Book Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

First let me start off by saying that books that have a map and a genealogical tree always earns extra points with me. I like seeing where the towns that are mentioned in the novel are located and, especially with novels on royalty it can be very hard to know who is related to who so a diagram of family connection helps a lot.

I love British Royal history. I love royal history in general but British is probably my favourite. I have a poster of the British family line on my door, I bought it when I went to the Tower of London in 2010. It has all of the monarchs plus their spouses and children from Egbert in 802 to Elizabeth II.

I am sure many have heard of King Henry VIII and his six wives, he is quite notorious. Well this book is about his maternal grandmother Elizabeth Woodville. She married into the Plantagenet dynasty. This is where is gets a bit complicated. The Plantagenet's branch into two family lines: The York and the Lancaster. Elizabeth marries the York King. The York's are the White Rose and the Lancaster's have the Red Rose. The civil war that erupts in England is known as the War of the Roses...with me so far? So the Lancaster family at the time is ruled by Henry VI, but there is the opinion that he has "gone mad" and so his York cousin Edward IV takes the throne. This is the guy Elizabeth marries, even though her family was recently part of the royal court for the Lancaster's  (her mother a Lady-in-Waiting for Queen Margaret of Anjou) and Elizabeth's first husband was killed by the York's. 

She is a "commoner", I put it in quotations because yes she was not royal but she was referred to as Lady Elizabeth and her Mother was a duchess or something. In other words she was not a commoner by our standards today or not some lowly peasant off the street. She ends up meeting Edward and they fall in love and get married. However even though they are madly in love and the whole of England seems to be in love with them, not everyone is happy.  Edward's cousin and brother causes trouble and he is not his mother's favourite child so of course she hates his new wife. Did I mention there is a war happening? Well maybe between cousins and one between brothers.

I really like Phillipa Gregory's writing style and I greatly enjoyed this book. It was one of the happier Royal tales I have read and it was nice to read about a marriage that was actually based on love and not power or greed. 

Elizabeth had no choice but to be a strong character. She had two sons from her previous marriage that were without a father, only her mother supported the marriage, she had awful in-laws and everyone at court hated her, especially the King's chief adviser who was also his cousin. So basically everyone was against her and tried to make her fail. She always put her children, husband and family first and if anyone tried to mess with them they were at the top of her enemy list. The rumor around her was that she was actually a "witch" (not the Hermione Granger kind) and practiced in witchcraft magic that was unpopular at this time in England. This skill she inherited from her mother and if you want to know more about that history I suggest you read Lady of the Rivers also  by Phillipa Gregory.

I love this book, it was hard to put down and it is definitely one of my favourites. The other books in the series are: The Red Queen (a darker tale focusing on the Lancaster side) and The Kingmakers Daughter (the chief adviser/cousin to the King, yes it is about his daughters, they had quite a role to play in this war.)

Happy Reading!

Labels: ,