The red queen by Philippa Gregory

Review by Lynley, Nerang Branch

From her novels of the Tudor women, the author has stepped back in time to their immediate predecessors, the last of the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses.

The Plantagenets were the longest lasting dynasty of the English monarchy and the longer it lasted the more fierce became their feuds and rivalries. By the end of the dynasty their family tree was an interwoven mess, requiring dedicated study to sort through and providing rich pickings for novelists.

This series, Cousins’ War, looked first at Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s queen in The White Queen, and now The Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort.

The king, Henry VI, was descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, by his first wife. He was mentally ill and the country was being run by his hated and feared French queen, Margaret of Anjou. Their son, the Prince of Wales, was a vicious bully, an unpromising candidate for king.

Margaret Beaufort, descended from Lancaster by his third wife, was considered the saviour of the House of Lancaster and the royal line. An unloved child, fiercely devout and proud of he “saint’s knees” from all her praying, she was 12 when she was forced into marriage with Edmund Tudor. By 13 she was the mother of the future Henry VII, born after his father’s death. Her great relief at this was short-lived for as soon as she was “in the world” again, she was rushed off to her next forced betrothal.

She chose her third husband herself, for his ability to always be on the winning side and turned him to her son’s cause.

Margaret led a loveless and bitter life and loathed her daughter-in-law Elizabeth of York for no better reason than that she was the daughter of Elizabeth Woodville

But for all its seeming bleakness this novel is of the high standard that comes from Philippa Gregory and is a readable account of the life of a woman more often a footnote in history.