Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of a staunch Lancaster supporter, pleads with new King Edward IV for the return of her dead husband's lands and fortune.  They end up getting married in secret.  Now Queen of England, Elizabeth, once a Lancaster and now a York, sets about establishing her family in court.  Edward's throne is not secure however, as first one of his brothers than another rally troops to claim it.  Elizabeth spends parts of her life in the splendor of the place, and parts hiding in the Tower of London or in sanctuary.  With almost constant wars, Elizabeth fights to protect her family and see that her son inherits the throne.

This was completely fascinating.  This is the first I've read by Philippa Gregory, who wrote The Other Boleyn Girl, and many others.  I loved it.  My knowledge of the ungoing turmoil and in fighting of England is spotty, and after reading this, I want to read more and find out more of the history.

I loved how the story was told from Elizabeth's point of view.  Through her, we really get to see how everything ran, how quickly people switched loyalties, and how even in times of peace she never really felt safe.  There was always someone waiting in the wings for their chance to take the throne.  Elizabeth was ambitious and smart, and as soon as she became queen, she set up marrying her brothers and sisters off to various royals to establish her family.  Women had very little power.  They were mostly used as pawns to connect powerful families together.  The hope was once you'd married your daughter off to whatever powerful lord or king, they'd back you if your family were challenged.  This didn't always work.

It was amazing to me to learn about how brothers and cousin fought against each other.  I mean, I knew that part, but reading it in this story made me feel more connected to the people and it was sad to see bothers killing each other for power, or trying to delegitimize each other by saying their own mother was a whore and their supposed brother is actually a bastard and therefore has no claim to the throne.  It was also very dangerous to be a royal child.  Children were easily disposable if they were in the way of someone who wanted the crown.

As I read this, and saw what happened to Elizabeth and her family and children, I kept thinking about that if she hadn't married Edward, her brother's and father wouldn't have died, and her children would all still be alive.  Of course, if she hadn't married Edward, she wouldn't have many of those children and also her brothers could have easily died in any of the wars that were going on almost constantly.  She was an incredibly determined, calculating women.  I would like to read more about her.

I also definitely want to read The Red Queen, which is the same story only told from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor.  Another incredibly ambitious woman, she comes up often in The White Queen, although of course not in a very good light.  I would like to hear her side of the story.

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