Thursday, July 7, 2011

The White Queen

I really like Philippa Gregory's style. She makes these historical women in to powerful, present and unforgettable characters.
   I recently finished reading 'The White Queen', which is the first in the series that Philippa is currently writing on the Plantagenant line of the English royal family. The next book is 'The Red Queen', which I have bought and the book is sitting in my shelf to read soon.
   Since I didn't learn much history in school (history is virtually non-existent in Australian schools these days), I absorb as many historical novels as I can. Even if they are just broadly based around an historical theme, I feel like I'm learning something, and I'm gradually piecing history together through the various novels that I have read based on various times and countries.

   This was a true love story. Elizabeth Woodville was an older widow with no fortune or connections to benefit the new, young king Edward. The marriage must have been for love: what else? Edward defied his advisors, and ultimately plunged the country into years of war, because he wanted to marry Elizabeth. Edward didn't have to honour their secret marriage, because there were no proper witnesses for a royal wedding. But he did. In this story, Edward is portrayed as a very honourable man (except for the fact that he had high sexual needs and slept with lots of other women).
   I don't think Elizabeth was very adept at the political game. She was a generous women to those she liked. She didn't try to foster relationships and alliances that may have assisted her. She didn't seem to do anything for the people of England, except parade around and show off their wealth. The political game seemed to drive her crazy. She wasn't making logical decisions, and she was paranoid. She is obsessed with controlling as far into the future, and as far down his line of heirs, as possible. Too bad if the plans she has for her children now, is not what they want for themselves when they are old enough to choose.
   Some of her decisions, while they may not be considered moral today, were probably moral in her time and in her position (like sending an innocent page boy to his death in the position of her youngest son - the life of that page boy would have been worth nothing compared with a potential heir to the thrown).
   Elizabeth also believed strongly in her ancestor being a water goddess, and that she had magical powers by calling on her ancestor. She was playing with fire, and somehow avoided not being openly accused as a witch. Her mother was killed as a witch, though.
   The book ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger. The missing heir returns. Elizabeth's oldest daughter is about to be the new queen - to either the current king (or hedging their bets) even to the potential new king, Henry Tudor. War is coming: I know enough history to know that Henry Tudor does come and win ... but when?
   I can't wait to read and review The Red Queen.

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