Margaret Beaufort is deeply pious, and she has spent many years paying for the return of the house of Lancaster She is a devout Catholic thus, she is convinced that God is on her side therefore, it is God s will that her son, Henry Tudor, will be the next king of England This is her life s work She has no other reason to live other than honouring her God and ensuring her son s ascension So, she isn t the most likable of protagonists An unshakable faith in victory She is characterised very well and written superbly However, her narrative is somewhat unsympathetic and joyless The character is simply who she is This makes reading her story a little taxing and little frustrating She just has no doubts that Henry will be King she cannot consider for a moment that the house of York will triumph This, to me, doesn t seem like a very pragmatic approach to the war her faith has blinded her The house of Lancaster Tudor could quite easily have fallen at Bosworth instead of York It rested on one man s decision he could have changed the face of England had he ridden down a different King Margret Beaufort is a horrible protagonist she is religiously obsessed, cold and just plain mean her devout nature did effect my enjoyment of this novel Though, in The Red Queen s defence, she was right about one thing Margaret is, ultimately, right in her conviction, but her unwavering faith that she, and her son, would be victorious was a little too much They could have lost Perhaps it s inferred that she hasschemes the reader isn t fully aware of Perhaps she had planned something else to sever the White Rose forever It just seemed like there was a fifty percent chance of her victory, so perhaps she knew something the reader did not The way the author has written it is that the victory could have gone either way, so, at the route of things, Margret s faith in herself felt a little forced Unless she had something hidden up her sleeve, I guess we ll never fully know Did she do it I love the way Gregory plants just enough evidence to point the finger at almost every major character regarding the princes in the tower She leaves the whole affair open to reader interpretation, but without providing enough evidence to flat out accuse someone I think this part of the series has been devised very well, and kept me drawing my own conclusions Personally, I think it s the Tudors that killed the York boys, they had the most to gain they had the strongest motive What did Richard have to gain Only less heirs and hatred, it seems like a poor reason to murder I much preferredThe White Queento this novel Perhaps it s because I secretly pin the White rose of York to y doublet or perhaps it s because I think Margaret is a self righteous idiot I just didn t want to see the Tudors win in this series This issue may just reside with the author s characterisation of them The Yorkist s just came across asworthy and the Tudors as cold and calculated It may be because I m a supporter of the house of York, so, naturally, I find their enemies to be nasty people, but at points I just wanted to see Elizabeth Woodville give the crone a good slap Well, either way, the narrative was uncomfortable in places because of Margret s personality This doesn t make this a badly written book, quite the contrary, but it did make it less enjoyable The Cousin s War Series 1 The White Queen A strong four stars2 The Red Queen A fair three stars3 The Lady of the Rivers A Margretless four stars I was surprised, but I actually ended up liking this novel a shade better than The White Queen There s much less of the Melusina magic, which I really felt was used too much as a deus ex machina in The White Queen The relationship with Jasper Tudor, although completely fictional, was intriguing and evenso because I knew it could never truly be realised The one liners here and there I actually liked Margaret s steadfastness and singlemindedness, and whilst her ruthlessness is shocking to modern sensibilities at the same time I didn t feel like it was out of place in the brutal Medieval world in which Margaret moved At points, Margaret is downright mean, however whilst I didn t like her mean actions I could still understand what drove her to them, the pride and jealousy that she harbours.
That said, the book had its problems One problem was the sheer repetition This seems to be a consistent problem throughout many of Gregory s books Elizabeth Woodville has her legend of Melusina, Mary Queen of Scots has her I am three times a queen , Catherine Howard has her Let me see, what do I have now Margaret Beaufort has an obsession with Joan of Arc Gregory seems to lack the necessary skill to create a character s personality through subtle means, through showing instead of telling, because she seems to hit upon one phrase or theme to associate with a character and then repeats it over and over again throughout the novel Margaret Beaufort was a pious woman, we know this from history Gregory feels the inexplicable need to demonstrate this by giving her character an obsession with Joan of Arc, and then repeatedly drumming this into us throughout the book However, her readers aren t stupid and don t have the attention span of a goldfish yes, we got it the first time, she likes Joan of Arc because she s so pious, we understand this and such interminable repetition gets extremely old extremely fast Give your readers a little credit and stop repeating things like this It makes the story drag for us as readers, and it makes you come off like an incompetent writer because you re telling, not showing Moreover, the Joan of Arc stuff isn t the only repetition you ll encounter in the book Characters who should be on close terms with one another call each by full name and title, just in case we ve forgotten who they are for the past 100 pages or so.
Occasionally some spelling and grammatical errors have crept in which wouldn t be worth mentioning except they unfortunately change the meaning of the whole sentence and here and there I stumbled across some strange sentences which just sounded clunky and poorly constructed, though this is not the first time I ve noticed this in Philippa Gregory s works.
The novel is written in first person from Margaret Beaufort s point of view, which can also be a problem at times, as it was in The White Queen Since many of the battles occur outside of Margaret s experience, Philippa Gregory is rather stuck, unless she wants to write a string of messenger scenes, which would be authentic but fairly dull for us as readers and mean that we would have no action whatsoever throughout the novel Instead, Gregory switches out to third person omniscient perspective for a single scene here and there whenever she needs to write a battle, returning to Margaret s first person POV again afterwards This feels really awkward, since we re meant to be following Margaret s story here I felt like Gregory should have chosen a perspective and stuck with it all the way through Personally I think third person works best for historical fiction, since it covers so many events that one person alone is rarely present at for all If she wanted to do first person in order to give us an intimate portrait of Margaret, fine, her decision, but stick with it otherwise we can t really get a true insight into Margaret unless we re with her all of the way, experiencing what she experiences and missing out on the battles she misses, waiting at home like her with nervous anxiety and waiting for news of the battle s outcome.
However, probably my biggest gripe with this book was the fact that Gregory never comes to grips with the real meat of the history This is actually a complaint about all of her books as this is another feature which plagues her writing consistently The historical events feel glossed over with a broad brush and largely trivialised, reduced to a ten person cast and all the social complexity of who is friends with whom, ignoring the wider picture and the larger issues behind conflicts Many of the momentous events which make up the most exciting happenings of whichever period Gregory is writing about are related in past tense and they occur offstage, and we are told about them in a sentence or two This is a huge let down as a reader, as these moments are the turning points of their day, exciting events of truly huge significance Instead of writing these moments out as actual scenes, happening live and unfolding before our eyes as we read with baited breath, utterly engrossed, Gregory tells instead of shows and plops down a summary of what happened, which we don t get to see, and uses it as exposition to move the plot forwards to the next scene To illustrate this, I ve provided a couple of examples from this book This first example comes from page 182 of the edition I read no spoilers, this is known historical fact Amazingly, Edward gets to London without a single obstacle in his path, the gates are thrown open for him by the adoring citizens, and he is reunited with his wife, as if he had never been chased from his own land, running for his life Above, Gregory, using Margaret as a narrator, describes the return of Edward IV from a rebellion which forced him into exile from England and was probably the darkest and most uncertain period of Edward s reign Yet, Gregory summarises them in a single sentence which glosses over all this, and worse it all occurs offstage and we never get to see any of these thrilling events Again, if she s going to stick with Margaret as a first person narrator, she is in some difficulty in conveying these events, certainly, which is why I think third person is better for historical fiction, but the very least she could have done was let these events play out live through Margaret s eyes from afar This isn t just a one off example either The following quote comes from page 255 of the edition I was reading News comes in snippets from the outside world, carried by housemaids as gossip from the market Richard declares that the marriage between the queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and King Edward was never valid as Edward was pre contracted to another lady before he married Elizabeth in secret He declares all their children bastards and himself as the only York heir The craven Privy Council, who observe Hastings headless body being laid to rest beside the king he loved, do nothing to defend their queen and their princes, but there is a general hasty and unanimous agreement that there is only one heir, and it is Richard Richard s seizing of the throne is covered in three sentences, again conveyed in past tense as an event which happened offstage This is the seizure of the throne we re talking about, this should be one of the highlights of the novel and you should be able to squeeze multiple scenes and pages out of this, all jam packed with tension and excitement What do we get Nada Nothing A summary that greatly simplifies and glosses over events.
The biggest disappointment of all is the Battle of Bosworth Field Here Gregory finally has to bite the bullet and write it in real time in order to give her story some sort of climax but it s covered in under five pages of pretty large font and double spaced at that and the whole thing feels quite trivial and basic I didn t get the sense of the epic scope of what was going on, and the scene for me failed to conjure or evoke any sort of atmosphere or ambience, and finally the tactical manoeuvrings just weren t described very well and came off as all too simplistic and easy After it was over I couldn t quite believe that Gregory had written such a dull, lifeless, lacklustre retelling of the Battle of Bosworth Field, so much so that I felt compelled to immediately pick up my copy of Sharon Penman s The Sunne in Splendour and turn to its account of the battle, just to confirm in my mind that it was actually possible to write a better retelling of it than this What I felt was overwhelmingly disappointment that such a great historical moment, on which virtually everything hinged for the two opposing leaders, could be so thoroughly screwed up How can you screw up writing the Battle of Bosworth Field It s got all the tension and excitement you could ever hope to ask for in an historical event I so wanted to give this book 3 stars out of 5, as there were a number of things about it which I did like and enjoy, but I have to concede that the number of problems outweighs the good points, meaning I can t in all honesty give itthan 2 stars but just barely If there was an option to award half stars I might well be using it right now Even though I so wanted this novel to be better than it was, let s face it, in the end this is lightweight historical fiction, this is the Wars of the Roses Lite.
Now is the Spring of this woman s discontentCause, I mean, talk about bitter In Philippa Gregory s The Red Queen the prominent historical figure from the War of the Roses period and eventual mother of King Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort is portrayed as one who felt God had destined her for a higher calling, of which she was robbed, and for which she was forever after embittered The story follows Margaret from when she was a little girl daydreaming about becoming the next Joan of Arc, an English version of the virginal saint Historical fiction writer and avid researcher Gregory gives us a probable glimpse into what it might have been like to be a very young, very highly placed lady within the court of England during the 15th Century A very young lady who is contracted to marriage before she can speak, who is married off by the age of 12 to a man twice her age and who is made to give birth preferably to a male heir by the tender age of 13, there is no place in such a girl s life for dreams of Joan of Arc While the crux of the story hinges upon the trials of Margaret, it is the War of the Roses, fought between the Houses of Lancaster and of York that moves the action forward in this tale Without the war, the narrative would bog down into a long winded list of Margaret s complaints At times they take a tiresome turn nonetheless However, Gregory does do an excellent job of building characters, whether it be the complex Margaret or the light but exacting hand with which the author draws uptwo dimensional players.
I say players because while reading this, one can t help but think of the Shakespeare play King Richard III, being that Richard that son sun of York is such an important figure in this tale You may remember Richard is not portrayed kindly in the play In fact, because of that play he is often lumped in with some of thereviled historical figures ever to soil the Earth In The Red Queen Richard is given somewhat of a reprieve Don t get me wrong, you ll still be rooting against him, however, Gregory removes some of the heavy load of pure evil that Shakespeare dumped upon his poor, humped back.
Speaking of dual natures, Margaret herself is not always seen in the best of lights As a story s heroine, there are times where she is hardly likable Kudos to Gregory for maintaining character, and thus story, integrity Tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may Sometimes that makes for the best fiction, and The Red Queen, as a historical fiction, definitely ranks right up there Rating 4.
5 stars I have no idea if Margaret Beaufort was as she is depicted by Gregory, but her fictional alter ego is the most unlikeable person that I have come across in a novel in years The first person narrative gave little escape from this fanatical and self absorbed woman Henry Tudor s ascension to the throne as Henry VII is a a fascinating and unlikely story, but neither mother, the true believer in his destiny despite its apparent impossibility, nor Henry VII whom I amfamiliar with historically are going to win any warmth of personality awards Margaret Beaufort had a rough life in many ways, and maybe her single minded devotion to see her son, a virtual stranger, on the English throne as the last of the Lancasters is admirable at times, but neither of these characters have personalities that make for good company page after page after page, and Gregory does little but give a superficial understanding of who they were or why Jasper Tudor or anyone else would love Margaret I found the character studies limited with no reward for my perseverance in finishing the novel.
I appreciate this book I appreciate the hard work and research Gregory had to put into writing it as accurately as possible I appreciate the thought she had to put into it figuring out what her motivations might have been, and making them plausible There were times Gregory had me laughing this woman prays for everything, but also interprets God s will always with an eye to her advancement, and the kingship of her son This is a very complicated time in English history, the Cousins Wars, sometimes called the War of Roses Kings weren t kings for very long, and sometimes they were king and then not and then king again It would be a terrible time to be a noble, who do you support Especially when the penalty for choosing wrong can mean loss of your head, not to mention all your hereditary titles and lands This is a book about the exercise of power, and the exercise of power from a position of powerlessness Gregory lays out the problems women have at this time Few educate women beyond religious works and embroidery skills Not that many people can read, so why waste the skill on a woman And once you give a woman a little book learning, why maybe she will get ideas beyond her station, know what I mean Oh aarrgh All three books in the Cousin s War series weave together, and should be read in close succession The Lady of the Rivers and The White Queen featurelikable women, but all deal with women and power and the risks they take exercising that power While Jaquetta and Elizabeth are beautiful, golden and charming, Margaret is persistent and adaptable, and she prevails I don t like her, but I like this book.
First, despite its title, The Red Queen is not about Margaret of Anjou, but about Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII For some reason, no one in the novel ever addresses Margaret as the Countess of Richmond, though records from the time refer to her as such, and she herself seems to be unaware that she holds that title through her first marriage to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond I found this odd, because Margaret as depicted here is not a woman to forget the fact that she has a title Margaret, as those of you who have read the early reviews know, is convinced from early childhood that she is chosen by God to do great things, just like Joan of Arc When she bears her only child, Henry Tudor, she becomes equally convinced that her God granted destiny is to put her son on the throne For those who do not share her conviction which amounts to just about everyone Margaret has nothing but scorn.
First, the bad news there are some odd historical errors here Gregory pushes the 1469 Battle of Edgecote into 1470, making it the event that restores Henry VI to the throne, and she has Elizabeth Woodville give up the Duke of York before, instead of after, Hastings is executed I suppose Gregory might have been following the theory that Hastings was executed on June 20 instead of June 13, but that theory has been discredited for some time These chronological errors don t make much difference in the greater scheme of things, but they will distract and annoy anyone who s donethan cursory research into this period I also found it highly unlikely that Margaret and the other characters would repeatedly exchange letters detailing their treasonous thoughts and schemes, as they do here they might as well have drawn lines on their necks reading CUT HERE Despite those reservations, I did enjoy this novel Telling a first person story through an essentially unlikable narrator is a tough job, and Gregory does it very well here Margaret s snide remarks about the other characters made me laugh out loud at several points, one of my favorites being her comment about Katherine Woodville a girl born and bred only to raise hens in Northampton There are some rather droll moments, such as when the widowed Margaret canvasses her possible future husbands and sets her cap at Richard, Duke of Gloucester, only to find that the unsuspecting prospective groom has foiled her plans by marrying Anne Neville Despite being seen through the eyes of the obtuse and insensitive Margaret, several of the supporting characters are quite sympathetic, particularly Henry Stafford, Margaret s sardonic, war weary second husband, and Jasper Tudor, Margaret s loyal brother in law Henry Stafford s death was quite moving, and Jasper s scenes with his baby nephew were quite sweet Margaret s cynical, opportunistic third husband, Thomas Stanley, is the perfect foil for Margaret, without being a cardboard villain He did much to keep the latter third of the novel, which recounts the very familiar events of 1483 to 1485, moving along at a brisk pace Elizabeth of York makes a brief appearance, but one that s long enough to inform the reader that she is no fool As for Margaret herself, although I don t share Gregory s view of the historical Margaret Beaufort, I didn t find her characterization here implausible, grossly unfair, or one dimensional, as I have in some novels where Margaret is depicted as a fiend who does everything but cackle, I ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too All in all, I found this a diverting and enjoyable read about a woman who s been relatively neglected in historical fiction.