The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive an advanced review copy of Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen, her latest novel and Book 2 of her War of the Roses series. As it is not due out for another two months or so in Australia, I’ve refrained from linking to it, and have posted an image and link to the first book in the series which is for all reading purposes the CURRENT book, or at least until September sometime.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series about The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, who seems to have ascended the English throne as both Queen Consort and Queen Mother thanks in part to her feminine charm.

Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen, is an entirely different specimen. Idolising Joan of Arc, Margaret was first married at the tender age of 7, before papal dispensation was granted to the newlyweds as they were found to be too closely related. Her second marriage as a pious child-bride to Edmund Tudor resulted in the birth of her only child, Henry, a son. By the end of her teens, Margaret Beaufort was widowed and felt herself governed by God, apparently having received a number of visions telling her that her son would be the King of England.

As fate would have it, Henry Tudor does eventually become King in line with Margaret Beaufort’s prophecy (Henry VII), but I suspect that Philippa Gregory’s point of view is that it was less divine intervention and more a mother’s plotting that gave Henry the beloved throne.

I’ve enjoyed collecting this series partly for the story of the women involved -the third instalment is about Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter, The White Princess– and partly for the glorious covers.

Caution must be taken with evaluating The Red Queen for its historical contribution to the world of literature, as Philippa Gregory’s work is often (highly) fictionalised in parts. The tone is, as always, engaging, personal and dramatic, but even so I am not sure I enjoy this book quite as much as her earlier works (which includes The Other Boleyn Girl), perhaps because I couldn’t identify with Lady Margaret Beaufort herself. To me this story painted her as a conniving horror of a woman, jealous of Elizabeth Woodville’s beauty and grace, and capable of organising the murder of children just to have the crown for her son.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the atmosphere of the times, but nevertheless, whilst it was an enjoyable and quick read about the (possibly) power-hungry grandmother of that other insane person, Henry VIII, I am looking forward to catching up with The White Princess later on next year for some much-needed R & R .

What a horrible, power-lusty character Lady Margaret was in The Red Queen! I’ll be interested to see who agrees with me when the book is released – perhaps I have become fragile over time, and everyone else will think she was absolutely grand. I bet Henry VII thought so.