While historical fiction author Philippa Gregory is more famous for her Tudor period historical fiction novels such as “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Boleyn Inheritance”, her finest work is coming from her Plantagenet/War of the Roses novels. “The White Queen” released last year about Elizabeth Woodville was an excellent portrayal of a complicated and fascinating woman and Gregory does a wonderful job again in telling the story of Margaret Beautfort, the mother of King Henry VII and grandmother of King Henry VIII in “The Red Queen”. “The Red Queen” is a portrayal of the life of Margaret Beaufort who was essentially the mother of the Tudor dynasty. Through her claims to the throne and her first marriage she put the Tudor dynasty on the throne.
Margaret Beaufort was a woman full of not only ambition, but great piety. The story of Margaret Beaufort follows her youth and young adulthood featuring three marriages. Her first marriage is to Edmund Tudor, the half brother of King Henry VI. From that marriage she gives birth to Henry Tudor who would go on to be the eventual King Henry VII of England. Her second marriage to Sir Henry Stafford is peaceful, but Margaret finds a deep ambition within herself to make sure the house of Lancaster returns to the throne and her son is king. Her third and final marriage to Thomas Stanley gives her the tools to plot and scheme to make sure her destiny and her son’s destiny is fulfilled. Throughout the novel Margaret’s devout and pious ways are highlighted. She also believes she is leading a parallel life to the great Joan of Arc. Set during the War of the Roses with the houses of Lancaster and York constantly fighting and then the era of King Richard III and the mystery of the lost princes in the Tower, this novel gives the story of a woman who is often on the sidelines in novels set in this time period, but was actually a major power player.
Margaret Beaufort is a fascinating character who is complex, root-worthy at times, and even difficult to like at times. Pious and deeply-religious, Margaret is convinced that God has a plan set out for her and it is for her son to be on the throne. She is also full of ambition, constantly plotting, scheming, and aligning herself with people who will help put her son on the throne. Margaret goes from deeply pious praying to God for hours in one chapter to helping plot the murder of the princes in the Tower in one chapter. She’s also a lonely and jealous woman. Her deep bond with her brother-in-law Jasper Tudor, a love that can never be, leaves her lonely and quietly longing for love while her jealousy of Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen of England, a woman Margaret believes was handed everything in life is fascinating. Readers will feel bad for Margaret, married as a child, used as chattel, and for her difficult childbirth which almost killed her, but readers will also be shaking their head at her duplicity, scheming, and cold ways.
The novel can be tedious with the constant references to Margaret’s piety and her plans for her son. Also, some readers may be disappointed that there is no grand love story in the novel. There is a deep bond between Jasper Tudor and Margaret, but there is no grand romance or passion as the focus of the novel. This novel is one of Philippa Gregory’s finest works though because it gives well-rounded characters where no character is a true villain or evil and also tells the story of a fascinating time in history.
Philippa Gregory should be praised for this series of novels. While she may be more famous for her novels on the Tudor period, these novels such as “The White Queen” and now “The Red Queen” are something she should be proud of for portraying history and fascinating people.
To purchase “The Red Queen”: http://www.amazon.com/Red-Queen-Novel-Cousins-War/dp/1416563725
For more information on Philippa Gregory: www.philippagregory.com/