All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The White Queen – Philippa Gregory

on June 18, 2010

I chose The White Queen from my list of TBR books because it fits in with my 2010 What’s In A Name3? Challenge as I haven’t read any books that apply to that yet. I picked it up from Borders off the 3 for 2 table. I’ve read The Other Boleyn Girl and enjoyed that and I figured that The White Queen would be along similar lines. And it kind of is, except instead of lots of weddings and beheadings, there are lots of battles and wars. Ok, and some beheadings.

I don’t know much about English history around the time of ever-changing Royal families, which kind of comes in handy when reading these books as I have no idea what’s real and what the author has taken gross liberties with so I can just enjoy them. This book takes place during the War of the Roses from 1464-1485. In 1464, Lady Elizabeth Grey is a widow who has lost her husband to war. Her mother-in-law has taken her titles and she is forced to approach the king – King Edward of York (white roses) who has just displaced King Henry of Lancaster (red roses) for her titles and lands to be restored to her. Elizabeth and her family fought on the side of the Lancasters and Elizabeth’s mother was a lady in waiting to Henry’s Queen, Margaret. Elizabeth waits by the road to see Edward and pleads her case for her and her sons, aged 8 and 9. Elizabeth is supposed to be famously beautiful and the King wants her at first sight. She refuses a cheap roadside dalliance and they are married in secret before Edward leaves to once again fight another rebellion and quell Henry’s supporters. When he returns, instead of taking the European Princess as his wife as is expected, he announces his marriage to Elizabeth and crowns her Queen of England – The White Queen.

King Edward of York faces rebellious risings from all places – including one lead by his former most trusted adviser, dubbed the ‘Kingmaker’. When it appears that Edward is no longer as pliable and agreeable as he was, and that he is determined to keep Lady Elizabeth as his wife, the Kingmaker stages a campaign using Edward’s younger brother George. Trying to discredit Edward as not a York, a bastard by his mother’s lover, it is claimed that George is the true heir to the throne. There are numerous battles, lots of war type strategies and plenty of Elizabeth popping out royal heirs. Even the arrival of 2 healthy royal sons (they have 3 sons, but one, George, dies as an infant) does not secure their position and they face murder, plotting and usurping from every which direction.

One thing that did detract from the book was the constant repetition of names. This could be entirely true to the Era, but it became incredibly distracting. For example:

King Edward of York has 2 brothers named George and Richard. Lady Elizabeth has 2 sons from her first marriage named Richard and Thomas Grey. She has brothers named both Edward and Richard. Her and King Edward have 3 sons, named – you guessed it – Edward, Richard and George, which means that Elizabeth now has two sons named Richard. The son of the displaced King Henry of Lancaster is also named Edward. Elizabeth’s elder daughter is also called Elizabeth. They also have another daughter named Cecily (also the name of King Edward’s mother) and King Edward’s brother Richard in turn has a son called Edward.

This leads to lots of narrating by Elizabeth like: “… and then my son, Richard Grey…” or “and what news of my brother Edward….” which is totally unnecessary in an internal monologue but entirely necessary in allowing everyone to know just who the heck she is speaking about. I didn’t entirely find Elizabeth a likable character, but I did find her very interesting. I think she was extremely underestimated at Court at the very beginning for being just a Commoner but she was portrayed as being a very successful and smart Queen. She relied heavily on the counsel of her mother (they’re actually kind of witches) and played most of her choices smartly. She took Sanctuary when she needed it and she turned a (mostly) blind eye to King Edward’s whoring as she knew he’d never cast her aside and that he did love her, no matter how often he slept with other women. She is a fiercely protective mother who is fit to fight to the end for the birthright of her children, even after all seems lost.

There’s a lot more going on in the book than I’ve stated but I didn’t really want to give anything away. I actually enjoyed it quite a lot and was disappointed when it ended quite suddenly. Of course there are more – The Red Queen follows this one, to be published in August 2010 and then Elizabeth’s eldest daughter (also named Elizabeth) gets a story in The White Princess.


(Book #34 of my 50 Book Challenge)

Satisfies Criteria for my What’s In A Name3? Challenge #3 – Read a book with a Title in the title

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