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on 8 April 2017
Positively riveting account of a well-written idea of what history was like for our women - strong, yet passively influencing the course of the ages past. I enjoyed the little humanistic touches, such as Alison describes dialogue, in keeping with our age, yet carefully preserving exact historical documentation. This is a quality book at an affordable price. Well worth a scholarly study, or indeed, a starter book for those who are only just dipping their toe into the subject. In-depth, yet not droning!
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on 31 July 2017
Really enjoyable book.
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on 10 July 2014
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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on 18 December 2014
Very well researched and written. Thoughtful analysis of sources. A comprehensive biography of a queen of England who has previously only been viewed as the mother of Henry VIII. Alison Weir shows she was so much more.
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on 27 April 2017
This is not what I expected. Having read other of Alison's books this one has not impressed me at all. The whole book is like seating in a history classroom with a fast forward button on. There is no soul to it but narrative of events, for that I could just get my hands on Wikipedia.
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on 31 December 2014
I did enjoy this. Again my mother bought it for me but I think I might know the author having worked with a relation. I was intrigued by the "slippery" Stanleys. This is my favourite Alison Weir so far.
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on 9 August 2017
Bit hard going this book was more of a reference book than a story
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 November 2013
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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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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on 15 December 2013
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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