on 13 November 2013
The White Princess is the latest installment of the Cousins War Saga, picking up where The Kingsmaker's Daughter left off; Anne Neville and Richard the Third have died, and Henry Tudor has finally fulfilled his mothers desperate single minded determination to see him on the throne.
Margaret Beaufort the King's Mother, and Elizabeth the Dowager Queen have already made an alliance that would see Henry Tudor marry Elizabeth Of York thus cementing any doubts about his claim to power.
Here things get somewhat muddled I think, and a lot of people's characters get besmirched by the unfortunate authorial decisions Gregory makes. Firstly, young princess Elizabeth it seems would far rather be getting it on with her dead uncle than with her new young man. Allegations of incest between Richard III and Princess Elizabeth went unproved and seem entirely unlikely. They were probably largely invented by dramatists such as Shakespeare looking to paint Richard III in a poor light.
Next Henry Tudor turns rapist, determined to get Princess Elizabeth pregnant before marriage to prove she's not barren. Margaret Beaufort encourages this and Elizabeth Woodville complies and so the whole sorry affair reflects well on no-one. Elizabeth Woodville had 8 children and her mother before her had 12, it seems highly unlikely in those times that the fertility of the young princess would ever have been questioned, and also more than unlikely that the religious Margaret would have encouraged sex before marriage.
Following their poor start Henry and Elizabeth have a difficult relationship flying in the face of what is known of them historically. Unlike her mother, Elizabeth Of York is not a power player in her own right and does not really carve out a path of any interest for herself. There is very little hint at the powers of the water goddess that her mother and grandmother had except in being warned of death. The court is controlled by the King's Mother and so Elizabeth has little to do.
The plot itself becomes exceptionally repetitive. During the novel The White Queen Gregory gave us the idea that one of The Princes In The Tower : Richard in fact survived, a theory that given later events seems quite likely. Throughout his reign Henry is chased by the spectre of 'the boy' and pretty much the entire novel is devoted to various boys popping up out of the woodwork claiming to be Richard Plantagenet. As each of these emerge, Henry rants at Elizabeth she simpers about not knowing anything, the pretender is defeated and it all starts again. This wears thin.
I do find the idea that Richard survived plausible and certainly of these Pretenders, the one they called Perkin Warbeck may well have been the real thing which is pretty much what is suggested here.
In the end I think that possibly the things that I found the most interesting about The White Princess are the continuation of the idea that Elizabeth effectively cursed her own line by accident & that this book in itself acts as a natural conduit between Gregory's Cousins War and her Tudor Saga the next story chronologically being that of Catherine Of Aragon in 'The Constant Princess' whose marriage to Prince Arthur is being prepared for at the close of this novel.
Not perfect by any means, but still another enjoyable addition to the canon.
on 29 September 2013
I enjoy reading Philippa Gregory's novels and this one was no exception. As far as I can tell, they are well researched but, of course, some of the episodes in Elizabeth's life have to be left to the author's imagination. Having read recently "The Kingmaker's Daughter", I was a little surprised that this novel didn't cover Elizabeth's entire life but stopped short at the point where Henry V11 had disposed of the two remaining Yorkist rivals. I did feel that there was over-emphasis in the novel on this aspect of his reign. It did bring home to me though how insecure was Henry's hold on power for much of his reign and I felt a lot of sympathy for Elizabeth as a pawn in this political game.
Hot on the heels of the television production of 'The White Queen', Philippa Gregory's 'The White Princess' is the fifth book in the Cousins' War series and this latest instalment tells the story of Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, and King Edward IV. Elizabeth, young and beautiful and still in love with Richard III (her uncle and, as claimed in this book, her lover) is forced into marriage with Henry VII, the man responsible for the death of Richard, who has taken his crown and who, in marrying Elizabeth, hopes to reinforce his hold on the throne. Elizabeth, as Henry's wife, now finds herself moving between two of the most ambitious and powerful women of their time: her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, with her uncanny powers, and Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. And Elizabeth is not just caught between these two women for, in her story, Philippa Gregory shows Elizabeth as a woman torn between loyalty to her husband and the children she bears him, and the hopes that her two brothers (the Princes in the Tower) might have survived and could return to take Henry's crown. There is a huge amount more covered in this novel (which took me some hours to read on my Kindle) including the arrival of the future King Henry VIII, but I shall leave that for prospective readers to discover.
Elizabeth of York may not be quite as intriguing as her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, but there is much to entertain in this atmospheric story: rebellions, plots, treacheries, betrayals, pretenders to the throne and more. As in her previous novels in this series, Philippa Gregory writes in the present tense which, even if we already know the outcome of the story, almost makes us feel as if we do not have that knowledge and that her characters may be able to change their fates - and, in doing so, Gregory's narrative is, at times, suspenseful and well-driven. I think I should add at this point that the author makes no claims for being strictly historically accurate with her writing, so if you prefer your history to be backed up by rigid and scrupulous research, this novel with a fair amount of artistic and romantic licence, is most probably not for you. However, if you are in the mood for something lighter and you just want to escape modern life and immerse yourself in the past, then this could work for you for effortless holiday or downtime reading.
Previous books in the Cousins' War series:
The White Queen (1);The Red Queen (2);The Lady of the Rivers (3);The Kingmaker's Daughter (4).
As most will be well aware this is the fifth book in the Cousins War (War of the Roses) series.
We move on in time from the previous books to the reign of Henry VII after his victory over Richard III at Bosworth, which I anticipated keenly because three of the previous four in the series cover similar time periods. This book in written from the perspective of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen).
The book covers the period from 1485 to 1499, although Henry reigned for another 10 years after this. It takes in the rebellions of the aristocracy still faithful to the House of York, and the pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. The treatment of the Perkin Warbeck episode is intriguing because the author pretty much regards him as Richard, Duke of York and therefore a real legitimate claimant to the throne rather than an impersonator.
Although the material is fresh and interesting in places, I have several problems with the book.
Firstly, it is extremely repetitive and could easily have been 150-200 pages shorter without losing much of substance. The portrayal of Henry VII is unflattering in the extreme. He is portayed as a paranoid, cowardly and vindictive hypocrite, heavily dependent upon his mother (Margaret Beaufort) and his uncle, Jasper Tudor. His marriage to Elizabeth is portray as forced, temptestuous and largely loveless. The characterisation of both Henry and Elizabeth seems rather flat and one dimensional.
Of course, I understand that history is written by the victor, and hence the received historical record has been airbrushed by Henry and his Tudor descendents, but Philippa Gregory certainly sets about redressing the balance here to much too great an extent, in my view. In fact Henry is even portrayed as a rapist.
We may not know the precise details of the historical facts, and it is clear that Henry VII was both unpopular and beset by numerous rebellions, but reading this account it seems surprising that Henry managed to retain the throne. At times virtually every nobleman England seems to have deserted him in favour of a York claimant, but Henry still manages to field an army twice the size of any challenger. And there lies the problem of consistency and credibility of this account.
The reader should be aware that this is very much a fictional interpretation of history, every much a fiction as that left to us by Henry himself, but painted very much through a prism of nostalgia for the defeated House of York. I guess we will never really know the true story of some of these events, and therein lies the intrigue and the scope for fictional interpretation.
on 16 November 2014
After the previous 4 novels in the Cousins' War series, which I enjoyed, I found this a big disappointment. It is written from the viewpoint of Elizabeth of York, after the Battle of Bosworth, who became wife of Henry VII. At the heart of my criticism of the novel is the portrayal of Henry as a cowardly, constantly frightened monarch with little natural leadership ability. Yes, he did have to face a succession of rebellions, but that was only to be expected. Yes, some Yorkists did try to dethrone him. But Henry in history was a strong king. I found Philippa Gregory's treatment of him totally unconvincing. Equally unconvincing is the portrayal of Elizabeth's love-hate relationship with him. She also takes the pretender Perkin Warbeck's claim to be Richard Duke of York as true - which it almost certainly wasn't - and creates a liaison between Henry and Warbeck's wife for which there is, as far as I am aware, no evidence. The novel is repetitive - even the same phrases keep appearing - and could have done with very drastic editing.
on 14 December 2013
I am not even sure where to start with this trainwreck of a novel. I almost didn't even read it after being disappointed with the first three in this series. I had passed on #4, but couldn't resist the story of Elizabeth of York. Little did I know that this book is really the story of her brother, Richard Duke of York, told from her insipid first person point of view.
If one is going to write the story of Perkin Warbeck or Richard of York, why not just write that story? Instead, Gregory insists on forcing his story as Elizabeth's, and the result is painful. A majority of this novel focuses on the Warbeck rebellion and the author can't even decide what to call him. This leaves the reader inundated with references to "the boy", incessantly, until it will seep into your nightmares. Just call him Richard or Perkin for heaven's sake! Besides the fact that this "boy" is well beyond what is considered an age of majority and the age that his alleged father was king and battle seasoned warrior. I almost stopped reading, but forced myself to persevere to Elizabeth's ending . . . . which is never reached!
PG ends with the death of rebels at Henry VII's hand, not the end of Elizabeth's life. As if the most important, and only, thing that ever happened to her was the York rebellions. Even those aren't covered in their entirety, as Edmund de la Pole is barely mentioned. I am astounded at the number of high ratings this book has received when there is just so much to not like about it.
I had hoped for better. Though disappointed with the first three in this series, I had hoped that somebody would do poor Elizabeth some justice. No characterization of her that I have read has honored this woman who has ties to so many kings. Near the beginning of this book, Elizabeth thinks, "I am, like England itself, part of the spoils of war." I loved this line and its simple, sad truth. It got my hopes up that the rest of the novel would be as beautifully written, that Gregory would surprise me. She didn't.
Before turning too many pages I was sick of hearing Richard III referred to as "my lover." I don't even mind that PG decided to make EofY and RIII lovers. Fine, it's fiction. Whatever. But she's a writer, right? Exercise that vocabulary a little!
If only that was the only example of repetitious, eye-roll inducing, make-me-want-to-throw-this-book-out-the-window vocabulary. Perkin/Richard is always "the boy", RIII is always "my lover", everyone keeps asking "what d'you think/mean", and Elizabeth's answer to every question is always "I don't know". Seriously, I have no idea why this is told from her point of view because the girl never knows anything. To emphasize the fact that she is as slow as her cousin, Edward, she frequently repeats what people tell her in the form of a question, creating some of the least compelling dialog that I have ever read. Dialog is repeated, thoughts are repeated, everything is repeated. The novel could be 100 pages shorter if the author wasn't so condescending to the reader.
Within the first few pages, the characters had been forced into their stereotypical roles of scheming former Queen (Elizabeth Woodville), scheming want-to-be queen (Margaret Beaufort), naïve-lovesick pawn (Elizabeth of York), and insecure cruel tyrant (Henry Tudor). Henry is particularly poorly done as a tyrannical, suspicious, cruel villain. Then Elizabeth starts to love him, but we don't know why. Then he stops loving her, but we don't know why. ugh.
Then we have the magical powers of the York women, which was my least favorite theme in the rest of this series. Labor is painless as floating down the lazy river with Elizabeth Woodville in attendance, and our lovely pair of Elizabeths accidently curse their own descendants though it takes young Elizabeth hundreds of pages to make this connection that the reader made the first time the curse is uttered. Once the light bulb does come on, she is like some kind of prophetess who can foresee the end of the Tudor line with exacting detail. Just don't ask her about anything currently going on or you'll get, "I don't know" (twirls her golden hair).
I'm done. No more PG for me.
on 4 September 2013
I have really enjoyed The Cousins War series mainly because it is set in my favourite historical period. However I was a little disappointed with this latest offering. 'The White Princess' picks up the story of Princess Elizabeth of York who marries Henry VII to unite the York and Lancaster families. Again Gregory does have to do a lot of interpretation with what happened to a lot of the people as we just do not know and some of it I feel did not really work and it is all down to people's personal interpretation of events. I agree with other people that this was very repetitive and kept coming back to things that did not need mentioning almost as if finding material was a struggle. This latest offering also did not flow as well as the others and was quite dull at the beginning and took a while to get going. However once I got into it, I found it most enjoyable to immerse myself in the past and enjoy the glamour and riches of the Tudor court. The book does finish quite nicely and at the right point in history. Although this is not my favourite novel in 'The Cousins War' I still found it to be enjoyable and a good read, just do not expect it to be as good as some of Gregory's other books.
on 6 May 2014
If you know nothing about the Cousins' War or the early Tudors, you may find this book entertaining, but don't make the mistake of thinking it's an accurate portrayal of Henry VII, his wife, or their marriage. This is fiction, and the author's own view of the main characters.
There is a glaring inaccuracy early on, repeated at intervals. Henry Tudor did NOT have brown eyes - his eyes were blue, if the contemporary accounts of his appearance are accurate.
In this book, Henry and Elizabeth behave like a pair of squabbling schoolchildren, having the same argument over and over. Elizabeth in particular, grates upon the reader; she emerges from Gregory's prose as a vapid, silly woman who never learns from her mistakes. She is as nasty to Margaret Beaufort as Margaret is to her. I became tired of her drooling on about Richard III - her lover, according to Gregory. While Richard may have lusted after his lovely niece, if she had slept with him regularly, she would have been pregnant very quickly. She was of fertile stock and fell pregnant as soon as she started sleeping with Henry.
As for Henry, Gregory has bought into the old myth of Henry being a miser - he only developed this trait after Elizabeth's death - as well as being totally dependent on, and dominated by, his mother Margaret Beaufort. The author also has Henry falling in love with the lovely Katherine, "the boy's" wife. Henry was a one-woman man, devoted to his wife and while he probably appreciated Katherine's beauty (as many happily married men do when they see an attractive woman) he would never have considered infidelity. He was one of the few monarchs who were totally faithful. And he certainly wasn't a rapist!
Gregory's Margaret is a monster of a mother-in-law who never stops berating Elizabeth for being of the House of York. Yet there are contradictions in this portrayal. Early in the novel, Henry shamefacedly admits to his wife that Margaret likes to give him a goodnight kiss each night, trying to make up for the long separation when she was unable to do this - a rather endearing picture of a loving mother. Yet later, when Elizabeth accuses Margaret of not truly loving her son, and gets her to admit that she didn't play with him when he was a baby, Margaret is seen is a hard, ambitious woman with no softness in her at all. Now, Margaret was only thirteen when her son was born, and even strong-minded little girls of that age usually enjoy playing with babies. Recently widowed and recovering from a difficult birth, Margaret was determined that her sickly, delicate little boy would survive. Why wouldn't she hold him and kiss him? Henry was hardly in the running for being king at birth. It was Margaret who looked after Elizabeth devotedly, doing her best to provide her daughter-in-law with every possible comfort during her confinement - she would not have wanted Elizabeth to undergo an ordeal like her own at Pembroke Castle - and Margaret who looked after Cecily of York when Cecily upset Henry by marrying a commoner.
Now we come to the marriage. We know that it was made not for love but for political reasons, but a deep love developed between them. Again, why wouldn't it? Henry was young, handsome and personable, Elizabeth was blonde, beautiful and sweet-natured, and there would have been strong physical attraction from the start. They almost certainly slept together before their wedding - an accepted practice for betrothed couples - and probably enjoyed a healthy, satisfying sex life. When tragedy struck the couple, only Henry was able to comfort his beloved wife after their son's death, and when Elizabeth died, Henry was devastated with grief. The marriage was intended to aid reconciliation between York and Lancaster, yet the book has Henry and his mother turning "York" into a dirty word, a stick with which to beat his wife and her sisters. Henry and Elizabeth loved their children and were very proud of them. Prince Harry and his mother were particularly close; far from being a vain little liar, Harry was a happy, confident child until the loss of his brother made him the heir to the throne, and even worse, the death of his beloved mother, from which he never really recovered.
The author's hints towards the end of the book that the Tudor line will end with a Virgin Queen are just ridiculous.
What a pity that Gregory chose to stick with stereotypical images - miserly king, wicked mother, ineffective daughter-in-law losing her virginity to her uncle - instead of developing them into rounded, sympathetic characters. She has done them a disservice.
3.5 stars I think.
This entry in the Cousins War series kicks off where Red Queen / White Queen finish, with the Battle of Bosworth and the death of Richard III. Its narrator is Elizabeth, daughter to Edward and Elizabeth, former monarchs, promised to Henry Tudor, the new king of England. We follow her life and that of the country, from engagement to wedding to life as Queen and mother in a troubled country.
It's still fascinating stuff, for anyone who likes history. A lot of the plot revolves around Henry suspecting his wife (and everyone else apart from his mother) of treason. There are 'boys', pretenders to the throne who might or might not be an escaped Prince from the Tower (Elizabeth's little brother Richard).
This does make a 500-page book a little samey at times, even if this IS true history! Some scenes really should be been better edited (Henry constantly accusing his wife of treachery, she pretending not to know who 'the boy' refers to, his mother praying for God to smite their enemies). Henry isn't very sympathetic as a character, his actions to Elizabeth quite shocking at times, his obsessions annoying, but I suppose quite justified. Elizabeth herself is a bit flat as a heroine after the likes of Margaret and her own mother.
It's in these two supporting characters that a measure of wicked delight can be taken. Margaret makes a fantastically superior and supercilious mother in law, really the worst you can imagine. And Elizabeth Woodville's cameo makes her out to be almost a Merry Widow, with a wicked sense of humour and wise outlook.
It all ended too soon for me, I wanted to see Arthur and Harry grow up and see to the end of Henry's reign, but I suppose that Gregory has her eye on the next book there. Catherine of Aragon narrating maybe?
A good continuation of the story but not quite up to the standards of its predecessors.
on 4 October 2013
I am a big fan of philippa Gregory's novels and have really enjoyed the rivers series, however I just found this one a bit slower than the others and less gripping. I also found it repetitive and kept thinking 'just get on with it' st times. Overall it's worth a read if you enjoyed the other books in the series but I was disappointed.