“Edward lives as if there is no tomorrow, Richard as if he wants no tomorrow, and George as though someone should give it to him for free.”
Continuing my reading of Philippa Gregory’s Cousins War series, a set of perspectives of women involved in the War of the Roses, we now follow Elizabeth Woodville, daughter of Jacquetta and nemesis of Margaret, as she weds Edward IV secretly and rises from her humble landed gentry beginnings to be Queen of England. Secure in her marriage she may be, but her husband is not safe on his throne; first from the remnants of Lancastrian forces, and then from the various Yorkist factions. Elizabeth is in and out of sanctuary, and on and off the throne, all her life.
I was hoping this would be the best of the Cousins War series, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Red Queen is all anger and vengeance and scheming, and while I very much admired Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta, she was too ambitious for me. Elizabeth is an Everywoman, just wanting her husband to come home safe every day. She resents the other women who catch his eye, she bears grudges against the men who brought down her family, she loves her family dearly. I was a little confused by her calm reaction to the news of the missing Princes in the Tower – it didn’t make sense after she had been so passionate about her family earlier in the book. However, judging by the material in The Women of the Cousins’ War, the non-fiction companion to these novels, she did reconcile quickly with Richard III, so maybe she knew more than we do now.
My main struggle with The White Queen, as with the other books in the series, was the seemingly interminable series of battles, although Elizabeth’s less political view is less difficult to take than the others’ – she is worried by the aftermath of each battle. Similarly, having read The Red Queen and found that Margaret Beaufort spent so long at court undermining Elizabeth, it seemed odd that she played such a small part in The White Queen.
I have very much enjoyed this series, particularly as I knew nothing about the War of the Roses beforehand (I had no idea it went on so long!), so the trilogy has been a great introduction, and the writing has been far better quality than I had come to expect of Gregory after The Other Boleyn Girl.