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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the women of the cousin's war
This book shows something of the characters who are the main characters in the "cousins war" series, but about whom little is known. As with her novels PG's book is well researched. I would recommend this to any-one not a historian, but who loves history, especially this period.
Published 22 months ago by maggie pearce

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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gregory the weak link
This is an interesting take on a little-studied subject. It encompasses three biographical essays about the central characters of Philippa Gregory's historical fiction series on the Cousins' War, or the Wars of the Roses - Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort. As the 'star' name among the writers, Philippa Gregory goes first with an...
Published on 2 May 2012 by History Geek


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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gregory the weak link, 2 May 2012
This review is from: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother (Hardcover)
This is an interesting take on a little-studied subject. It encompasses three biographical essays about the central characters of Philippa Gregory's historical fiction series on the Cousins' War, or the Wars of the Roses - Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort. As the 'star' name among the writers, Philippa Gregory goes first with an introduction and the first essay. However, although most people will buy the book on the basis of Gregory's name being on the cover, her essay on Jacquetta of Luxembourg is by far the weakest. To be honest, she had the hardest task - there are few sources of information about Jaquetta. However, although Gregory claims to have delved into the archives to research for her fiction book, the essay is merely a narrative of the events of the wars with speculative comments interspersed like Jacquetta "probably was" or "was likely to have" been in various places. I'm afraid that such a difficult historical personality probably requires more time and expertise to do her justice - Gregory admits herself that she wrote the essay in this book while juggling the novel at the same time. David Baldwin and Michael Jones are on better ground with their essays, and Jones' on Margaret Beaufort is probably the best at analysing his subject. I'm sure that with a slightly amended structure and approach, this could have been a great book. Unfortunately, it is slightly disappointing as it is.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the women of the cousin's war, 16 July 2013
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This book shows something of the characters who are the main characters in the "cousins war" series, but about whom little is known. As with her novels PG's book is well researched. I would recommend this to any-one not a historian, but who loves history, especially this period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't work too well on older Kindles, 30 Aug. 2013
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Although the actual biographies provide very useful background material about Elizabeth Woodville, her mother, Jaquetta Rivers, and her daughter's mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort, I found that my Kindle (one of the first models) interfered with rather than enhanced the reading experience. One aspect that is really unsatisfactory is the fact that diagrams remain small and faint. The family trees are an important resource and were virtually unreadable.

The main content of the book was okay, and I felt that Phillipa Gregory and her co- writers were careful to emphasise that a great deal of what was presented was based on surmise as none of the women were the subject of contemporaneous records. Everything that is known is y eay on circumstantial evidence

The introduction was a very useful essay on the nature of 'historical fact' and effectively argued that all historians select, and therefore edit, the material available and construct a possible scenario.

Society changes attitudes in a generation, so it is even harder to look back almost 20 generations and really understand how it felt to be one of those women. On the whole I think the authors were fairly dispassionate in their handling of the known facts, e.g. the marriage of the 12 year old Margaret Beaufort, which to us would appear to be legalised child abuse.

Overall I found it shed more light on a very complex period of history and particularly interesting that these were just three of a number of women who were central to the playing out of the events of the Wars of the Roses.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Novelist Plus Two Historians, 4 April 2012
By 
takingadayoff "takingadayoff" (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother (Hardcover)
When I saw a book by Philippa Gregory in the nonfiction section I thought it had been mis-shelved. And what was the Cousins' War? I've read a few books about the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Britain and Europe, but here was a war I'd never heard of.

I have to admit I have little interest in historical fiction, and haven't read any of Gregory's novels, but I was drawn in by the concept of this book. In doing research for her series about the Wars of the Roses, she found there were few primary sources dedicated to the women of the period. Secondary sources often downplayed the importance and influence of women. But there was no doubt that many women of the era were well-educated, politically savvy, and ambitious.

So Gregory decided to tackle some historical non-fiction for a change. Little has been written about the first subject of the book, Jacquetta of Luxembourg. As the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, she had a front row seat at the onset of the Wars of the Roses. I can imagine that anyone doing future research of Jacquetta will start with Gregory's book, which distills as much as is known of the Duchess into a readable narrative. Gregory doesn't speculate (any more than other historians) and while she chooses to skip footnotes as too academic for a book intended for general readers, she does include notes on sources and a bibliography.

Her other two subjects, Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV, mother of the two Princes in the Tower) and Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry VII) already have academic biographies written by current historians, so Gregory enlisted those authors to write short, non-academic bios of the women. These are also very well done, although Woodville's biographer, David Baldwin chucked in too many chatty asides and exclamation points, giving his narrative a slightly patronizing tone.

In addition to the three biographies in this volume, Gregory's introduction is especially interesting. She describes how she came to do this book, as well as discussing the slippery nature of historical scholarship. It's easy enough to dismiss historical fiction as not being factual and taking liberties with fact, but historical fact is not easy to pin down either. You would think that after five hundred years, we would have the facts down about the Wars of the Roses, but every year brings new books, new information, new interpretations, and different analysis.

As William Faulkner wrote, "the past is never dead - it isn't even past."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, highly recommended, 13 May 2013
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A very well written account of the lives of three incredible women. All three sections are brilliantly written,very informative and get across very well how dramatic and exciting this period of history really is. A great companion to Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series of novels, which are also a great read. The section on Jacquetta is a little sparse on personal information but that is due to how little is known about her personal life. The lives of Elizabeth and Margaret are much better known. This book, and Gregory's novels, have made me want to find out so much more about this fascinating period of British history. Thoroughly recommended.
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66 of 79 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately disappointing, 30 Oct. 2011
By 
M. K. Burton - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother (Hardcover)
For as long as men have been writing history, important women have been lost from its pages. Restoring all of them would be an impossible, lifetimes-consuming feat, but that doesn't mean some historians can't try. Building on the success of Philippa Gregory's novels set during the Wars of the Roses (which she calls "The Cousins' War"), she and two historians have written a book spotlighting three of the most important women during the war - The Duchess, Jacquetta, her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen, and Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, The Queen's Mother.

While reading this review, it's probably worth keeping in mind that I know a lot about the Wars of the Roses, even counting what I've forgotten since I actually finished studying it intensively, and have read many many books and articles on the subject, both popular and academic history. I have also been trained to write history myself. My experience may not match yours.

I love the idea of The Women of the Cousins' War in theory, but I'm ever so wary of it in actual historical practice. Unfortunately, this book actually justified my wariness. The introduction, written by Gregory, is very appealing. Starting off first with the difference, in her mind, between history and historical fiction, and followed up by why she chooses to write fiction, was actually a fascinating glimpse into her head. I didn't agree with everything she said about the writing of history itself, but I appreciated such a bold introduction that really argued her case. It had me looking forward to the book.

At that point, unfortunately, I began to be disappointed. None of the essays use footnotes OR endnotes, which left me wondering where on earth they'd actually got their information from. There is a list of sources and a messy list of acknowledgements and quotes at the end of each, but this is frustrating to wade through when looking for the source of any quote. Without knowing where each got information from, I hesitated to trust anything I was reading.

It didn't help that it started off with Gregory's essay about Jacquetta, the Duchess of Bedford who married a lower-class Woodville seemingly out of love and gave birth to the future queen of England, Elizabeth Woodville. To be perfectly fair to Gregory, she has very, very little to work with, but this is one of the fundamental flaws in this sort of "restoration" of some historical women. There just isn't much there. It's incredibly difficult to prise out anything about Jacquetta herself besides speculation. Gregory does a decent job of that speculating, but since I didn't know where any particular bit of information came from, whether it was an original source or not, I had no way to judge for myself what I thought about what she was saying. This particular bit reads, as you would imagine, as a factual tale about the more recorded people in Jacquetta's life without much genuine insight into who she actually was.

I also was frustrated by the fact that there is no engagement with the sources, particularly the primary sources. Instead of hearing "some say", I want to know who said it and what their motivation was. I wanted this book to further historical study, to make some sort of impact, not to just flatly tell me what happened. Gregory says she consulted the original sources, but aside from a few notes in the end, they don't feature.

The second essay didn't improve much on the situation. Enough is known about Elizabeth Woodville to actually make for an interesting biography, and some biographies have been already written about her, including one by this particular author. She also features heavily in other books about this subject, naturally. The essay was fair, and does include more information about the sources, and would be appropriate for someone who knows almost nothing about the subject. For me, it didn't help that this essay was the least well-written and I found it very difficult to keep my attention on the page, which is probably why I have little to say either way about it.

The last essay, however, was excellent. Michael Jones very obviously knows his subject, knows his sources, and is a wonderful writer. He rescues the whole book by actually backing up his speculation, thinking about where his information comes from, and considering Margaret's family history as well as the present. There still aren't any actual notes, but he amazingly separates the primary sources from the books in his source list (which neither of the others do) and makes it relatively easy to figure out what came from where, particularly since he's actually engaging with the historical record.

In fact, I feel like the third essay justifies my criticisms of the other two, because it did a whole lot more of everything I wanted without unnecessary length and certainly without becoming as dry as academic history can be. Yes, the book is intended to familiarize readers with these women, not as an academic study for other historians, but certainly they can do so while also writing worthy history. He provided a much fuller, more comprehensive picture of Margaret herself, backed up by everything he knows, and had me eager to read his full-length book on the subject.

I don't think I would recommend this book for anyone who has some knowledge of the period, as they'll know most of what's in it, but for newcomers and those who are looking for more information and a "popular" history this would suit. If you see it in your library and enjoy Philippa Gregory's books, I'd certainly recommend you read at least the introduction, as I feel it's really added to my understanding of the way she writes and considers historical fiction.
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3.0 out of 5 stars THE WOMEN OF THE COUSINS' WAR., 13 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother (Hardcover)
Having read the first four books in Philippa Gregory's The Cousins War series (I have the fifth, The White Princess, on my TBR pile) I was delighted to receive this 'facts behind the fiction' book which takes a look at the 'true' stories of The Duchess (Jacquetta of Luxembourg), The Queen (Elizabeth Woodville) and The King's Mother (Margaret Beaufort)

Beginning with what I felt was a slightly over-long and mundane introduction by Philippa Gregory its over to the perhaps best known of the authors for an essay on Jacquetta (THE LADY OF THE RIVERS) which in my opinion was the weakest (and least readable) of the three studies but then it could be argued that Ms Gregory had the most difficult task in that of the three women covered Jacquetta's story is the one with least sources of information.

Of more interest to me was the 'paper' by David Baldwin on Elizabeth Woodville (THE WHITE QUEEN) which was followed by an even stronger and more analytical piece on Margaret Beaufort (THE RED QUEEN) by Michael Jones.

Overall, a concise and obviously well researched book with some wonderful illustrations. The Women Of The Cousins' War compliments the Cousins' War series beautifully by filling in some of the gaps. However, having read several books (both fictional and non-fictional) and watched several documentaries about these women (Elizabeth and Margaret in particular, Jacquetta less so) I felt that there was little new to be learnt in the reading of the book.

Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable trio of accounts, 14 Aug. 2013
By 
John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a study by three authors of three powerful figures in 15th century England during the latter stages of the Hundred Years War and throughout the conflict now known as the Wars of the Roses. The three figures are: Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, wife of Duke John who was English regent of France during the minority of Henry VI (by the popular historical novelist Philippa Gregory, who also provides an introduction to the overall book which contains some interesting ideas on the role of women in historiography); Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta's daughter and wife of Edward IV (by David Baldwin, who has written a full length biography of this subject); and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and who also lived to see her grandson Henry VIII accede to the throne and marry Katherine of Aragon (by Michael Jones, who has also written a full length biography of this subject).

I thought Jones's piece on Margaret Beaufort was the best of the three, a well written and balanced account of the life and career of a remarkable and, by the standards of the time, long lived major figure, dying at the age of 66. From her tragic early experience of being impregnated by Edmund Tudor when she was only 12 and personally negotiating a second marriage when she was still not yet 14, she was an able and astute politician, ambitious for her only son, with whom she had a very close relationship throughout the 24 years of his reign.

Baldwin offers a spirited and to me convincing defence of Elizabeth Woodville from many of the accusations of grasping ambition which are often thrown at her and her family, though in context, they were no worse than others who achieved prominence at this time.

I thought Gregory's piece on Jacquetta was slightly less satisfactory (she has apparently written other history as well as historical novels, though I am not clear what other non-fiction she has written), but it offers a perspective on an important female figure who is less well known than the other two, but who nevertheless played a key role in the highest political circles in the middle part of the century.

An interesting perspective on this crucial period of English history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I anticipated...., 29 Jun. 2013
By 
SusanS "SusanS" (Wakefield, West Yorks) - See all my reviews
I must admit I was not convinced this would be a very good read, but I snapped it up cheap in a bargain bookshop. As it turned out, I got a great bargain as I actually really enjoyed this book!!

It's not what I would call an in depth history book, it's aimed at "general readership", but it was enjoyable to read.
It basically gives an overview of three of the women of the so called "Cousin's War".

I had previously read the book on Elizabeth Woodville by David Baldwin, and the essay by him in this book is basically a condensed version. It gives a good, general picture of Elizabeth. I find Baldwin's theories interesting- especially regarding the princes, although I think he goes a bit off the wall with the fate of the younger boy (in my opinion anyway).

The section on Margaret Beaufort is-in my opinion-the best. I really like Michael Jones as a historian/writer, and although Margaret Beaufort is not someone I am massively interested in, I enjoyed reading Jones's essay.
I don't know yet if I want to read more on Margaret, but Jones will be my first choice if I do.

Jacquetta- by Philippa herself, is not too bad. Again, Jacquetta is someone I find interesting but not in a huge way, and I don't think there is that much information out there about her.

I found Philippa's bit on women in history more interesting than her actual essay on Jacquetta. She does go on a bit of a pro-feminist spiel- but I found her comments on women in history really interesting. She also made me giggle with her comments on Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves- well said Philippa!!
I wish she had continued down this line a bit further as I found her writing on history/historians and literature better than her actual essay on Jacquetta.

All in all- an decent read.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars expectations not met - not a must have book, 16 Oct. 2011
By 
Amelrode (Vilvoorde) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother (Hardcover)
Philippa Gegrory has written three historic novels on the Jacquetta of Luxembourg,Elisabeth Woodville and Margret Beaufort and this book is now inteneded to write proper, but short biographies on the three ladies.

The book has 4 distinct section:
- Introduction (33 pages!)
- the biography on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford, mother of Queen Elisabeth Woodville,

both by Philippa Gregory,

- the part on Queen Elisabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and mother of the princes in the Tower and Queen Elisabeth of York, by David Baldwin,

- and by Michael Jones the part of Margaret Beaufort, King Henry's VII formidable mother.

They all cover the same period: the war of the Roses and are intended to give prominence to the women of the time and their historic role.

Philiipa Gregory rightly points to the different treatment of females in historic writing, their role in society, in politics and power then and today. However, in this fairly long introduction on this issue she seems to have forgotten the religious dimensions and the teaching of the Catholic Church on it. She describes the effects, but forgets at least one major part of the reasons. This gets even more strange : While rightly deploring this she starts her biography of Jacquetta of Luxembourg with describing the Luxembourg famliy and completly forgetting Jacquetta's mother and grandmother, the later a great heiress and who passed her estate and titles first to her son, Jacquetta's father. I found that really disappointing and had expected more of Mrs. Gregory.

Compared to the parts of Baldwin and Jone, Mrs. Gregory's biography is by far the weakest. She puts Jacquetta in the context and then adds something what she must have felt and thought or might be present. Guesswork for most of the time. Really funny I feel is the part when Mrs Gregory seem to have discovered that the War of the Roses was really a Cousin's War.... odd, was it ever something else? Just the name this civil war went down in history is different, but it did not change the substance.

So while the book starts off pretty weak it gains momentum and substance. So all in all, it is not a bad book that one would not read to the end. But it is not a must have book and with regards with Mrs Gregory I feel that she should stick to historic novels - there is she one of the most brilliant writers.
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