Title: The White Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Cousins’ War is over. Richard III has been defeated by Henry Tudor, now Henry VII, at the Battle of Bosworth. To cement his victory and further legitimate his claim to the throne, Henry decides to take Elizabeth of York as his wife. Elizabeth, still in love with Richard, knows she has no choice but to reluctantly agree to the marriage. But is Henry’s throne actually secure, or will whispers of a York rebellion come to fruition and restore the family as rulers of England?
The White Princess is another in Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction series about the War of the Roses, or as she likes to call it, the Cousins’ War between the houses of Lancaster and York. The war ended with the crowning of Henry VII, father of the notorious tyrant Henry VIII, and his marriage to Elizabeth of York. But, as Gregory shows us, Henry VII’s reign wasn’t exactly stable. He didn’t have the charm of the York kings and had trouble winning the hearts and minds of the people. Additionally, one threat after another rose to haunt his kingship; Gregory does a great job showing how unsure things were and how uncertain the time period was.
Elizabeth of York is the main character of The White Princess, and she’s definitely sympathetic. She isn’t well treated by her husband or his mother, but must silently endure in order to protect her family. Despite being the wife of the king (and later crown queen), she has no real power. At times, Elizabeth can be frustrating because she’s so innocent. After reading about Jacquetta and Elizabeth Woodville in The Lady of the Rivers and The White Queen, respectively, Elizabeth’s inability to manipulate situations or try to make things better for herself through subtle means makes her seem completely helpless. This is a series about strong women, and while Elizabeth had to face a lot of hardship, she doesn’t seem very smart about it much of the time. Still, Gregory does an excellent job showing just how little Elizabeth of York was in control of her own fate.
As any historical fiction author, Gregory has her own theories on how history played out (especially with the mystery about the princes in the Tower), and she presents it well for the reader. As a result, this is a great choice for readers looking for an entertaining historical story. If you’re looking for the truth, though, I’d choose a non-fiction account of the time period. The White Princess is paced well for the first half, and is an entertaining read as a result. However, the second half drags a bit; Gregory does an excellent job showing people what living through Henry’s uncertain reign was like, but it seems as though the same thing happens over and over again.
It will be very interesting to see where Philippa Gregory goes from here, as the story of Elizabeth of York in The White Princess seems to be a natural stopping point for this series. It’s difficult to deny that Gregory is a talented, dynamic author, and though sometimes I have issues with her characters and plot choices, her novels are always reliably entertaining reads. If you’re a fan of historical novels, then Gregory should be on your must-read list.
Other books by Philippa Gregory: