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So. My geekery continues apace, and after devouring The Other Boleyn Girl, and having loved the BBC adaptation of The White Queen, I was eager to read the book that had inspired the series.
First published in 2009 by Philippa Gregory, The White Queen is not, as the TV adaptation might suggest, a book encapsulating the complete fates of all the protagonists we met in that series. Instead, it is the first is a series telling the historical and political turmoil of the era through the eyes of various women, the first being Elizabeth Woodville, who became the Queen to Edward IV of the House of York, despite already being a widow, mother and Lancastrian.
How so? Well first there is her beauty, and her courage. In a somewhat unlikely scenario, she effectively seduces the King without giving up her honour as so many women had previously when faced with the charms of the dashing York King. Not being used to being told that he cannot have what he wants, Elizabeth has both secured herself and her two sons from poverty by ensuring her husband's estate is returned to her, and also given the King an impossible challenge that he can't forget about.
*A quick note - I can't really establish the story any further without the risk of some light spoilers, so please feel free to skip forward. As always, I will keep it to the basics in the interest of setting the scene!*
The practical men of her noble Rivers family think she has been a fool when she marries the King in secret, as public rumour has it that she won't be the first and will soon be set aside for the favours of a politically strengthening marriage. On Elizabeth's side are her beauty and her mother, both experienced of French and English courts and something of a sorceress. Through her Elizabeth believes herself to be a descended of the water goddess Melusina, and Jacquetta of Luxembourg believes that her daughter is blessed with some form of predictive insight. Against her is the Kingmaker, Lord Warwick, who has put a young York boy on the throne with the intention of ruling through him, and has no time for this illicit marriage.
But of course there would be little story if Edward had not taken the risk during the turbulent times in England that he had helped to create; and so it is that Elizabeth is summoned to court to be crowned his wife and has to see her dashing husband ride to battle after battle in defence of his ill-gotten rule as the true King Henry resides in his madness in the Tower.
From there we see the development of Edward's family, the discord and disloyalty amongst he and his allies as well as his own brothers, the rise of the Rivers and the ultimate fall of Warwick, all told first person by a protagonist who is a Queen, rumoured to be a witch, certainly a seductress, but fundamentally a woman and a mother who sees herself go from castle to Tower and back, who sees the loss of those she needs surrounding her for strength and support and the political manoeuvrings of her enemies and worst, finds she may have to risk trusting some of them.
And of course it tells from the most personal perspective one of the most puzzling historical mysteries of this country; that of the two Princes in the Tower of London.
Yes and no. And I can't claim ambivalence because some aspects caused me to be genuinely annoyed when I hit one important part - the ending.
Now, first off let's address the book / TV adaptation stand off; those who have seen the full, well told story of The Cousins' War novels will perhaps be let down by the one-sidedness of the story. Here you don't see the manipulative, obsessive plotting of Margaret Beaufort in all its slightly bonkers brilliance. Even less do you see the naïve young Anne Neville become forced into plots of her own as she is used as a pawn by her own father and family. You see it all from Elizabeth's slanted perspective, which is effective in its own way but might come as a surprise if you don't expect it. I did to some degree, but I also found the story one-sided to an extent that made Elizabeth seem a bit irritatingly self-pitying, because you simply don't see the scale of the opposition and gathering danger of her situation without some sort of scale or comparison - it makes the story very flat.
Initially I felt fairly let down by the book; but I am nothing if not a stubborn mare and I was determined to see it through. As the historical developments unfold I felt that I was intrigued to continue with the story but at the same time the way the documentation of a development involving Elizabeth's now-teenage daughter at court is also lacklustre because you don't see the development of the actually situation in question; just how a politically endangered former Queen and mother had to react to it. Therefore the drama of it lacked believability.
Gregory has taken historical liberties again - which I won't elaborate on for fear of taking the element of spoilers in reviews too far - but again it works as entertaining and a fresh perspective on the idea of using historical settings for fictional purposes. I'm not a huge fan of first-person narratives but it is readable and something obviously kept me hanging.
But that brings me to the aspect that annoys me the most; the ending. Now, I'm fairly savvy but my historical knowledge isn't as brilliant as it was; too many years in the real world getting on with it have knocked off the perfection of the odd edge. Thus it is, after all, that books like this can be entertaining - you can be unsure of the outcome even if you can be pretty certain, and that does add to the aspect of the build of a good book structure. History is, tweaks and suggestions aside, already written for the author.
So there I was, thinking I had another two chapters or so left at the end of the book. It is at a crucial stage, we have travelled through many years in the history of the rule of England. A chapter ends and I take a sip of wine and turn the next page to see how the author will finish it after such build up...
...and I find some book notes.
At no point when I read that last few paragraphs did I think that I was reading a conclusion, and of course with the book having companions (hardly sequels), then it isn't "the end", but some sort of finesse on the structural conclusion to this precise book would have been good. As it is I spluttered, grumbled, had a small rant to Mr Rarr who found it all hugely amusing, and then chucked it across the room. (The book, not Mr Rarr).
I was furious. Its not like there's an excuse - you could have continued the book to a major point in history instead of just alluding to it, because you clearly already have your reader still with you. But no. It was just like borrowing a library book and finding that some deviant has ripped out the last two chapters - not improved when you have a thick wedge of pages in your hand which you think is a continuation of the story.
I don't know. I can't give it more than three stars. I am tempted to drop it to two. The inelegance of the ending - I don't know, perhaps a fan would argue that I am the one lacking in elegance if I need a better ending - I just feel that it stops a few steps through history shorter than it should, and the author's skill and the by-now well developed story of the protagonist would have had the strength to carry this.
So overall, I have to be disappointed. Initially unimpressed, then more drawn in, I found myself bordering on engrossed before I was dropped from a great height. If you enjoy this type of novel then I don't doubt you might enjoy this story and its method of execution but if you only want to read it after seeing the much more multi-layered adaptation, then you may be disappointed. And either way, you might be anyway.
I was attracted to this book following the BBC adaption of the Cousin's War series, also entitled 'The White Queen'. While I enjoyed both the TV series and the book, I found them to be completely different. The TV series gives a much broader perspective, but Philippa Gregory's original novel follows only the story of Elizabeth Woodville, telling it from her first person perspective.
The story takes us through part of the Wars of the Roses, beginning with Elizabeth's marriage to Edward IV, and ending with Elizabeth's retirement from court during the reign of Richard III. Between this, it touches on the major events of Edward IV's reign, and most of those of Richard III, including battles, and political scheming. The major focus is on Elizabeth herself though; her relationship with Edward, his brothers, and others at court, her growing family, and her struggle to hold onto all she has gained following the death of her husband. It is this focus on the role of women which makes Philippa Gregory's novels so different to most historical novels. In addition, the story has a supernatural element which takes it beyond just a recounting of history.
Elizabeth and her immediate family are well characterised; despite being the main characters, they are not shown as saints, but have their flaws made obvious. However, some of the more minor characters lack such characterisation. This is where the first-person narrative has its downfall, as we only see Elizabeth's opinion of them, which is sometimes very biased! Those reading the book to learn about the Wars of the Roses may find themselves frustrated by the narration, as many important events are skimmed over because they do not directly affect Elizabeth; however those who just want a good story about an independent woman navigating difficult circumstances will be satisfied.
'Everyone knows that these wars have torn our country apart, have destroyed our prosperity, our friendliness between neighbours, our trust of strangers, the love between brothers, the safety of our roads, the affection for our king; and yet nothing seems to stop the battles.'
It's the year 1464, England is at war, as the two houses of York and Lancaster fight each other for the throne. Elizabeth Woodville, a young Lancastrian widowed by the war, marries the young King Edward, much to the anger of his advisers.
As Queen of England, Elizabeth must face the dangers that face her, and her children, as members of her own family fight to take the throne of England. But as a descendant of the Goddess of Water, Melusina, Elizabeth has her own tricks up her sleeve.
For a while I've been interested in reading some of Phillipa Gregory's books. When the BBC Drama of The White Queen aired, my local library put this book on display, so I took my opportunity and borrowed it. At first, I thought the book was very long,at 455 pages, and thought it would take me a long time to read it. The actual story is only 409 pages, the rest of the pages are taken up with an Author's Note, a Bibliography, suggestions for reading groups, some background information on the legend of Melusina, an interview with the Author, and a preview of the next book in the series, The Red Queen.
Reading this book was certainly no chore for me, I loved every page and found it incredibly fascinating. I was enthralled by the story of Elizabeth, a widowed commoner, descended from a Goddess, who becomes Queen of England. Elizabeth is a strong, determined and powerful woman, in a time when to be a powerful woman, was to be condemned as a witch. As the war rages around her, she fights to protect her power,and her family. I love to read about strong female characters in Historical Fiction, since Elizabeth lived in a time when most women were powerless and controlled by the men in their lives, whether it was their Father, or their Husband that was chosen for them. Elizabeth is her own woman, she married for love, and allows no one to control her, even when it would save her life to allow them to.
I liked the way the book was laid out, it was almost like an account of events, which kept the book interesting, since it didn't drag on. I would definitely say that the plot is fast paced, but it's not too fast paced, and doesn't give away too much too soon. It kept me in suspense, and kept me awake for many late nights.
This is probably the first book that I've read cover to cover. The Author's note and the interview with her was very interesting, and if you have an edition with these, I suggest you read them. I found them to be very informative; I've learned that while most of this book is historical fact, Phillipa Gregory has also weaved in some of her own ideas, since records for that time in history are quite patchy. The Author goes on to explain which parts are historical fact, which I really enjoyed as I have a keen interest in history.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written, full of historical facts, and I felt like I was learning some history while I was reading. It's awakened my love for Historical Fiction, and I'll be reading more of Phillipa Gregory's books.
Phillipa Gregory is a Historian and Writer, with a particular love for the Tudor period. She has written several fiction series' including; 'The Cousins' War','The Tudor Court Novels', and 'The Wideacre Trilogy'. She has also written some non-fiction history books, and she writes modern novels too.
The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory, is one of the five planned books in the Cousin's War series. Three are currently published - The White Queen, the story of Elizabeth Woodville; The Red Queen, the story of Lady Margaret Beaufort and The Lady of the Rivers, the story of Elizabeth Woodville's mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg. A further two are due for publication - The King Makers Daughter, the story of Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick and finally The White Princess, the story of Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Elizabeth Woodville.
The White Queen is based on the life of Elizabeth Woodville. An unlikely Queen, it tells the story of her transformation from impoverished widow to Queen of England. Elizabeth is well known as the mother of the Princes in the Tower, but her early life is fascinating.
The book starts in the Spring of 1464 and the last chapter is set in the Spring of 1485.
From a staunchly Lancastrian family, Elizabeth's first husband was killed fighting for Henry VI against the triumphant Yorkists under Edward IV at the battle of St Albans. Elizabeth's dowager lands are confiscated and she is forced to live on the charity of her family. When she hears that Edward is going to be riding past, she stands by the side of the road waiting for him, to ask him to return her lands. It is the start of their controversial relationship.
Gregory tells the love story between Elizabeth and Edward well. It's not over embellished with romance, but it is an extraordinary story based on the evidence recorded at the time.
Elizabeth does not have an easy time of it, with most of the noblemen against the marriage and Edward temporarily loses his thrown because of it. Elizabeth spends much time in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey in order to protect both herself and her family. Once Edward dies Elizabeth does not know who she can trust with all the plots and counter plots going on everywhere.
The book is mainly told in the first person from Elizabeth's point of view. Gregory shows her to be a strong character, and I enjoyed reading about her supposed distant relative, Melusina, whom I had never heard of before but apparently was the inspiration for the Little Mermaid, and the legend surrounding the story. In previous books I had read, Elizabeth is made out to be an avaricious and selfish individual intent on advancement for herself and her family whatever the cost to everyone else so I thoroughly enjoyed reading a more positive account of her life and actions.
The battle scenes were well researched and the scene is well set for them. I especially enjoyed reading about the Battle of Barnet, where poor John de Vere, the 13th Earl of Oxford who attacked his own side in the mist by accident.
I enjoyed the fact that Gregory puts forward a different account of the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, rather than go along with blaming Richard III. I have read many historical fiction books, and this was a version of events I had not heard of before but seems to be perfectly viable. Although Richard will never come across well after usurping the throne it is nice to read a slightly less negative account of him.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Gregory is a fantastic story teller and weaves her fictional side in perfectly with the facts as we know them. She really does make the story come to life and I started to feel like I actually knew the characters. Five stars from me, and bring on The Red Queen - I can't wait to read that now too!
Paperback available on Amazon including postage for:
Thanks for reading. Rachy
I have always been a fan of the Phillipa Gregory books since first reading her famous novel "The Other Boleyn Girl," which was made into a movie. The most recent book I have read has been The White Queen, which is set between 1464 and 1485, during the 'war of the roses', which was also known as 'the cousins war'.
The novel is part fiction and part historical truth and Phillipa Gregory blends the fact and ficiton together in such a way as to bring history to life. It is important to be aware that the novel is completly factual, but at the end of the book the author has written a brief synopsis of which parts were factual which is very handy.
The novel is told from the perspective of Lady Elizabeth Grey, a widow whose husband was killed fighting for the house of Lancaster against the Yorkist King Edward, who has taken the throne from King Henry from the house of Lancaster, who is suffering with illness. England is depicted as being on the brink of civil war, with the country divided between those supporting the orginal King Henry and thus the Lancaster House represented by the white rose, versus those who support the alleged usurper King Edward who is from the York line, represented by the red rose. Despite being from the Lancaster family line, Elizabeth falls in love with the new King Edward and ends up becoming Queen of England, during a very tentative time for British royalty. Frequently betrayed and slandered the King and his Queen struggle to hold onto their reign and bring peace to a war torn country.
Elizabeth bears several children, prominently two boys named Edward and Richard, known to the history books as the Princes in the Tower, the mystery of whom remains unsolved to this day. Whilst being held in the Tower the two young princes dissappeard, it is likely that they were killed but conclusive evidence of this has never been found. The book follows this story through to the time when the boys went missing and gives light to a few suspected answers as to what happened to the young princes.
This book is well written and despite the many characters and complicated family histories the author explains all the dynamics and interwoven storylines so clearly and explicitly that it is easy to follow. I found myself thoroughly engulfed in this story, it is incredibly emotive and I ended up reading it withing a week! I would throughly recommend reading this, especially if you have a penchant for British history.
*also posted on ciao*
The year is 1464, England has been torn apart by the Cousin's War and Elizabeth Woodville, armed only with her beauty, throws herself on the mercy of the newly acclaimed King Edward IV, against whom her family had fought. What follows is a tale of love, betrayal, murder, mystery, victory and defeat as Gregory gives us her take on two decades in the tumultuous life of a fascinating and yet little known woman.
Philippa Gregory is perhaps best known for her novels focussing on the Tudor period, taking a strong woman and then retelling the history we all know from her point of view. The White Queen focuses on the period before Henry VII came to power (so beginning the Tudor line), and tells the tale of Elizabeth Woodville (Henry VIII's Grandmother), someone I hadn't actually heard of before reading this, but a woman who had a fascinating part to play in our history.
The White Queen follows the same writing style as many other Gregory novels, allowing the main protagonist to tell their own story. I find this gives a far more personal reading experience and allows me to easily immerse myself in the book. But, and this is a big but, interspersed between the main narrative is the story of Melusina, a fairy tale very similar to The Little Mermaid. While I understand that this is included due to the fact that Elizabeth's maternal family believed themselves to be descended from this water goddess, I found that it would often snap me out of the zone. I personally feel that the book would have read better if Melusina's tale had either been omitted or placed at the end of the book.
As with the majority of Gregory's novels (that I have read), I loved her choice of Elizabeth as her main character. I love the way she takes a strong woman as her lead, especially as woman of that period generally had very little power. While there is plenty to love about Elizabeth, such as her devotion to her husband and children, she's not perfect, which of course makes her far more believable. The very fact that she is a woman in a time where woman had very little power over their own lives means that she is a little power-hungry. I also loved the way that Elizabeth's husband was written, again not perfect but his love for his wife certainly shone through. The other main characters were also well written, I certainly had no trouble imagining all of their interactions.
As for the plot itself, well for obvious reasons it follows a very well defined route, being based on historical figures means that we all know a little of their tale. While much of the history is glossed over I really enjoyed the actual interactions that caused the famous events. The scenes between Elizabeth and Richard are particularly touching, especially in the opening chapters. I didn't really enjoy the inclusion of witchcraft, especially as Gregory appeared to be saying that Elizabeth, her mother and her daughters could actually conjure up storms. Yes I do realise that it was widely believed that Elizabeth and her mother were witches, after all why else would the young King choose to marry an older woman, who was not only a widow but not even a virgin, but to me it felt forced at times.
The one part of Elizabeth's story that we all know at least a little about, is that of her sons, The Princes In The Tower. Little is known about the fate of those two little boys (as in nothing), but Gregory handles the story sensitively and sensibly. I'm not going to spoil the book by telling you the fate Gregory has written for them, but I will say that I was impressed with her reasoning.
While there was plenty of contemporary evidence for Gregory to draw on when writing her Tudor series of books, there was (and is) far less for the Plantagenet period, meaning that she has had to take far more liberties when telling Elizabeth's story (as she readily admits in her author's note). I admit that I have little personal knowledge of the time period, having only briefly covered it in primary school, so I am unable to state whether the book contains any glaring errors, but to me it feels right. After all this is a novel and not a text book and there's nothing that actually shouts at me that it's wrong.
All in all, I found this an enjoyable read, albeit one with a few flaws. I enjoyed the writing style and enjoyed the glimpse into the life of a little known, but historically important woman. This is a book that I am happy to give four stars out of five and recommend to a wide range of different readers. If romance is your thing, then this contains romance, and of course if you enjoy historical novels then you'll enjoy this. As to the age range, well although there is murder and sex, there are no graphical descriptions and I would be happy for a thirteen year to read this (if it's their type of thing).
I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory, especially her many excellent historical works that tell us about the lives and times of the Tudors. So, when I saw she had decided to turn her hand to a slightly earlier period of history, the 'War of the Roses' I decided to read this book too - especially as I wanted to see what her take on the 'Princes in the Tower' mystery would be .
The story centres on Elizabeth Grey (more commonly known as Elizabeth Woodville or Wydeville) and her marriage to King Edward IV. Now, he might be king, but his throne is by no means secure, especially as he won his crown by war, rather than inheritence, and the old king, Henry VI, is still alive and out there somewhere.
As the War of the Roses , also known as the 'cousins war' because it pits one member of the family against another, wages on , Elizabeth and Edward must work hard to make sure their kingdom is secur, by waging war upon anybody who challenges their right to reign, and by producing sons for Englands cradle. In Elizabeths case, she also brings a touch of magic to bear on proceedings , blowing up her storm that destroys one of her husbands most powerful enemies.
Edward and Elizabeth make many enemies along the way - including Edwards own two brothers, George and Richard, who become jealous of his power and turn against him. Can Edward and Elizabeth bring peace to England.
Well, this book is based on well documented events in history, so there are no spoilers here. This could mean that the book is dry and predictable, but far from it . Gregory is never one to stick doggedly to the facts, especially when there is an option to add an element of excitement to a tale. I'm not saying that the book isn't, for the most part, very accurate, but Gregory uses various known facts, such as the fact that both Elizabeth and her mother Jaquetta were accused of witchcraft, and weaves her own magic around them.
We see many examples of these two women using magic and ritual to achieve their desires - from curses and illwishing, to literally fishing up a husband out of the river . The tale of Melusina , the half woman half fish goddess from whom Elizabeths Burgundy ancestors claim descent (and upon which tale Little Mermaid is based) is also used often within the story, mostly as a foreshadowing of events to come .
The Princes in the Tower story was interestingly handled. The story itself is a bit of a historical mystery, with all that is really known being that two boys went into the tower ( one the Young King of England) under the protection of their uncle Richard, and that those two boys never came out again. What isn't know is who killed them, or even if they were killed at all. Although two bodies were found (much later than the events in this book mind) it has never been conclusively proven that they were the two princes, and certainly various people attempted to gain the throne by claiming to be boys in question.
Gregory present her own version of events - That the young king went into the tower, but that his mother, not trusting the boys uncle to keep him safe, smuggled her other son out of the country, to be raised by a peasant family under the name of Peter or Perkin, sending a young page boy to the tower in his place. She also presents various possible villains who might have been responsible for murdering, or perhaps kidnapping her other son.
This is a fab historical novel - I think only made better by the fact that certain events of the time are such a mystery and can therefore be presented in any number of ways. There are occasions during the book where Gregory seems to repeat herself a little too much. Perhaps this is an attempt to portray the way Elizabeths anxious mind works, as it only seems to happen when she is the narrating character, but it does grate a little at times.
Some of the spell casting is a little far fetched, yet perfectly in keeping with the beliefs of the time regarding witches and their powers, and overall the book is an interesting and exciting read, This is the first book in the 'Cousins War' series, and does end a little cliff-hanger like, so as to lend itself easily to carrying on in the next book, but performs well as a book in it's own right .
I can't wait to read the next book in the series - another great work by Gregory!
Let your mind travel back to times when women were subservient and obedient. Set in 15th Century England in troubled times; the Wars of the Roses. Tyranny, bloodshed, murder and uncertainty were the order of the day. When death was staring you in the face at every turn and you could trust no one.
This is essentially the narrative of the 'The White Queen', Elizabeth Woodville, the young widow with two young sons, who met and clandestinely married King Edward IV.
England was in turmoil and the young King had fought and won many battles. Many of the Noblemen and women were turncoats, murderers and traitors; following whichever faction (the House of York or Lancaster) was likely to win the next battle, thus being favoured by whoever would be the next monarch.
King Edward was not actually a 'beast' although he was ruthless. In fact he was handsome, charismatic and an accomplished soldier, but also a sexual predator with many romantic conquests. However, he was taken by surprise at Elizabeth Woodville's beauty and self-assurance, he simply could not resist this temptress, who some said practiced witchcraft.
Although to a degree fictional, the historical facts and interpretation of the battles fought have been thoroughly researched by the author and seamlessly brought into this novel. The author also has her own theory of what happened to the two young Princes held in the Tower.
This book is a marriage of fiction, fact, intrigue, love, betrayal, endurance and sadness.
I would definitely recommend this book, but you need to concentrate on the historical facts to fully enjoy the experience.
Written by Philippa Gregory (author of The Other Boleyn Girl), The White Queen is the first in a series of novels, known as 'The Cousin's War', set in the times of the Wars of the Roses. It is 432 pages long.
The White Queen is about Elizabeth Woodville, and her life as the wife of Edward IV of England (a York King, hence the title as the emblem of York is the White Rose). The novel is set just after Edward has won the crown off Henry VI, the Lancastrian King, and just before he & Elizabeth meet. The novel tells of the couple's secret marriage, the troubles & wars Edward had with both his enemies, and also his allies. It also touches upon elements of witchcraft, which Elizabeth had been accused of when she married Edward. The novel is romantic as well as a drama, as it looks at the marriage & family life of Elizabeth & Edward. It ends after Richard III gains the crown, leaving the series ready for the next instalment to continue from.
Although, like with previous series', The White Queen is based upon historical events & facts, there are elements of the book which aren't based upon fact. For example, Gregory refers to the tale of Melusina, a water goddess, claiming that she is an ancestor of the Woodville family. She uses excerpts of the tale of Melusina to introduce some chapters. Although reading these excerpts was interesting & broke up the story a little, I did not find that they really tied into the chapter, or the main story, so they eventually became a little irritating.
Philippa Gregory also made reference to the rumours that Elizabeth Woodville and her mother, Jocasta, were witches. I think she managed to incorporate these rumours well, without making any use of 'witchcraft' over the top or completely far-fetched. She also looks at the mystery of the Prince's in the Tower, which were Elizabeth & Edward's sons. Historians today still have no idea what happened to the Prince's, but there are some theories to what may have happened. Gregory manages to include these theories as the character's own, putting forward each theory without every out rightly picking a theory to explain what happened - sticking to what history does or doesn't know.
Overall, I found the White Queen a very good read. I had previously read her previous series set during the Tudor period, which I enjoyed very much, and I wasn't let down with this latest novel. It took a little while to get going and get stuck into the story, but once I had I wasn't able to put the book down, completing it in a day. As I did not really know much about this period I found it quite interesting, and although it is a novel, Philippa Gregory does seem to stick to historical fact to keep her books as accurate as possible. It has made me want to discover more about this period in time, and also eagerly await the next instalment.
NO SPOILERS, the White Queen is really worth the read!
The White Queen is the first in the series of books going back in time and focusing on the Plantaganet period and the War of the Roses; the history books seem to focus on the battles and Wars during the Plataganet period - as exciting as Henry VIII and his unfortunate wives, Bloody Mary or Elizabeth I.
It is an amazing true story (with artistic licence) of a woman who falls in love unwittingly with a man who should be the enemy of her family. These are bloody times of war told from the point of view of a strong woman fighting for survival and to keep her family on top and making sure her children get everything they deserve. She rises high but sinks low.
The main character is Elizabeth Woodville, the WHITE QUEEN. White is referring to the White Rose of Yorkshire. She rises (along with her family) from being a commoner and a Lancastrian widow to marrying the York king, Edward IV. She becomes Queen of England and her many children should be heirs to the throne but it is not that simple!!!!!!
She has many children including the two Princes in the Tower and her eldest daughter who goes on to become Queen of England, mother of Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I.
The novel also gives another theory as to what happened to the missing Princes in the Tower; a mystery which is still intrigues people today.
As well as the novel, the author has several appendices at the back of the book which give further information surrounding the themes in the book. The most interesting for me was the section talking about the folk stories of Melusina which spread throughout the whole of Europe. We would know her as the LITTLE MERMAID from Hans Christian Anderson and Disney!!!!Each country has its own myth on the Water Goddess. The author interweaves this myth into the story of the White Queen, the link being rumour and superstitution at the time that both she and her mother used Witchcraft. Her mother was beheaded for WITCHCRAFT - this is a theme running throughout this book.
Philippa Gregory has done a really good job of making this period in history interesting (for me 100% more interesting.) You do have to read this novel with a mind that this is NOT purely historical fact but the author taking fact and using her mind like a detective to imagine what it could have been like to be the main character.
I really enjoyed reading this book and am looking forward to the next books in the series which will be 'the White Princess' and also 'The Red Queen'...
I finished this recently and thought I'd post my thoughts on it:-
Philippa Gregory was born in Kenya in 1954 and came to England aged two with the rest of her family.
Her first novel, Wideacre, appeared in 1987 although she is perhaps best known for The Other Boleyn Girl which forms part of her "Tudor Court" series of six novels. She has also written a number of books for children as well as a collection of short stories.
The White Queen is the first of a new series of novels which focuses on the Plantagenet family.
You can find more information on Philippa Gregory and her books at:- www.philippagregory.com
The White Queen was first published in 2009 in the uk. My version, which is the paperback one published in 2010, also contains a number of extras at the end of the book. These are:-
+ Bibliography: A list of books used in the research and writing of The White Queen
+ A Guide For Reading Groups: Fifteen suggested questions for discussion.
+ A Conversation With Phillipa Gregory: The author talks in more detail about why she chose Elizabeth Woodville and the Wars Of The Roses as a subject for The White Queen as well as her views on certain characters and events and why she made certain plot choices in the book.
+ Melusina: A short piece on the Melusina myth
+ The Red Queen: An 11 page preview of the next book to be published, The Red Queen, which focuses on Margaret Stanley, nee Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.
Henry VI came to the throne aged only 9 months when his father Henry V died. He married Margaret of Anjou but the steady loss of English lands in France coupled with widespread corruption led to his unpopularity. A mental breakdown provided the opportunity for his cousin, Edward Of York and his ally Richard, Earl Of Warwick, also known as "The Kingmaker" to seize power. Henry was imprisoned by his cousin in 1461 who then took the throne to become Edward IV.
The book focuses on Elizabeth Woodville, a widow aged around 27 with two small sons when the story opens in Spring 1464. Her family are Lancastrian supporters and, following the death of her husband at the second battle of St. Albans her lands have been taken and she's been forced to return to living with her parents. Elizabeth plans to speak to the new Yorkist king, Edward IV, to ask that her lands be returned to her.
What she doesn't plan for, however, is that she falls in love with him and he with her. They marry, secretly, Edward not wanting to antagonise his main supporter, the powerful Earl Of Warwick, also known as "The Kingmaker". The remainder of the book follows the fortunes of Elizabeth, her husband, children and family as they battle to hold onto the throne but things are thrown in chaos when Edward dies and his brother Richard snatches the throne.
The book ends in April 1485, 4 months before the Battle Of Bosworth Field which saw Richard III defeated and Henry Tudor come to the throne.
I found the central character of Elizabeth Woodville engaging and interesting, although some readers could see her as grasping and eager for power. She's certainly viewed like that by the King's friend William Hastings, his mother Cecily and various other members of the royal family and their retinue. However I think that her mother sums up the situation very well when she says:- "It is a battle to the death. That is what it means to be Queen of England. The road that you have chosen will mean that you have to spend your life scheming and fighting. Our task, as your family, is to make sure you win".
What she means, of course, is that the family must work together as a team to ensure that Elizabeth triumphs over those who are jealous of her advancement because that's the only way that the family as a whole will be safe. Failure on Elizabeth's part means failure for the whole family with the potential that those jealous of the family might take revenge on them if they fall from favour.
To ensure security for the family many of Elizabeth's relatives are showered with honours and see their social position advance. This is a double edged sword. It's necessary to bolster Elizabeth's own position:- the more people in positions of power she can trust the more safe they are, but the more people they put in positions of power the more their enemies will grow to resent and hate them. Once she's Queen the family really are caught in a Catch 22 situation. If they show any weakness their enemies will take advantage of it, but any extra power or honours they receive will antagonise their enemies further still. It's a no-win situation.
Elizabeth's husband Edward, comes across as fairly arrogant at the start of the book. He's never lost a battle and consequently he's never known what it is to feel fear but somehow Gregory has made him fairly likeable. His favourite phrase to Elizabeth seems to be "bed wife!" and consequently the couple end up having twelve children. It's interesting to see that Elizabeth is even pragmatic about the fact that he has so many mistresses.
Anthony, Elizabeth's brother is perhaps the most virtuous character in the book. Not only is he one of the foremost knights in England but he's devoted to his family, he offers good advice and he's the character who had done the most to improve himself by means of travel and education. He can also be quite outspoken at times and there a nice scene near to the start of the book when he tells Elizabeth in no uncertain terms that Edward's only pretended to marry her so that he can have his wicked way with her.
Edward's brother, George, Duke Of Clarence is thoroughly dislikeable. He's his mother's favourite and thinks that everything should be handed to him on a plate. He's untrustworthy, double-dealing and has no loyalty to anyone or anything. Gregory makes it very easy for the reader to dislike him! Her treatment of Richard III turns him into a more complex character that the popular image of him would suggest. There's no Shakespearian hump in this book but he is cursed by Elizabeth in another way. His ruthlessness is illustrated by the fact he breaks sanctuary after a battle and kills enemy knights in cold blood in an abbey but his conduct after he seizes the throne indicates a more morally complex character.
The rest of the characters in the book are portrayed with varying degrees of depth. Elizabeth Woodville is one of 14 children and whilst some of them are mentioned in the narrative at various points only Anthony really makes any impact. Likewise, of the 12 children that Elizabeth and Edward have only Elizabeth of York and, to a lesser extent Edward and Richard (The Princes In The Tower) really feature in the book to any sort of extent. Some of their siblings get mentioned from time to time but they play no real part in events.
I probably know more about English history than your average person in the street but, before reading this book I knew very little about Elizabeth Woodville. I knew, of course that she was wife to Edward IV, that she'd arranged the marriage of her daughter, Elizabeth Of York to Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) with his mother Margaret Beaufort and that she was the mother of Edward V and Richard, also known as The Princes In The Tower. I also knew that when Henry VII issued a document detailing Richard III's "crimes" there was no mention that he'd murdered the Princes In The Tower. I was therefore looking forward to learning more about the period (I made sure I didn't do any research before I finished the book so that I wouldn't spoil any potential plot developments) as well as seeing what her take on Richard III and The Princes In The Tower would be.
This novel is primarily written in the first person from Elizabeth's point of view although there are some chapters dealing with events such as Battle Of Tewkesbury which are written in the third person and come across as though Elizabeth is relaying events to us that she has been told about afterwards. We therefore see events and people through Elizabeth's eyes and, as such, are invited to share her views on the various people we meet along the way.
Gregory's prose flows well and even though the Tudor period has always been one of the favourite period of English history I found myself enjoying this book much more than any of her Tudor Court series. It's evident that Gregory has enjoyed writing it and this comes across very strongly in the book and her enthusiasm communicates itself to the reader too as they're swept along by the events in the book. The fact that this period is perhaps less well known in general than the Tudor period causes you to get more involved in the book purely because you (probably) know less about what's going to happen next than they would do with much of her Tudor Court books.
I knew, of course that Edward IV was going to die and that Elizabeth would be left a widow, but I had no idea at all what might happen to her parents, her siblings, the rest of her children aside from Elizabeth of York and The Princes In The Tower and Edward IV's friends such as Sir William Hastings. All of these people are caught up in Elizabeth's scheme to a greater or lesser degree and part of the fascination of the novel is discovering what the impact is on their lives as Elizabeth's battles to hold onto power and safeguard the people she holds dearest.
Gregory's characters are interesting and, in general, come across as real people rather than one dimensional caricatures and her portrayal of battles such as Tewkesbury is generally good. Her battles scenes tend to be over reasonably quickly and with a minimum of graphic detail. So, if you a fan of Bernard Cornwell's style of battle description which are quite graphic and can take up quite a number of pages you won't find anything similar to that in this book.
If I'm being honest, I wasn't keen on the inclusion of Melusina, a mythical water being that's linked to Elizabeth's mother's family nor with the end result of what Gregory choose to do with her Princes In The Tower plot thread. The ultimate end of that just didn't work very well for me and was one of the few parts of the book which I found disappointing.
I also found the family tree at the start of the book a bit limited nor was it really explained quite why the House Of York felt that they had a stronger claim to the throne than the House Of Lancaster.
Gregory admits in her author's note that there is more fiction in The White Queen than there is in her Tudor Court series but, this is still an enjoyable book and readers will find themselves tempted to keep reading to find out what happens next. After finishing it I really wanted to find out more about Elizabeth Woodville and have duly visited a number of websites on the internet to discover more about her life. Any book that can engage the interest of a reader and encourage them to do that has to be doing something right.
To sum up then, this is a well written historical novel that is very easy to get into. It would make a perfect introduction to Philippa Gregory's writing.
Some websites I found useful for information on Elizabeth Woodville:-
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books (15 April 2010)
Philippa Gregory is well known for her novels based on the Tudors, in the court of Henry VIII mainly and his daughter Elizabeth I. With her most recent novel, The White Queen, she goes further back in time, opening in 1464 when Edward IV has not long come to the throne.
I must be honest and say right now that this is a period of English history about which I know very little. I know the phrase the Wars of the Roses and that they were between the leading families from York and Lancaster, but all my knowledge of that period has in fact come from reading The White Queen! So I apologise for any factual errors - I wasn't taught English history in Scotland.
The White Queen tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, queen to Edward IV. When she marries him her family turns from Lancaster to York. Although the Yorkists have won the crown, his rule is far from secured and their reign is turbulent.
As ever, Gregory has chosen a fascinating period of history upon which to base her novel. There were regular battles, Elizabeth and her mother practised magic and there were plenty of claimants to the throne. Elizabeth is a strong character, and although women in those days were effectively owned by their husbands or fathers, she is a strong woman who can think for herself.
Previous experience has taught me that Gregory is factual wherever possible, so I expect that many details of the novel are historically accurate. As ever dialogue is fictionalized, and based on supposition. We can never know most of the conversations of history. Gregory states in her notes that given the turbulent times, many records do not exist, and also that many decisions were spur-of-the-moment and not recorded. I do have concerns with novels of this style that readers will assume that they are gospel, that this is exactly history as it happened, but I'm sure most people understand that is not the case.
Gregory's writing style is engaging. She develops a full personality for Elizabeth, as much as possible based on what we know of her, and it is easy to become hooked on her story. In addition, I truly had no knowledge of this period (I couldn't even have guessed when the Wars of the Roses took place) yet I found The White Queen to be very accessible. Gregory does not write in an historical style - she writes historical fiction. Although her characters speak in a manner more suited to the time, it is easily understandable.
One thing I love about Gregory's novels is that if I read one about a character or time which I know little about, I then feel inspired to go and learn the history. So my next historical reading will be on the Wars of the Roses and the princes in the Tower - another term I knew but knew nothing about.
I thoroughly enjoyed The White Queen, and I am looking forward to reading the next in this new series. I have had an introduction to events in English history which are new to me, and I think that is always a good thing from a novel. History provides fascinating stories and characters, as good as any fiction!
This is the first book in Philippa Gregory's new series called "the cousin's war". I am a great Philippa Gregory fan and I have to say that she hasnt disappointed with this new book - I couldnt put it down!
This is the story of Lady Elizabeth Woodville and her marriage to the young King Edward set against the backdrop of the intrigue at English court in this period, the Wars of the Roses and ultimately the tragedy of the unsolved murder of the princes in the tower.
The story is told mainly from the point of view of Elizabeth and Gregory skillfully combines historical facts with imagery of the myth of the water godess, Melusina and witchcraft to tell Elizabeth's story.
The reader must take on board the fact that Gregory admits herself in her authors note that this novel contains more fiction than her previous novels due to the limited information on the period. However. this book is full of bloody battles, pollitics, love, sex, family feuds, murder and betrayal and brings theis historical era to life for the reader.
I can't wait for the next book in the Trilogy, The Red Queen
When I saw this book on the display shelves at my local library it was a definite for me to pick up for the following reasons. Having enjoyed books by this author set in the Tudor times I was intrigued to see how well she could write about the Plantagenet's. I have to admit my knowledge of this period is sketchy at best so I was hoping for a good read with gaining a little bit of knowledge from this book.
About the author
Philippa Gregory is an internationally renowned author of Historical fiction. She holds a PhD from Edinburgh University. She lives in Yorkshire on a small farm several of her novels have been adapted fro television and film the most famous probably of these is The Other Boleyn Girl. A full author's biography can be found at her website which is www.philippagregory.com
About the book
This book is the first in a new series by Philippa Gregory set during the War of the Roses in England in the 15th Century. It follows the fortunes of Elizabeth Woodville who is a widow in the House of Lancaster. Together with the help of her mother Jacquetta she seduces and marries Edward the IV of the York family. The book centers on the passionate political marriage of Edward and Elizabeth and their family. They move from battle to battle to try to secure the throne of England for themselves and their children. Their two sons are the famous princes in the Tower who disappeared whilst under the care of Richard the III and Gregory tries to put her slant on the mystery of their disappearance.
I have to admit this book had me totally hooked from the first chapter. I think the main reason for this was the character of Elizabeth and how much I liked her. The book is written in the first person from her perspective. Gregory's incorporation within the story of a mythical water creature called Melusina of whom Elizabeth is said to be a descent of I think was pure genius. She uses this as a recurring theme and symbol throughout the story giving you hints of things to come as Elizabeth's life mirrors that of Melusina. The use of water imagery also works well within in the novel in my opinion. The addition of Elizabeth's mother practicing some witchcraft in it self seemed to cast a spell on me as the reader as I hoped the spells and curses worked for them. Some people claimed that Elizabeth's mother put a spell on Edward to make him fall in love with her daughter and she is seen as a witch by many people within the novel. Elizabeth also has some premonitions about certain things and places in her life for me the most powerful of these is her aversion to the Tower of London and I found myself hoping against historical fact that her children would be safe and her fears unfounded. The legend of Melusina is also used as a jumping-off point for a discussion of medieval witchcraft and the role of women in society, which is a subplot of the novel. This gains steam as the story moves forward and you find yourself wondering what will happen to Elizabeth and Jacquetta if witchcraft is proved.
During the course of the novel Gregory takes Elizabeth on a huge journey from a young naïve widow to a political force who tries to manipulate the royal court to bring out a positive outcome for her family. The romance between Elizabeth and Edward is primarily at the beginning of the novel and though there is love and romance between them this takes a backseat to the intrigue and plotting. So much so that there is only really one scene later within the book and this is mainly of jealously in which Elizabeth wants Edward to leave one of his mistresses. The only thing I didn't really like about Elizabeth was the way she referred to her sons from her first marriage as her Grey sons and used them like pawns on a chess board. However I can accept that this would have probably been the reality at the time and they would have been seen as valuable as her children to Edward.
Anthony Elizabeth's brother is one of the characters that I liked the most in this book. He offers good advice to Elizabeth and seems to be the voice of reason and sense within the book and the affection he holds for the rest of his family is very heart warming to read. He also is very observant and his observation that the symbol of the House of York should not be the white rose, but the old sign of eternity-- the snake eating itself is hugely accurate as they war within themselves as much as they do with the House of Lancaster.
Edward is well written and I actually found myself liking him more once he had been beaten once and had a sense that he could fail in life as this seemed to make him seem more vulnerable and courageous. However though he is king he really is in a lot of ways a background character to Elizabeth her family and children and these are the people who stuck in my mind more once I had finished the novel.
This turbulent period in history I think makes for great reading as there are so many scenes where brother is pitted against brother for control let alone the cousins against cousin's element. The characters involved have absolutely no idea who they can and can not trust which provides great suspense as you wonder who is going to do what next and why. The battle scenes I have to say seemed very realistic to me and you could almost feel the fear, sweat and panic of the characters leap of the page.
Richard III and George, Duke of Clarence are the most prominent villains throughout the book, at least from Elizabeth's standpoint. Gregory doesn't give Richard a hump like Shakespeare did but she does write him as flawed and at times expedient person. George I think for me was perhaps the vilest person within the novel as he just to me was so self serving and I was glad when he got his comeuppance.
Gregory admits in her Author's Note that The White Queen has the most fiction of all her novels so far, primarily because the period has scant information available. I actually think has liberated Gregory as I think she has perfectly woven history with fiction rather than worrying too much about the historical accuracy. There is just enough history to make the story believable with a nod to the educational. However the fiction is what drives this novel and kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen to the ever engaging complex and powerful Elizabeth next.
Gregory's twist on the fate of the princes of the Tower adds I think another layer of speculation to a mystery that has fascinated scholars for years. Her twist on the story I think is as plausible and tragic as any other explanation I have heard or read about.
My one gripe about this book was the family tree at the front I just didn't think it was extensive enough. Given how many Richards Georges Edwards Elizabeth's there were at this time I did get confused at times as to who was who and what house they belong to. I think if the family tree had been a bit more complete I could have referred to this more often for greater clarity to aid my lack of historical knowledge.
I think this is a great book and one I couldn't put down I found the blend of fiction and fact to be wonderful. How accurate it is I am not sure as the Plantagenet's is certainly an area that I lack knowledge in. However Gregory's portrayal of Elizabeth I found to be exceptional and I warmed to her as a character even if at times I didn't like some of her choices and mannerisms. I think the handling of the suspense of betrayal that was occurring during the War of the Roses was penned masterfully and as a reader you could sense the lack of trust that everyone had for one another. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Gregory's work and to fans of historical fiction. I personally can't wait for the next book in the series.
Paperback: 417 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (18 Aug 2009)
Currently on sale on Amazon for £3.99
The White Queen is the latest in Philippa Gregory's series of historical novels. It is set slightly earlier in history than books such as 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and 'The Other Queen', swapping the Tudor / Elizabethan era for the 'War of the Roses' when the Houses of York and Lancaster battled for the throne of England.
The heroine of this novel is Elizabeth Woodville (who is also known as Lady Elizabeth Grey). Her family are linked to the House of Lancaster, but after her husband is killed at the battle of St Albans, she ends up falling in love with the new king, Edward IV, of the House of York after meeting him on the roadside to plead for the restoration of her lands. They end up marrying in secret, against the wishes of his advisor, and she is then crowned as Queen.
However, the turbulent times in which they are living means that their reign as King and Queen is a constantly troubled one. There are many battles to face and challenges to the throne, from both within the royal family and from the House of Lancaster. Throughout this story, Elizabeth struggles to protect her family (both the children from her previous marriage and the nine children that she bears to Edward IV) from what is going on in their country and they end up seeking sanctuary / protection on many occasions.
The characterisation in this story is very strong. Elizabeth is portrayed as a strong woman who will do whatever it takes to protect those she loves - even if that means resorting to the witchcraft techniques used by her ambitious mother Jacquetta, a dangerous tactic in a society where the penalty for use of witchcraft is death. I loved the way that she was presented in so many different lights, as a strong Queen, a loving mother and as a bit of an enchantress at the same time. The characters of the three brothers of the York Royal Family - Edward IV, George and Richard (later Richard III) - and their characters and relationships are crucial to the way the story unfolds.
I'm not sure of the historical accuracy of the story as it isn't a period of history that I know that much about. The little bits I know are mostly from the stories of the Princes in the Tower (Elizabeth and Edward's sons) and from bits of the Shakespeare plays, but I found it a fascinating story which made me want to know more about the period. Obviously a bit of artistic licence has been used in the parts of the story which focus on the 'magic' used by Elizabeth and her mother, as well as the interwoven story of the River Goddess Melusina, but I feel that this enhances the story rather than spoils it.
At the moment, this book is only out in hardback, but Amazon have the release date for the paperback edition as April 2010.
Overall, like virtually all of Philippa Gregory's books, this is a novel which I really enjoyed and kept me turning the pages right to the end. It is part of a new series, entitled 'The Cousins' War' about the 'Wars of the Roses' and I am really looking forward to the next instalment. I would definitely recommend this book.