The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory, arguably one of the finest historical fiction novelists of the 21st century, finished off her wildly popular Tudor series with the publication of The Other Queen and began a new series last summer entitled The Cousins’ War. The White Queen is the first in this new trilogy that centers around The War of the Roses. The White Queen details Elizabeth Woodville’ rise to the throne as the Queen of England, wife of Edward IV. An ancillary side plot deals with the connection of Woodville’s family as descendents of the water goddess Melusina who supposedly drives the widow’s good fortunes along and is the catalyst for her marriage, as well as a voice of reason to call upon throughout the novel.

Throughout the plot, Gregory paints a grisly picture of the two brother’s fighting for their homeland and the chaos and disarray that follow. Elizabeth does believe she is untouchable even as events unfold around her, but she is one of the strongest characters in the novel and the most fleshed out female character. Her will and faith keeps her alive even through a difficult birth while imprisoned in an abbey. She is the  mother of the Princes in the Tower and she never gives up on her husband or her sons imminent returns.

I had not previously been very knowledgable about The War of the Roses but I believe that once again, Gregory has produced a fully researched and engaging novel. Even though Woodville’s voice is the strongest throughout the novel,  the plot does not lag and the character interaction does not disappoint. Read any scene between Elizabeth Woodville and her dreadful, delusional mother-in-law to find charged dialogue and believable tension between characters.

The only part that I was disappointed with was the resolution, or lack there of, about the Princes in the Tower. However, I agree that there is a lack of  evidence of what really happened to even speculate a resolution. It is one of those haunting mysteries that may never be solved. I think Gregory captures the sentiment and wistfulness of a strong, yet heartbroken mother and dethroned Queen quite poignantly at the end.

I read this out-of-order before finishing the Tudor series, and now I cannot wait for The Red Queen, the next in The Cousin’s War trilogy, which will be available in August. Kudos to my favorite authoress of historical fiction for another amazingly engaging story.


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