Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Cousins' War # 2
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 382
Book Source: Own Purchase

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.

The Red Queen was a fascinating story and even though I loathed the main character I kept turning the pages; testament to Philippa Gregory's writing. It's the story of Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, who goes on to become Henry VII. Covering much the same time period as The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville) but from a different perspective, we follow the feuding House of Lancaster and York in what is known as the War of the Roses.

‘I was born for this, my son was born for this.’

Margaret is overly pious, scornful, self absorbed and extremely unlikeable. She hides her true character and motives behind a cloak of religious zeal; a most unpleasant combination. Margaret is little more than a religious hypocrite with an unwavering conviction that her son Henry Tudor is the rightful heir to the throne, she spends her life plotting and scheming, to see him take the crown. Any compassion I felt for Margaret as a child forced to marry the brutal Edmund Tudor was short-lived. While I'm sure her appalling treatment during her brief marriage in part contributed to her abrasive character, her subsequent marriage to Henry Stafford and finally Thomas Stanley did little to showcase any redeeming qualities.

My enjoyment of The Red Queen came as a quite a surprise considering my intense dislike of Margaret, quite the contrast to Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen. However, the story itself, if not entirely historically accurate, is just as compelling. I'm sure this woman didn't win many friends but there is no doubt she was an influential historical figure and pivotal to the founding of the tudor dynasty.

According to Philippa Gregory's website, the final book in the trilogy, originally titled The White Princess has now taken a slightly different path. The Rivers Woman, the story of Elizabeth Woodville's mother, Jaquetta, is due for release in late 2011.

See my review of the first book in this series The White Queen

This month on The Eclectic Reader you can win a copy of Entice by Carrie Jones, or The Distant Hours by Kate Morton or The Lost Saint by Bree Despain. Check this blog post for details. Open Internationally.


  1. I love Historical Fiction. Heard lots of great things about Philippa Gregory's. Maybe I should try this series. Great review sheree!!

  2. I didn't like Margaret much either, but like you, I did enjoy the story itself. Writing a good story with an unlikeable main character can be hard to pull off, so I give Gregory credit for that!

  3. I know, she was such a ...well you know, still I liked the book so much

  4. The White Queen is one that I have been wanting to read for a while now..need to get myself in gear!

  5. I didn't end up reading The White Queen because of your review for it and the fact that it was an okay read but this one sounds much better and I'm sure I would enjoy it. I haven't even bought it so will have to do that!

  6. I am really looking forward to reading this book. I enjoyed the first one alright but this sounds to be exceptional. Thanks for the review!

  7. I have not read any books by her, but I need to. Next year, maybe!
    Great review!

  8. I love Philippa Gregory and did not read her at all in 2010! I need to make up for that or seriously "off with my head!" :)

  9. I cannot imagine liking Margaret Beaufort, or her son. And I question Philippa Gregory's research. To read or not to read this novel.....

  10. She does seem like such a scheming .....
    I know that there are those women in history that are painted wrongly. Somehow, I doubt this is the case of Margaret.

  11. I'm impressed that she managed to make an interesting story with an unlikeable main character. Now I'm even more excited to read The Red Queen.


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