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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE definitive biography but a tough read
I usually love Alison Weir's books and I was excited to read this one. However, it was hard going. Alison Weir has certainly demonstrated how much serious academic research she has put into this book, but that has been at the expense of its readability. I stuck with it but I must admit that I skipped over large parts of it. I think that this reflects that even after all...
Published 12 months ago by Henry H8

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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars May or may not, that is the question...
At what stage does biography become pointless? I would suggest that the answer to that question is when the historical record doesn't provide enough information to allow for any real insight into or knowledge of the subject. And that, in a nutshell, is why I have abandoned this book at the halfway point.

Elizabeth of York probably had a fascinating life. She...
Published 12 months ago by FictionFan


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE definitive biography but a tough read, 15 Dec 2013
This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Hardcover)
I usually love Alison Weir's books and I was excited to read this one. However, it was hard going. Alison Weir has certainly demonstrated how much serious academic research she has put into this book, but that has been at the expense of its readability. I stuck with it but I must admit that I skipped over large parts of it. I think that this reflects that even after all this research we still don't really know that much about Elizabeth of York and we never probably will. We don't even know if she had seven or eight children (Prince Edward is a mystery). However, I am sure that this book will come to be seen as THE definitive book about Elizabeth of York. I think it is probably now time for Alison Weir to move on from the Tudors and move onto the Stuarts.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars May or may not, that is the question..., 13 Dec 2013
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Hardcover)
At what stage does biography become pointless? I would suggest that the answer to that question is when the historical record doesn't provide enough information to allow for any real insight into or knowledge of the subject. And that, in a nutshell, is why I have abandoned this book at the halfway point.

Elizabeth of York probably had a fascinating life. She may have been in love with her husband, Henry VII. On the other hand, she may have been cruelly treated and suppressed by him. Or perhaps he loved her. Maybe she was seriously affected by the probable murders of her brothers. Or perhaps she was so ambitious for the throne that she tried to persuade Richard III, the probable murderer, to marry her. She may have conspired against Richard to bring Henry to the throne - a ballad written during Henry's reign suggests so, though that hardly seems like substantive evidence. Or perhaps she had nothing to do with it at all. She may have been influential on Henry in many ways following her marriage. Or she may have done little more than breed heirs. Interesting questions, and I was hoping for interesting answers - but there are none, as Weir freely and repeatedly asserts.

Weir has, I assume, done her best with the available material, but I'm afraid that still leaves Elizabeth as an unknown entity. In fact, I felt I knew her better from reading Thomas Penn's Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England, than I do now after reading chapter after chapter of lightly supported and indecisive speculation. It's good that Weir has made clear the lack of information rather than making assertions about her own beliefs as if they were truths. Admirable - but makes for a dull and rather pointless read. And I'm afraid Weir's writing style is not sufficient to carry the book - she writes in a dry academic fashion that, for me at least, fails to bring the characters to life and makes even the most dramatic episodes into a tedious recounting of conflicting sources, including extensive quotes; much of which I felt could happily have been relegated to the notes at the back for the use of any serious historian. As a casual reader, I hope for the historian to plough through the sources on my behalf and then present me with a well argued and convincing hypothesis.

The final point where I decided that I couldn't take any more was when Weir suggested that Elizabeth 'may have been influential in the development of royal pageantry'. The 'evidence' for this is that she would have seen the Burgundian-influenced pageantry at the court of her father, Edward IV. It's that crucial word 'may', with its unspoken implication of 'or may not'. I could as easily say 'Elizabeth may have been one of the world's foremost acrobats' and bring just about the same amount of evidence to bear - i.e., she doubtless saw tumblers and fools at her father's court too. And I'm afraid 'may' is one of the words most used in the book. (338 times, according to the Kindle search facility.)

So in conclusion this book 'may' be of interest to some people - in fact, clearly it is since it is garnering positive reviews. But I'm afraid I'm not one of them. Perhaps at some point I'll try one of Weir's books about a later period in history where enough evidence exists for the word 'may' to be replaced by something a little more substantial. In the meantime, I will assume, based on the evidence of this book, that Elizabeth of York may have to remain an enigmatic figure about whom too little is known to allow for an interesting biography to be written.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and accessible biography, 7 Nov 2013
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Kindle Edition)
As a general reader of history, the books I read need to be accessible and interesting but I need to be sure that they are based on sound scholarship. I've read many of Alison Weir's factual history books and have always found them informative and readable. (I'm not fond of historical fiction so haven't read those although I am sure that they are equally good). I was delighted to be offered an advance copy of this book by the publisher and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

Elizabeth of York was the daughter of a king, betrothed to a king, sought after by another king, sister to a king and bore to the king she married a future king and two queen consorts. She was at the heart of the Wars of the Roses and was a fugitive, a captive and a marital pawn. With the death/disappearance of her two brothers (the Princes in the Tower) she was actually the heir to the throne and was seen to legitimise the reign of her husband Henry VII, something which made him very nervous. Her life was in danger more than once, and close members of her family were murdered with others being the subject of suspicion and plots.

By concentrating on Elizabeth's life the author steers the reader through the events of the Wars of the Roses and makes them understandable. I struggled with Alison Weir's previous book devoted to the Wars because I found it rather dry, in this book she links the events to the people and shows their connections with Elizabeth. This made it much easier to follow. The story clearly shows the lust for and danger of power, and the often tragic effects on the bystanders - the story of the hapless Earl of Warwick is heartbreaking. Surrounded by danger, plots, and power hungry and ruthless men Elizabeth had to steer a path to preserve herself and her family.

There isn't a lot known about Elizabeth's life and activities but the author is clear about what is known and where she is making a judgement based on the few facts available. Where she touches on something controversial (the death of the princes in the tower or the provenance of the Buck letter for example) she is clear about the other views generally held and about what she thinks and why. She attempts to resolve seeming inconsistencies in what we know about Elizabeth's character in her younger days when she was in fear of her life with her later behaviour as queen. I'm not completely convinced about the arguments she uses to explain the letter she may (or may not) have written desiring marriage with her uncle Richard III but she has provided plenty of material to think about.

Elizabeth of York lived her married life as a companion to Henry VII and subservient to him and his wishes. She had the better claim to the throne but never chose in any way to assert this. She could easily be portrayed as ineffectual and weak but Alison Weir has looked closely at all aspects of the Queen's life and shows clearly where she did use her influence, that her role in life was one that was in harmony with her religious beliefs and that she and Henry appeared to have an harmonious relationship. Her legacy was her children, and the fact that three of her grandchildren became rulers of England. This biography describes the difficult life of a remarkable woman and gives value, without judgement, to the choices she made.

I highly recommend this excellent book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historic details, 17 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Hardcover)
This book one would assume would be an enlightening read. Unfortunately it turned out to be a rather shallow history of Elizabeth of York. This is not necessarily the fault of the author,(who is good on court fetes,clothes and ceremony)but it is because so little is really known,or can be archived about her life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars the less I like her books, 12 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Kindle Edition)
I have now read a few Alison Weir books, and to be honest, the more I read, the less I like her books.

The pro:

1) Weir does write in an engaging way, and in no way does reading her book feel like a chore. For people who aren't too familiar with this historical period, perhaps it is a good buy.

The cons:

1) There is simply NOT enough info about Elizabeth of York in a book which, funnily enough, is supposed to be about Elizabeth of York. I also feel that this obstacle was obvious to Weir, who felt the need to pad out roughly 2/3 of the book with information about other people. I honestly felt that I learnt more about her father, Edward IV, her husband, Henry VII, and her children, than I did about her. No, wait...I forgot the chapter when Weir describes in detail around 27 different courses of a banquet attended by Elizabeth - *YAWN*. Why on earth would you write a book about someone when there is simply not enough content?!

2) Weir claims to be a historian. However, I cannot agree with that. Weir writes some of the most biased/presumptious history books I have ever read! There are too many instances when she writes "Elizabeth may have...", "Henry VII probably...". (I could have done that! - "Elizabeth probably liked diamonds"...) Or, she will make a sweeping statement about something and in no way back it up. POOR! Her own personal feelings, although never made explicit, are lurking just underneath the sufrace throughout. (By the way, if you want a ridiculously biased history book by Weir, try "The Princes in the Tower", a biased attack against Richard III that has so little evidence it is laughable.)

I can see why she has sold so many copies of her books, because they are "accessible", however there is no way that I would call this a history book. Please don't bother with Weir; go and read a book by a REAL historian instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many assumptions, 27 Jun 2014
This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Hardcover)
If you are looking for a book which gives great details about women's fashions at Court, the number of ladies attending Elizabeth at York and so on, then this is the book for you. If, however, you want to know more about the young woman who married Henry VII, then you will be disappointed. There are two excellent books, Thomas Penn's 'The Winter King' and Amy Licence's 'Elizabeth of York, the forgotten Tudor Queen', both of which bring Elizabeth to life, and Weir's biography comes a sad third.

Amy Licence has made the valuable point that we should not judge fifteenth century people by twenty-first century standards, because the late medieval world was so different from our own, and thus many of their decisions seem incomprehensible to us. Weir has failed to take this on board.

From Weir's earlier works, it is obvious that in her eyes, Richard III is the murderer of Elizabeth's brothers, Edward V and Richard of York, and this view permeates the early part of this book. We simply do not know what happened to the boys, whether they were murdered on the orders of Richard or others, or whether they died of a sudden, virulent illness. It would be interesting to know how many children under the age of eighteen died in London during the summer months, the time of year when the two boys disappeared, when illnesses such as the sweating sickness may well have been prevalent. The deaths of his nephews would certainly have thrown Richard into a panic, as he knew that he would be accused of doing away with them.

Elizabeth may well have loved her fascinating, charismatic uncle, but this does not necessarily mean that she was 'in love' with him. Letters of this period often seem flowery and elaborate to us, but this was a convention of that time and Elizabeth's observation on what Richard meant to her should be viewed in this context, not in twenty-first century terms.

Weir writes unkindly that the young Earl of Warwick was 'not very bright'. He may well have had a learning difficulty, possibly some degree of autism, and his imprisonment deprived him of any chance to develop both intellectually and as a person. Studies have shown that children shut away in the way that this poor boy was, close in on themselves. She is also a little 'sniffy' about Margaret Tudor's intellectual abilities, possibly forgetting that Grandmother Margaret Beaufort delighted in her first granddaughter.

Even more unkind is Weir's assertion that Elizabeth was 'fond of good living' like her father Edward IV, and became 'obese', developing a double chin. Elizabeth did become plumper as she aged - her numerous pregnancies doubtless contributed to this, as she did not have the advantage of modern antenatal dietary advice - but she has never been described as fat, still less obese!

Weir makes much of Elizabeth's decision to travel when she was pregnant with her last child, following Arthur's death. She contends that Elizabeth may have blamed Henry for Arthur's death, because he had sent him to Ludlow with Katherine of Aragon, and that Elizabeth's months away from her husband indicate an estrangement between the couple. There is no evidence that they were ever estranged; in the wake of Arthur's untimely death, they were united in their grief, comforting each other after the terrible news. As a deeply religious woman, it is far more likely that Elizabeth would have considered her son's death God's will, seeking solace in prayer at various shrines. Moreover, a pregnant woman may often act in a way that she would not dream of otherwise. Perhaps she wanted to visit Raglan to see where Henry had spent several happy years in the care of Lady Herbert - he would very probably have spoken of his childhood in Wales.

This is an interesting book, but it could have been so much better.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Alison Weir, 'Elizabeth of York', 15 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Kindle Edition)
I write this having so far got only 15% of the way through the book - up to discussion of the alleged 'precontract' of marriage between Elizabeth's father Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Butler, on the basis of which Elizabeth and her siblings were declared illegitimate and her uncle Richard became king. So far I am not impressed. Weir writes well, and the book started off not too badly, with some solid research which enabled her to give a good impression of Elizabeth's early life. But as soon as she hits Richard III she falls back Thomas More's account, written three decades later, rather than negotiate the much more revealing complexities of the original documents. It's as though, having nailed her colours to the mast all those years back with her book on the Princes, she's stuck with the results and can't move forward.
Her scholarship is very patchy. Right at the start she repeats the old chestnuts that Cecily, duchess of York, was known to contemporaries as 'The Rose of Raby' and 'Proud Cis' - both these epithets were dreamed up in later ages (as was the term 'The Cousins' War', which she also falls for). She really could do with attending evening classes in medieval marriage law as well. For instance, she tells us many girls were beaten into submission regarding their marriages - no reference for this statement, and not surprisingly, because such brute force would have rendered the marriage invalid! Her understanding of the subject is so poor that almost everything she has to say about the precontract question is wrong, viz:
1) A precontract was a promise to marry. Wrong. A precontract is a legal term referring to the prior marriage in a bigamy case.
2) Clandestine marriages were only recognised by the Church from the 14th century onwards. Wrong. It had always been the Church's position that the couple married each other, and it was only from the 13th century that they began to put pressure on people to marry publicly, before a priest, in order to avoid later disputes about whether the marriage had actually taken place - but clandestine marriages with no priest present continued to be legal.
3) A marriage was only valid if there were two witnesses. Wrong. This rule was only introduced in 1565. In the fifteenth century any exchange of vows, provided the words were adequate, would make a valid marriage. It was a good idea to have witnesses to a clandestine marriage in case your partner later tried to deny that it had ever taken place, but neither priest nor witnesses were necessary to render the marriage valid.
4) "If Elizabeth Wydeville had married Edward IV in good faith, not knowing that he was already under contract to another lady, her children could have been declared legitimate, and her marriage regularised, on Eleanor Butler's death in 1468." Wrong. Elizabeth Wydeville had also married Edward clandestinely, without issue of banns, and the Church ruled that this deprived a bride of that very protection because she had not shown good faith - ie she had made no effort to ensure there were no impediments by marrying publicly, in church, after the issue of banns (the purpose of which was to call for anyone who knew of an impediment to come forward) as the Church advised. It was actually worse than that because Edward and Elizabeth could not even have remarried after 1468 because the Church's rules banned adulterers from every marrying the women with whom they had polluted their previous marriages.
There are good articles in print on the subject of the Precontract by historians who are specialists in the history of canon law, and it's a pity Alison Weir didn't think she needed to read one of them. Actually, I'm not sure how much more of this book I can read because if it contains anything new to me I won't know whether to believe it.
Marie
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical read, 24 July 2014
This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Kindle Edition)
As someone who knows this period of history really well I was looking forward to reading this having enjoyed Weir's other books. I did think it was a good historical read and was interesting however I thought it was too long. The beginning section of the book where she concentrates on Elizabeth growing up was particularly lengthy and told the life of her father and other relations rather than her and I felt this was unnecessary as it was a book about her. Once Weir reached the part of her life where she is married then it became more about her and the family that Elizabeth of York created. There a lot of unanswered questions, but as there is no evidence they have to be left unanswered and I felt that Weir did a good job in writing a believable biography of Elizabeth of York that had a lot of fact in it and the sections that could not be definitely answered were handled well. I did not read about anything ground-breaking however it did manage to hold my interest throughout. If you are interested in this period of history or would like to read more about it then I would recommend this as a read just not a spectacularly good one.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book but biased in some areas., 28 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Hardcover)
A long book but interesting, though there are so few facts from this period that some of the book is based on heresay. The author maintains that Elizabeth and Lord Stanley conspired to help Henry Tudor (Henry VII) win the battle at Bosworth Field. I have not heard this theory before but it is apparently not based on fact. It also throws out of the window the popular theory that Elizabeth was in love with her Uncle Richard III. Just another theory that we will never be able to prove or disprove! Found the book in some areas to be biased, with the author asserting her own interpretations. Henry VII never claimed that Richard had murdered the "princes in the tower" and there is no doubt he would have done so if he had felt this to be the case. He had Edward, George of Clarence's son locked up in the tower without company or contact with anyone, for years and then had him executed on a trumped up charge, and we know this to be fact. Felt sorry for Elizabeth by the time I had finished reading the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Lady who should have been Queen in her own right, 10 July 2014
By 
Steven Leppard (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Elizabeth of York (Hardcover)
Just finished reading this Book on Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor Queen. Excellent book that told the story of Elizabeth who history has portrayed as merely the wife of Henry VII. At last this quite remarkable lady ha s been given the prominence she truly deserves and Elizabeth of York should have been the first ruling Queen of England, not her granddaughter Queen Mary I. A very well researched, informative book that puts Elizabeth at the centre of the Tudor court and not side-lined as history would have us believe.. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Elizabeth's early life as a pampered princess , in a court of luxury then to be at the mercy of her ruthless uncle Richard who clearly used the situation when Edward IV died to further his own ambitions, whilst pretending to be doing the right thing as protector of his nephew Edward V. Clearly Elizabeth was a very strong character who withstood the violent times she lived in pampered and honoured, then branded illegitimate, living in sanctuary with her mother, very fearful for themselves and to find her brothers suddenly disappear, murdered but by who? to finally come out as Queen, although she should have been Queen in her own right as the legitimate heir not Henry VII, the Tudor claim was not valid, but by marrying Elizabeth secured the throne. Alison Weir has done an excellent job here with her research into this remarkable lady, who triumphed over adversity and portrays Elizabeth as a very intelligent, warm caring person, who never wronged anyone, despite the wrongs done to her and her family. This book is the first I have read specifically on Elizabeth of York and its brings her to life beautifully and gives her rightful place in History and it is interesting to learn that Henry VII and his mother Margaret Beaufort respected her and treated Elizabeth as their equal, something not previously known. I thoroughly enjoyed this book on Elizabeth of York the last of the Plantagenet to sit on the English throne. Another enjoyable book by Alison Weir. I would certainly recommend this book, as it provides an excellent insight into the family before the Tudors who wore the crown, the Plantagenet's as did Alison Weirs book the War of the Roses which I read before this one. A family in the shadow of the Tudors but in reality the Plantagenet's were far superior to the Tudors. An excellent book on a remarkable lady
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Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir (Paperback - 7 Nov 2013)
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