Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

I love historical fiction and I always enjoy Philippa Gregory’s novels. Gregory has a gift to make historical fiction novels a very interesting and page-turning read. I loved The Other Boleyn Girl and read all of the subsequent Tudor dynasty novels. Last year Gregory moved her target to the War of Roses by writing about the York Queen, Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen. In The Red Queen, Gregory focuses on the mother of Lancastrian Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort.

The Red Queen starts with Margaret as a young child. Enraptured by the tales she hears of Joan of Arc, Margaret determines that she is destined by God for greatness. This belief follows Margaret through her life from her marriage at age 12 to Edmund Tudor, the birth of Henry, her second marriage to Henry Stafford, and her third marriage to Thomas, Lord Stanley. The sole focus of Margaret’s life becomes to achieve greatness by having her son placed on the throne of England, no matter what the cost.

I enjoyed The Red Queen. I loved how Margaret was twisted by her mistaken religious beliefs. She attempted to appear to be a very religious and pious woman, but her thoughts and actions were anything but pious. It was also very amusing at how much she hated Elizabeth Woodville and how she tended to blame all bad things that happened in her life on the sins of others and never on her own actions. Although this book ended at the winning of her son Henry’s battle for the throne, it is not too much of a stretch to see how she became the mother in law from hell to Elizabeth of York.

Overall The Red Queen was a very readable and enjoyable historical fiction novel. I had never read any novels about Margaret Beaufort and I found the story very interesting. As a woman, I was very disturbed at how Margaret was wedded and bedded at the age of 12. Her horrific childbirth of Henry and then the subsequent separation of mother and child were heartbreaking. Poor Margaret led a cold and loveless life. I wish she could have run off with Jasper and raised her son . . . but then he probably never would have become Henry VII.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

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