Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Red Queen

I love Philippa Gregory. She may not be the most accurate of writers of historical fiction, but she tells a good story, and she tells it well.
I first fell in love with Gregory's works with The Wideacre Trilogy: Wideacre, The Favored Child and Meridon. Three wonderful, gripping novels. Equally terrific were the Tudor series, including The Other Boleyn Girl, The Constant Princess and The Boleyn Inheritance.
Philippa Gregory, a New York Times bestselling author, has moved backwards from the Tudors to the Plantagenets, with her new series, The Cousins' War. The war, of course, is the War of the Roses - the Houses of Lancaster and York - that culminated with the marriage of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, and Henry Tudor.
Ah, but I am going a bit too fast here.
The first book in the series, The White Queen, was about Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV. The second book, The Red Queen, was recently published by Simon & Schuster ($25.99.)
Margaret Beaufort, the heiress to the Lancaster claim to the throne, and she never gives up on her belief that her family are the true heirs to the English throne.
Margaret Beaufort is one of the lesser known of the Plantagenet women, although she is one of the most important. The blood of the Lancaster claim to the throne coursed through her veins, and she never let anyone forget it.
The claim was seen as tenuous because many considered the Beauforts as non-dynasts. Margaret was the daughter of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was himself the son of John Beaufort, Marquess of Somerset, eldest son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Katherine Swynford.
All four of John and Katherine's children were born while he was still married to his second wife, Constance of Castile. John and Katherine were eventually married, and their four children were legitimated. Despite the bar stigma on their escutcheons, the Beauforts were major players in the War of the Roses.

Margaret was twelve years old when she was married to Edmund Tudor, the son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V, who was the grandson of John of Gaunt and his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. Edmund's older half brother was King Henry VI, overthrown by Edward IV.
Thus, the marriage between Lady Margaret Beaufort and the Earl of Richmond was an attempt to strengthen the Lancaster line. A year after the marriage, Margaret gave birth to her only child, Henry Tudor. Jasper, fighting for the Lancastrians, was captured by a Yorkist partisan, imprisoned, and died of the plague four years after his marriage.
While young Henry was left with his uncle, Jasper Tudor, in Wales, Margaret was married off to Lord Stanley, a political but difficult marriage. Margaret's sole goal, however, was to keep her son safe and prepare him to be king. She was determined that the Lancaster line would win out, and her son would be crowned king. She also pledged that Henry would marry the daughter of her enemy, Edward IV, and, thus, unite the houses of Lancaster and York.
The Red Queen is a wonderful read. Margaret's story is so fascinating, and a story determined to be told. She is brought to life by a truly skilled writer. This book would be make a fabulous mini-series.
Margaret's faith in God, and her determination to keep her dream alive -- in her son -- made her a vital player in the War of the Roses.

The Red Queen -- fabulous book, superb read. Ready for the next one, Philippa! Hurry up!

Simon & Schuster is also the UK publisher. A paperback edition will be published in the UK in April 2011.

Simon & Schuster's webpage for The Red Queen

Philippa Gregory has her own website: http://www.philippagregory.com/

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