Book Reviews

Philippa Gregory – The White Queen Book Review

cvr9781476735481_9781476735481_hrFrom the creator of the Tudor Series comes another installment of queens and kings, of plots and stories of seduction from the history fantasy novelist Philippa Gregory.

Elizabeth Woodville, of the House of Lancaster, is widowed when her husband is killed in battle. Aided and abetted by the raw ambition and witchcraft skills of her mother Jacquetta, Elizabeth seduces and marries, in secret, reigning king Edward IV, of the family of the white rose, the House of York. As long as there are other claimants to Edward’s throne, the profound rivalries between the two families will never be laid to rest. Violent conflict, shocking betrayal and murder dominate Elizabeth’s life as Queen of England, passionate wife of Edward and devoted mother of their children. In The White Queen Philippa Gregory brilliantly evokes the life of a common woman who ascends to royalty by virtue of her beauty, a woman who rises to the demands of her position and fights tenaciously for the survival of her family, a woman whose two sons become the central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the Princes in the Tower, whose fate remains unknown to this day. From her uniquely qualified perspective, she explores this most famous unsolved mystery, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

Read more at: http://www.philippagregory.com/books/the-white-queen
Source: Philippa Gregory

I read the story over a time-span of 3 months, mostly because I got easily distracted by other, faster-paced, books. I think this monster of a book (550pages) could have done with some better editing to cut the filler pages out as the story itself is quite simple.
A woman, Elizabeth, fell in love with Richard, the king of England while he was still married with his wife, Ann. She became the other woman and she loved him – that much we can say for sure. He promised to marry her in secret but he died in battle before he could fulfill his promise.

She denied having slept with him in order to preserve her good name and she was taken as spoils of war by the new ruler of England, Henry Tudor.

Elizabeth and Richard
Elizabeth and Richard

He is attracted to her and her family name, a York princess – and he wishes to attract the love of the people by marrying into one of the biggest and strongest families about. A political alliance to secure the throne.
And most of the book is just about this: how did Henry Tudor, a man with little or no charisma, plagued by rumors of rightful heirs to the throne of England, fought to keep his conquered throne and secure his line.
It’s a hard thing being king. You can’t trust anyone and if people are quick to swear alliance to one king and then the next best thing, can you have faith in them? The general populous did not care for him either as he kept on raising the taxes in order to finance an army of mercenaries brought from other countries like Germany and the Northern ones.
Trust is a problem and when he eventually marries Elizabeth, he does not trust her and she hates him for killing her father and sending her cousin to the Tower. A marriage made in heaven I would say.
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She is made queen but she has no power whatsoever. Henry’s mother, manipulative and power-hungry is the true queen behind the scenes and Elizabeth is used as a breeding vessel for future princes and princesses that will further secure the throne.
She is told nothing throughout the book. Nobody trusts her as she is married to the enemy and even her mother refuses to tell her anything useful. She floats about from person to person, a weak woman, distrusted by all. She complains about the state of things but rarely does anything to change them. When she eventually flares up and shows a bit of personality to her mother-in-law, it’s too late and her missing brother had already been captured and sent to his death.

The sub-plots are quite good – we follow the life of Henry as he writhes under the possibility of a rightful heir, as he scours and searches the land for “the boy”, as he makes alliances with Spain in order to have him dead.
When he finally finds him, against all evidence that he was of noble birth, he tries to fake his identity and origins and pass him as a boy of fishermen descent (Perkin Warbeck (http://www.philippagregory.com/family-tree/henry-tudor) with no claims to the throne. Richard, the boy, was married by then and his wife, a true beauty, catches the eye of the king who is besotted by her.
She, with her lovely graces, becomes the object of the King’s adoration and object of desire. She becomes to Elizabeth what she was to Queen Ann, with the only difference that her heart belonged to another. She loved her husband and she was missing her child. She kept Henry at an arm’s length all the time, close enough to keep him interested and her husband alive, far enough to keep her dignity.
Henry is at a standstill. His wife is watching him, his mother is watching him, the woman he loves is married and in love with his enemy and will not get the marriage annulled even when her husband is “exposed” of having lied about his name and origins.

The book ends with the hanging of “the boy” who confessed in his last moments that he was not the boy they claimed he was (a play of words as they were claiming him to be a fisherman’s offspring). A confession that was understood by all as him saying he was not the rightful heir.

We don’t know what happens to the lovely wife (we’ll possibly find out in the next book) and the White Queen goes on with raising her children.

A bit dull if you ask me. She was indecisive, in the dark and a mess of a woman. She lacked the fire I saw in the Infanta of Spain (Katherine of Aragorn) and she was mostly in seclusion to give birth rather than influence the king in one way or another. I know she hated him and then she loved him and then she was indifferent towards him with a hateful approach. But still… meh.

I would rate the book a 2/5.

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