Title: The Red Queen: A Novel (The Cousins’ War)
Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In her second novel in her trilogy about the Wars of the Roses, Philippa Gregory focuses on Margaret Beaufort, heiress to the House of Lancaster. Married to Edmund Tudor when she is just 12, Margaret gives birth to her son Henry at 13. From a very young age, Margaret is convinced that she is destined to become the mother of the king, and devotes her life to ensuring that will happen, at any price.
I really enjoyed the first book in the Cousins’s War trilogy, The White Queen, which focused on Elizabeth Woodville, so I was really looking forward to The Red Queen. I love seeing the same time period from different points of view, and Gregory masterfully accomplished that with this novel. We get to see the same events that Elizabeth narrated, but from Margaret’s rather stingy point of view.
I really did not like Margaret Beaufort. This was no fault of Gregory’s though; in fact, I don’t think readers really were supposed to like her. She’s portrayed as ruthless and ambitious, stopping at nothing to ensure that her son Henry Tudor gains the throne of England. She is also incredibly self-righteous and has a pretty ridiculous sense of entitlement. She believes that she is blessed by God, and that God wants Henry on the throne. She sees Henry, not as a loving mother, but as a pawn to achieve her ambitions. At one point, she actually says:
“My son was born only to fulfill my destiny, and if he cannot do that, I don’t know what use we are to each other.”
What a kind and generous mother Margaret must have been, driving her son to the throne to satisfy her own ambitions from day one.
Considering my strong feelings about Margaret, it’s a testament to the talent of Philippa Gregory that I enjoyed this book so much. Usually, if I don’t like or at least sympathize with a main character, I don’t really care for the book. But in this case, I found Margaret simply fascinating. Her ruthlessness and utter disregard for anyone else captivated me. I could not put this book down and thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with it. While I didn’t like her as a person, I appreciated how smart she was and how she was able to manipulate those around her to satisfy her aims.
As with all Philippa Gregory novels, The Red Queen is impeccably researched and is incredibly informative. Gregory relates historical details in an easily digestible way, and they really add to the story. If you’re planning on reading this novel without having read The White Queen, you shouldn’t have a problem. As companion novels, they cover the same time period, so reading them in a different order won’t really ruin anything, especially if you are already familiar with the history.
The Red Queen was an absorbing novel, and I’m really sorry that it’s over. Gregory’s third novel in this trilogy is not going to be about Elizabeth of York, as everyone (including Gregory herself, initially) assumed, but will be about Elizabeth Woodville’s mother, Jacquetta. I’m not sure how that will play out, but I have faith in Gregory’s vision and can’t wait to read it.