Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Kim's Review : The White Queen

Philippa Gregory's - "The White Queen" begins where "The Lady of the Rivers" ends and runs parallel to the story line of "The Kingmakers Daughter". So while The Kingmakers Daughter" is about Anne Neville (and a little about Isabelle Neville - the daughters of the Earl of Warwick) and The Lady of the Rivers is about her mother Jaquetta of Luxemburg, later Lady Jaquetta Woodville/Rivers, The White Queen is about the widowed Lady Elizabeth Grey (nee Woodville) who rises to become Queen Consort to King Edward IV (of York)

"The White Queen" begins with the widowed Lady Elizabeth Grey (nee Woodville) waiting by the roadside with her 2 young sons for the newly crowned young King Edward IV (of York) to pass by, so she can petition him to win back her rightful lands and sons inheritance from her mother-in-law who has appropriated it all after the death of her son. However, Edward IV falls in love with her and she with him. So while some call it witchcraft and she calls it love, yet they get married in secret, while the Kingmaker is trying to arrange the Kings Wedding with a Princess from France.

So through her marriage, she automatically makes some very powerful enemies. To counter this, she and her mother raise their own relatives to high positions across the land and the church and arrange high ranking marriages for their extensive family which further angers and upsets both families of Royal blood and rank and the commoners.

The whole of the book deals with the multiple wars that are fought during this period of the War of the Cousins / War of the Roses and the machinations and plotting around these events. Jaquetta's Wheel of Fortune keeps turning for this young couple too, but ultimately ends with Edward IVs early death when his heir and son Edward V is still barely 12 years old.

Edward IV's brother Richard (Duke of Gloucester) kidnaps Edward V with the intention of becoming his Lord Protector, but ultimately ends up locking him in the tower and declaring himself king. The unfortunate Edward V and his younger brother Richard are the "2 Princes of the Tower" whose bodies were never found and whose disappearance is an unsolved mystery unto this day.

However, in this version of events, Philippa Gregory hints that having had her eldest son locked in the tower, Elizabeth actually secreted her second son Richard into hiding and substituted him with a simple page boy when forced to give up her second son into the keeping of their uncle Richard of York.

The White Queen ends with the death of Anne Neville, Elizabeth's eldest daughter (also named Elizabeth) betrothed to Henry Tudor (another cousin claimant to the crown) but in love with Richard of York and Richard of York being suspected by the people of poisoning his wife.

I would love to read an account of Elizabeth of York too and I hope Philippa Gregory has planned to write one, because she is another strong woman who was forced into marriage like a pawn with a man she did not care for. And in The White Queen, Gregory alludes to her having greater power than her mother in terms of magic.

{Added on 20 Oct 2013 : Yes, she has written a book on Elizabeth of York, released earlier this year called "The White Princess"}

Any woman who ever dreamed of being a queen or a princess would quickly grow to even hate the concept if she reads these books of Historical Fiction. Being used as a pawn by their fathers, brothers and husbands to further their own alliances, then married off to philandering husbands (no matter that they are Kings) and constantly worried for the life, health and safety of themselves, their families and their children.

As Elizabeth of York tells her mother when they are hiding in sanctuary - "It is a curse to be born Royal, I just want to be ordinary and marry a man of my choice and live in the country"

Yes, its another wonderful book by Philippa Gregory. What is truly amazing is how even a reader who completely empathises with Anne Neville in The Kingmakers Daughter and distrusts Elizabeth Woodville, can completely empathise with Elizabeth Woodville in "The White Queen" and that is the genius of Philippa Gregory as a writer of Historical Fiction.

Starting on "The Red Queen" next. will let you know how it goes :)

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Also Read Kim's Reviews of the other books in Philippa Gregory's - "Cousins War" Series:
The Lady of The Rivers

The Red Queen
The Kingmaker's Daughter
The White Princess

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