Book Review: Elizabeth of York – Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York coverTitle: Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World
Author: Alison Weir
ISBN: 9780345521361
Pages: 608
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


In this definitive biography, historian Alison Weir takes a close look at Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I, examining old sources and new evidence to put a face to this mysterious woman.

Snapshot Review:

Fans of British history and historical biographies will no doubt devour Weir’s latest; this biography of Elizabeth of York is well-researched and well-written. It examines Elizabeth herself, as well as placing her into the larger context of England’s tumultuous times.

Full Review:

Elizabeth of York was the daughter of a king (Edward IV), niece to a king (Richard III), rumored lover of a king (again, Richard III), wife of a king (Henry VII), and mother of a king (Henry VIII). The royal family in Britain today can trace their ancestry back to her. But, underneath the illustrious lineage, who was Elizabeth of York? Weir takes on that difficult question in her latest biography Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World.

Why difficult? Well, because Elizabeth of York’s public persona was quite possibly very different from the person she was privately, and who she was inside. Her marriage to Henry VII ended a bloody war; his reign was constantly being challenged by pretenders to the throne, people who believed that Henry’s right to the throne derived from Elizabeth, rather than from his own convoluted claim. It was in Elizabeth’s best interest to stay quiet and be a devoted wife, and she excelled at that. But what did she think personally? It’s hard to say. This biography is as definitive as you can get when it comes to a woman who held her thoughts very closely. Though Weir can’t tell us everything, she deduces as much as she can based on available evidence.

The reader gets a complete picture of Elizabeth’s life in Elizabeth of York. Weir makes sure to place Elizabeth’s life into proper historical context; these were difficult, unstable times, even after her marriage. It’s fascinating to read about the history and her place in it. The narrative that Weir creates is easy to read and readers get a full sense of what was happening and why. Weir spares no detail, including as much information as possible in this biography, though happily, it never becomes bogged down or moves slowly.

History fans shouldn’t hesitate to read this fascinating biography. Elizabeth of York is a figure who’s been largely lost to history, though she was pivotal in England’s history; Philippa Gregory brought her to life in her historical novel The White Princess, but as always, she takes liberties with her characters and story. It’s nice to have this well-researched account to balance the fiction, and it provides an eye-opening glimpse into the life of the first Tudor queen.

Other books by Alison Weir:

A Dangerous Inheritance
Captive Queen
The Lady in the Tower
Mary Boleyn: Mistress of Kings
Mistress of the Monarchy
The Wars of the Roses

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  1. Thank you for this review. I have been curious about Weir’s books for awhile now, and I am going to put this and her Lady in the Tower novel on my TBR list. I love Philippa Gregory, but you’re right, she does take a lot of liberties. While I know Gregory also does her research, the history is but a mere backdrop to the overall story.

    Weir sounds like a refreshing and more history-based account of this wonderful and strong royal woman. I don’t understand why she is not talked about more in studies, novels, etc. She gave birth to the most famous English king of them all and was an important part of history. She was the keystone of a dynasty.

    I look forward to picking this up. Thanks!

  2. I love her nonfiction. I have this on my list

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