“With this contradictory parentage of mine: solid English earth and French water goddess, one could expect anything from me. An enchantress or an ordinary girl. There are some who will say I am both.”
Backstory: The White Queen follows the life of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England, wife of Edward IV, from the moment she catches his attention to ~about~ the Battle of Bosworth. It is a fictionalised retelling of her story From 1464 to 1485, during the height of the War of the Roses, and the end of the House of Plantagenet.
Thoughts and feelings: At first, I thought this book was about Elizabeth of York, the woman who unified the warring Houses of Lancaster and York when she married Henry VII, but when I read the blurb again I realised it was about Elizabeth Woodville, her mother. From history at school, I have always been fascinated by the Tudors. It is a quintessential British thing to be taught about the Tudor Dynasty, and how prolific Henry VIII was with his six wives but we never really learnt anything about the War of the Roses, other that it ended with Henry VII. This book sort of goes into it, but not a lot of it as this era is towards the end of the Houses of Lancaster and York, and more about Elizabeth Woodville. As much as I would love to write an essay on the history of the Plantagenets [Lancaster and York] and the Tudors, this isn’t the blog post for it.
Oh, also as a side note, this book kind of goes into one of my favourite mysteries of English history: the Princes in the Tower. Elizabeth Woodville was the mother of said princes, and this book also “touches” upon that and the theories of what may have happened to the princes.
This was my second “historical” novel, except this was more following a real-life person rather than a character set in a historical age, and I definitely prefer this sort of story. Like I said, I am interested in medieval England, and to be fair, it these historical events of war and strategy on the battlefield and in court that form the basis of many stories today. It is hard to read this, and not relate it to A Game of Thrones: brothers vying for a throne, young princes ascending with the aid of a Regent, other heirs on other branches of the family staking a claim on the throne. Sound familiar?
I really enjoyed this book. It has taken me a week to read, purely because I have had a busy week, not because I hated it. Every time I get a minute, I’ve looked forward to reading it, but there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the world. I liked how it flowed as a narrative, and whilst it could be jumpy and it frustrated me, there is a plausible explanation for this. Gregory states at the end of her book that records during this era are scarce, and therefore, when difficult when trying to maintain historical accuracy – which I cannot fault her for. She also includes a bibliography showing where she has drawn her knowledge and inspiration from, which shows how much research Gregory goes into when she writes her books. I particularly liked the bits about Melusina and witchcraft as it added a fantasy edge to the story, and kept it contemporary.
****Sidenote: I am aware that this story is also highly fictionalised as well. Events that occur in the 1400s will definitely not be remembered by the people of today, so artistic licence may have been required here and there.
I would love to read these again, I actually have another one of Gregory’s books, Lady of the Rivers about Jacquetta of Luxembourg so I think after this list, I will pick that one up as well as others following the Plantagenets and Tudors. The White Queen, amongst others were also adapted into TV programmes by BBC so I might watch that too in my spare time.
For more information on Elizabeth Woodville, and the history around her, here are some quick-links for you that I quite liked reading:
- A chronological history of the Houses of Lancaster and York.
- Elizabeth Woodville: A History.
- Elizabeth Woodville, a more concise version.
- The Wars of the Roses.
- The Princes in the Tower.
- Melusina in European folklore.
Of course, there are Wikipedia pages and documentaries on Youtube, for further reference. I don’t purport to be a history buff, or an expert in the Plantagenets, this is just a passing fancy [if there was a Crash Course to be had, it would be the Plantagenets/War of the Roses], and to give more context to the book.