Ten year old Margaret Beaufort wants to devote her life to prayer, perhaps becoming an abbess in the process, since she can’t ride to the glory of her country like Joan of Arc. As she grows and gives birth to a son at the age of 13, though, Margaret realizes that she is called to a different purpose, to put her son on the throne of England. Through three marriages and countless smiles of false loyalty, Margaret never loses sight of her goal, even when it drives away all the people who might once have loved her.
Once again, Philippa Gregory has written a book which has me a little bit torn. It didn’t start off well. I didn’t believe Margaret Beaufort would idolize Joan of Arc. As far as I’m aware, English people at the time merely thought of Joan as an heretic, when they thought of her at all. I severely doubt a ten year old girl would have ever even heard of her, let alone decided she wanted to be her. And it got worse when she believed her pregnancy was of paramount importance to England. The wars were starting, yes, but the king had a son, and even if he didn’t the Yorkists had a better claim since they weren’t descended from a line specifically NOT allowed to take the throne. Henry did become the Lancastrian claimant, but only because literally every other choice was dead.
Perhaps those are not on the strict factual side like dates, but they stuck out and annoyed me, so I figured I’d include them; they both do enhance the story, so I can’t really blame her. After that, the plot improved significantly and I didn’t land on anything else that had me really irritated. I seriously cannot read a book about the Wars of the Roses without picking something out that I don’t like or think is inaccurate – so others are free to ignore my complaints and/or dispute me as they like.
Secondly, Margaret annoyed me beyond belief. Her stance of declaring her whole life preordained by God, her coldness and selfishness – not at all in line with a woman who truly deserved to be called by God – had me pretty much crossing my fingers that Gregory would change history just so Henry could not become king of England. I wanted to smack her so she would show some sort of emotion besides cold-hearted ambition. The author did not succeed in making her a sympathetic character in any way.
Negativity aside, though, this was actually quite an enjoyable book to read. It read quickly and was surprisingly exciting, especially since Margaret saw hardly any action herself. She’s also a bit of a rare subject for a novel, so I actually enjoyed seeing things from her point of view even if I did want to punch her most of the time. In fact, she fit my previous perceptions of her pretty closely. Much as I wanted her to become sympathetic, it’s hard to imagine that woman who had some sort of kindness in her could turn into the Margaret Beaufort who later moved into the palace with Henry VII. The fact that I could actually enjoy reading a book about such an irritating woman is perhaps a testament to the fact that Gregory can tell a story well.
If you enjoy historical fiction, I do believe you will enjoy The Red Queen. Gregory does a good job bringing history alive and even the changes she makes that have me annoyed do fit the context of the story. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this one quite as much as The White Queen, but I would recommend both.
In conjunction with the Simon & Schuster UK blog tour, I have five copies of this book to give away to UK and Ireland residents! If you’d like to enter, please fill out the form below. The giveaway is open until midnight UK time Monday August 16th.
I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from the publisher.