him a baby boy, which she does at the age of 13, nearly dying in the process. The rest of the book is about her devotion to her son and determination to get him on the throne so that she can become the King's mother, which is as good as being Queen in her eyes.
Tragically, Edmund dies in battle before he meets his son and his brother Jasper becomes a father figure to young Henry. I thought that Margaret might hook up with Jasper but it never happens as Jasper is an enemy of the ruling monarch and is always seemingly on the run.
How many husbands
Two husbands later and Margaret is still plotting against the King and Queen to get her only son on the throne. I really don't know how she gets away with it as she writes treason filled letters and signs her name at the end of them.
Whilst Margaret is pious and proud of her saints knees (from kneeling to pray all the time) she is a very vain woman. Not in the sense that she is bothered about money and fine clothes, but in her own status. It is the thought of being the King's mother that keeps her motivated and loyal to her son throughout the decades which pass in the book. She is disparaging about women who are pretty and jealous of their status in Court. She sends bitter letters to them berating them for their behaviour and they just laugh at her behind her back as to them she is a nobody.
As a reader you get a good insight into the real Margaret and she is really quite a mean and heartless character. She is also a great liar and believes her own untruths and retells false stories to get what she wants. She orders the deaths of the two princes in the tower who challenge her son's line to the throne and later tells whoever will listen that it was the king that killed the princes.
Whilst the main narration is through Margaret, there are letters between her and her husband and Jasper in the book which help to convey the main direction of the story. There is a lot of repetition to establish how loyal Margaret is to the Lancaster House.
I enjoyed reading the book but I did find it took quite a lot of concentration to keep up with events. I found it better to read the book in large sections rather than a few pages at a time. Some of the characters swapped sides so often it was hard to work out who they were supporting. The battle scenes were very descriptive and bloody and you really felt like you were there when reading these pages.
I think it may make sense to read book one in the trilogy to set the scene better if you get chance before reading The Red Queen. It is a genre I do enjoy reading but infrequently so that I enjoy it when I do read a historical fiction novel. Obviously you can guess the ending just by being observant about who was on the throne in these times and so the ending did not come as a surprise to me but even so you were kept guessing right until the last page about how that battle for the throne would end.
Having read and recently reviewed 'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory, I thought I should read the accompanying book, 'The Red Queen' which tells the same story but from a totally different viewpoint. As I mentioned in my previous review, I have been a fan of Philippa Gregory ever since reading 'The Other Boleyn Girl'.
The Red Queen follows the story of the 'Cousins War', the time period in which the Plantagenets fought continually over the throne. Two opposing houses, the Lancasters and the Yorks though related as cousins, both sought to put their own heirs on the throne and England endured a tumultous period of fighting and betrayls. The book is set between 1453 and 1485, durinng which Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, passes through several marriages, constantly disillusioned at the role of a women during this era. Highly religious, she seeks to put her son on the throne, believing he is the rightful heir whom God has predisposed to rule. Margaret Beaufort is essentially the rival to Elizabeth Woodville, the main character of the prequel novel 'The White Queen', each woman believing their child to be the rightful heir. Elizabeth Woodville is mother to the two princes in the tower, who mysteriously went missing whilst their uncle seized the throne and removed their legitimacy to be heirs. There has been much speculation as to the fate of these children and to this day it is unsolved, however Gregory specualtes in both books the role that Margaret Beaufort may have had to play...
As with all of Gregory's novels, the story is part fiction, part historical truth and part speculation. Gregory manages to weave an intricate tale of fact and fiction, creating the rich world of days gone by. At the end of the book the author has once again written a brief synopsis of which parts are fact, fiction and speculation, which I find incredibly useful. The book as always is well written and easy to follow despite the complexity of the families, ever changing allegiances and dynamics of the characters. I was totally engaged in this book and read it in a few days. If you enjoy British history this is well worth a read!
*also posted on ciao*
The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.
I have had The Red Queen sat on my bookcase for quite some time now, I've been putting off reading it because I wasn't sure that I would like it as much as The White Queen and I was worried that it would feel a little repetitive. It's unusual in a series of books that it really doesn't matter which way round you read them, the Cousins' War series isn't a continuation of a story but rather both of these books are set more or less over the same period of time, just from completely different perspectives. The White Queen being from the House of York and The Red Queen being from the House of Lancaster.
Despite my worries that it would read a tad repetitive, I only found a few sections here and there that really seemed familiar to me. However, I think that I enjoyed this book more because it is has been quite a while since I read The White Queen. I certainly wouldn't recommend reading them directly after one another.
These books are historically accurate in some ways, but they are also filled with speculation and are really heavily fictionalised accounts of a turbulent period of history, which personal I much prefer to something that could read like a textbook. I don't read these novels to learn the intricacies surrounding a very interesting period in British history, but I read them to be entertained and I was certainly entertained throughout The Red Queen. However, being based on historical facts does mean that I already knew the outcome of the book and last few chapters really felt a little drawn out and I was glad to see the end of a book that I had otherwise devoured. I also felt that the ending was a little rushed in some respects, and really wasn't my favourite part of the book. Again a lot of this might be because the ending didn't hold that much drama for me, I knew which King was going to be victorious and which was going to perish.
If I am entirely honest I really enjoyed the first half of this book much more than the second half, which was much less character driven and more political, and at times a tad repetitive as years passed and the same wars were fought and re-fought, but that was how it really happened. I also think that at the beginning of the book I cared a lot more for Margret Beaufort than I did towards her later years when she grew to be a harsh woman that was unfaltering in her belief that she should see her family line return to the throne. She was brutal, manipulative and really someone that almost didn't deserve to win in her ambitions or life, she was a character that had been hardened by a very unfortunate life.
One thing that I really did miss in The Red Queen was reading about the opulent royal court, Margret was only at court for a very short period of her life and it was almost entirely skimmed over. I think in the past I have loved some of the other Philippa Gregory books more because there was a whole host of interesting and colourful characters, apart from Margaret there wasn't anyone else that really stood out in The Red Queen for me.
As with all of Philippa Gregory's books the writing was great and I was swept away by how easy this book was to read. However, I don't think that this was her best book by far, and on occasion the writing was a tad heavy on the description at parts, which I assume was to move the story along when the main character was nowhere near the action. I would recommend reading this series and I would whole heartedly recommend reading Philippa Gregory, but if you aren't already a fan of hers I wouldn't start with this book. Start with her Tudor books - The Other Boleyn Girl is an all time personal favourite of mine.
This was definitely a good read - three out of five stars.
Genre - Adult, historical fiction
Published by Simon and Schuster (Paperback - April 2011 )
Paperback - 387 pages (£7.99)
In The Cousins' War series:-
The White Queen - 8/10
The Red Queen - 7/10
The Lady of the Rivers - Not published until Sept 2011
The year is 1453 and nine year old Margaret Beaufort dreams of becoming the English Joan Of Arc, believing herself to be the saintly saviour of her country. What follows is Margaret's tale as she struggles to fulfil what she feels is her destiny, never swerving from her belief that God has given her a purpose.
Philippa Gregory is undoubtedly best known for her Tudor series of books including the bestseller, The Other Boleyn Girl, which has been made into a film (read the book, it's far superior). Following the same format of taking a strong woman and then allowing her to tell her own story, The Red Queen is the second in the new Cousin's War trilogy set during the Plantagenet era. I really enjoyed the first in this series, The White Queen and was looking forward to reading this, only to be sorely disappointed.
It was hard for me to come to a conclusion as to why I not only enjoyed reading this less but also struggled to get to the last page. The writing style is just as effective as in the previous novel, Gregory really does bring both the era and characters alive. Something I've always appreciated in Gregory's novel is the way she chooses a strong female lead, history is dominated by men and is normally written from their perspective so it's nice to read about these eras from a female perspective. But Margaret Beaufort is simply such an unpleasant character that I found it hard to care much about her.
With the previous Gregory novels I've read, no matter how unpleasant the lead character they've always had some redeeming quality that would allow me to connect. In the previous novel in the series the lead, Elizabeth Woodville, certainly wasn't perfect, but her devotion to her family shone through. In the case of Margaret Beaufort, she doesn't even have this to redeem her, it seems everything and everyone is to her a means to an end. It's no plot spoiler to say that her son was Henry VII, the man who finally brought peace to England (for a short period at least) by creating the Tudor dynasty. But I found myself wondering how he could have any respect for his mother, considering her attitude towards him. I guess that as a mother myself I found myself literally detesting her.
That's not to say that Margaret was badly written, in fact for me to have such strong feelings of loathing is perhaps a testament to Gregory's writing skills. But perhaps Gregory could have found a redeeming quality for her no matter how small that would have allowed me to empathise with her just a little. But there again from reading previous Gregory novels where Margaret played a cameo role, perhaps I should have realised that I was not going to like this self-serving, false pious, control freak.
So was there anything I enjoyed about The Red Queen, well I did enjoy reading about an era that I have little knowledge about and I liked the idea that while The White Queen told the story from Elizabeth's Yorkist viewpoint, The Red Queen focussed on the Lancastrian point of view. But this did mean that a lot of the history was the same as in the previous book, just from a different perspective. And there are a couple of small continuity errors, not massive errors, but there were a couple of conversations that didn't quite gel. I'm not painting a very good picture here am I? Well that's because I really didn't enjoy this book and for me the negatives outweighed the positives.
As to historical accuracy, well I'm not an expert, but to my untrained eye there were no glaring errors. As with her Tudor novels Gregory appears to have done her research and indeed she does paint a very good picture of what it was like to be a woman in a real man's world. The language used appears to be quite accurate too, I'm not talking about the narrative but the conversations between the characters. If I were to take this book as gospel (along with others in which Margaret makes an appearance), I would say that Margaret was a thoroughly unpleasant woman that I would avoid at all costs. How accurate a description this truly is, I have no idea, but surely such a woman would not have had the devotion of so many people.
Although The Red Queen is available in various formats, including paperback and hardback, I purchased it in Kindle format and read it on my mobile phone using the Kindle for Android application. The novel translated well to the format and in the most part the formatting was excellent with only the occasional word being broken with a hyphen.
As to my recommendation, well this is a hard one. If this were a standalone book then I would say forget it and read one of Gregory's other novels. But as this is part of a trilogy and the previous book is so good, I would have to say that this should be added to your reading list if and only if you have read The White Queen. Just don't expect to find it as easy or pleasant to read and I would really recommend buying it second hand (if possible) or borrowing from the library rather than purchasing new. This certainly isn't a book I'll be reading again any time soon. So I'm giving The Red Queen a disappointing three stars out of five and am hoping that when it's released the final book in the trilogy is somewhat better.
The 2nd of the cousins at war trilogy, The Red Queen focuses on Margaret Beaufort and her ambitions for her son to become King and see the Red Rose of Lancaster take the throne from the White Rose of York. If you like Gregory's other novels you shouldn't be disappointed in this one. I enjoyed the portrayal of Margaret, a character who is not covered widely in other historical novels that I have read. It shows the determination of a woman to gain what she perceives to be her birth right - the crown. She ruthlessly pushes her son, Henry Tudor to fight for the crown, despite the separations and heart break this causes. Like other books by Gregory she brings the characters to life, so that whether you like them or not, you want to continue reading to find out what happens to them.
This book follws the life of one of the strongest women in history, Margaret Beauford, who becomes a mother at 14 and spends the rest of her life tyring to put her son on the throne of England. Set during the wars of the roses the events surrounding this era and rich in interest and conflict. During her journey through life she endures terrible lonliness all in aid of her son whom she is seperated from most of the time. I was deeply looking forward to this book having read many of Greagory's other works inc luding the white queen which follows the rival of beauford. I found this book to be a little disappointing. The characters feeling become predictable and repetitive as events seem to move at such a slow pace during parts of the story. I didn't take a liking to Margaret and has taken a great liking to her rival in the white queen so perhas that influenced me, but as an alternative view to the white queen many of the events are inevitably repeated and perhaps Gregory was running out of things to say about them. Worth a read for the events surrounding Margaret but perhaps not for the character herself.
The Red Queen is the second in the Cousins at War series by Philippa Gregory, set during the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century. The first novel, The White Queen, followed Elizabeth Woodville, who was the wife of Edward IV, the York king. The Red Queen covers a similar time period but from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, who was to become Henry VII.
The novel opens when Margaret is a young girl. With events taking place during a time when women had no choices and little education, her dreams for what she wants to do with her life are doomed to fail. She is married young, with the intention of having children to carry on the Beaufort line, who are close to the throne. She gives birth to Henry Tudor, but her husband is killed, and she is soon moved onto another, and later makes a third marriage of her own choosing. An incredibly pious woman, she becomes obsessed with putting her son on the throne, and believes it is their destiny.
The story of The Red Queen is of course true. Much of the novel is told in the first person, and of course this means that historical liberties are taken: dialogue is created and events are adjusted to suit the novel. The Red Queen is what you could call a dramatization of history - based on fact but with necessary additions.
In The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville is a fairly sympathetic heroine, easy to engage with and support. Margaret Beaufort, on the other hand, is not. As a child she is overly-pious and this continues throughout her life; her dreams of becoming an abbess or sainted crusader are thwarted. However, her piety is somewhat lessened by the fact that she is always wanting people to see how devoted she is to her faith. I may be an atheist, but I'm quite sure that religion isn't supposed to be for show. This did not warm me to Margaret at all. In addition, her self-professed piety is at odds with her desire to put her son on the throne and to have all the nice things that come with being the king's mother. Although she loudly professes otherwise, and indeed constantly goes on about Elizabeth's materialism, she is materialistic herself to a degree.
The events of the novel are exciting and make for a good read, although as Margaret is the narrator we often hear of events second hand, as she has no part in them as a woman. However, in the all-important final battle of the novel, it switches to a general third-person narration in order that we miss none of the action.
Despite knowing the outcome of Margaret and her son's story, and indeed many of the details along the way, I found I was on edge at times waiting to find out what was going to happen. I suppose although Gregory has always been faithful to history to this point, one of these days she might write an "alternate ending" novel, so feeling on edge isn't too ridiculous! And of course with this being a novel, the reader is much closer to the characters than when reading an impartial history text; however well written and readable it may be, the characters generally remain at a distance.
All in all, I enjoyed The Red Queen, but the character of Margaret Beaufort made it less enjoyable than The White Queen. However it was certainly an enjoyable and well-written historical novel, and it is also one which can be read on its own; I don't feel that it is necessary to read the series in order. Some prior knowledge of the Wars of the Roses would be beneficial, but is not essential; I read The White Queen with no prior knowledge, and although I have done some reading on the subject between the two novels, I am sure I could have followed and enjoyed The Red Queen had I not done this.