Gregory's tale of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, is fascinating it its treatment of a proud, fanatical mother: From the age of ten, Beaufort believes herself another incarnation of Joan D' Arc, destined to fulfill God's will and see her son on the throne of England. In sharp contrast, Beaufort is bedeviled by the rising fortunes of Elizabeth Woodville, the commoner wife of Edward IV. Woodville's marriage allows her the luxury of what Beaufort so deeply covets. With untiring tenacity, Beaufort spends hours on her knees in chapel, waiting and praying for the knowledge of God's will as politics evolve around her. Not once does she waver, even when God fails to speak, waiting patiently and fervently for her destiny. The ongoing Cousin's War between the houses of York and Lancaster pits family against family, new plots ever in the making. Yet Edward is a beloved king, the people grown tired of the ambitions of the two warring families.
As the years pass, Beaufort endures through three bloodless marriages, the last, to Thomas, Lord Stanley, purely a political union that will ultimately serve in furtherance of Margaret's goals for Henry as king of England. In the last great battle pitting York against Lancastrian, Henry is successful in bringing down the House of York with the death of Richard III, joining the white and the red rose in marriage to Woodville's daughter, Elizabeth. Margaret Beaufort is finally able to claim the title of queen mother. Unlike the worldly and selfish Woodville, Beaufort never ceases to count the faults of others, blinded to her own weaknesses, so confident is she of God's purpose. This sense of mission and determined arrogance make Beaufort, in the end, a most formidable woman.
While as a reader I much prefer the more passionate characters Gregory has written of so brilliantly, she has a perfect sense of the mettle of Margaret Beaufort and the religious fervor that drains her protagonist of compassion or kindness, as fanatical as any religious figure in English history. Margaret endures separation from her son and the lack of a loving union in her singular goal, more frightening in her tenacity and vision than her enemies, and heartless. As cold as stone, Beaufort takes her place in history. Gregory clearly enjoys wearing the skin of this unusual woman, albeit one bereft of warmth or humility. Luan Gaines/2010.
on August 5, 2010
I am a firm supporter of Richard III and I'm not the biggest fan of Philippa Gregory. When I saw that her second novel in The Cousins' War series would be about Henry Tudor's mother, Margaret Beaufort, I was quite anxious and worried about how Ms. Gregory would portray the entire drama and Richard. I can say, thankfully, that I have no complaints with how she showed him in this novel and, overall, it was a decent read (better, in my opinion, than the previous novel 'The White Queen'). Having never read much about Margaret I was fairly interested to read about her early life (as I am well versed with her later years).
Margaret Beaufort was from the line descending from John of Gaunt (Edward III's son) and his mistress Katheryn Swynford (the line was eventually legitimized). She is married at 13 to Edmund Tudor but he is killed soon after, though not before managing to get Margaret pregnant. In the years after the birth of her son, whom she names Henry (high expectations already), she is married two more times, sees the reigning House of York begin to crumble, and works behind the scenes to bring her son to the throne. Everyone knows what happens at the Battle of Bosworth and that is where this novel ends. That is Margaret's history and here Gregory has stuck to known historical fact fairly decently, though I will admit, having never read too much solely on Margaret there are probably some details I would miss. However, there is nothing glaringly obvious that jumps out at me so I can say that the historical accuracy in this novel doesn't bother me like it has in so many of her other novels.
The story is told from Margaret's point of view and I feel that severely limits the story. She (Margaret) is always in England and usually at a manor in the country so not around all the momentous events that occur throughout the time frame of the story. Gregory resorts to conveying important information in letters from Margaret to various people - Henry, Jasper Tudor, etc. - in order to get her readers up to speed on what is happening beyond Margaret's sphere. This really bugged me for the sole reason that someone as intelligent as Margaret would never have committed such treasonous ideas to paper and, to top it off, signed her name to it. I understand Gregory's need to fill the readers in and writing the story from a third person point of view would have solved this problem easily. Towards the end of the novel there are several chapters where she does switch to this POV out of necessity (battlefield scenes) and the story flows much better and is quite well written. Gregory has her take on what happened to the Princes in the Tower and I have no qualms with the way she portrayed the entire episode. What I do have an issue with is Margaret herself. I knew I was most likely not going to like her when, in the first few paragraphs of the novel, she is thrilled to have "saint's knees" at the age of nine and then soon likens herself as England's Joan of Arc. I have no doubt that Margaret Beaufort was a pious woman (it is well recorded actually) but I can not stand being constantly beat over the head with the information. This is an issue I have had with a few of Gregory's books. On almost every page of the novel Margaret is either mentioning how she sees herself as a Joan of Arc, sent from God to "rescue" England or discussing how because she is so pious and godly that her will must be the will of God, that she was sent from God to put Henry on the throne. This got old very, very quickly and mix that in with her arrogance and ambition and I disliked her from beginning to end. There was one moment when I wanted to clap and cheer that she finally got the right idea (when she was wondering if it wasn't all God's will but her own ambitions that she was acting on) but she soon talked herself out of that. I understand that she was an ambitious woman but it really seemed over the top to me. Beyond Margaret's ambitions and scheming to put Henry on the throne, there really is not much else to the story. Because the entire novel is basically from Margaret's point of view we really do not get a look at many of the other people that play such an important part in the story. There are, of course, scenes between Margaret and various people through out, but we really don't get a good look at these characters or what makes them tick. I think my favorite scene in the entire novel was the one between Margaret and Elizabeth of York. I loved the spunk Gregory gives the young princess and her parting comment to Margaret, after she has tried tirelessly to make the princess feel inferior, is priceless:
"Yes, but either way, shamed or not, I shall be Queen of England, and this is the last time you will sit in my presence."
The exception to the point of view limitation would be the final few chapters where Gregory switches to a third person narrative and we see Henry and Jasper Tudor. I thoroughly enjoyed these few chapters (though I always hate the outcome) and I actually liked her portrayal of Henry Tudor. I got the feeling that he was much less impressed with his Lancaster "inheritance" (England's crown) than his mother and wasn't overly worried if he was King or not. It almost seemed like the classic case of "child doing something only because his parents want him to" - almost like Henry was only invading England and fighting Richard because his mother wanted him to be King, not because he really wanted to be or felt he had a right to it. I was prepared to hate Henry as Richard's killer but Gregory wrote him in such a way that I can almost like him. It certainly throws a new light on him.
Overall I can say I enjoyed the novel more than the previous one about Elizabeth Woodville. There were, of course, things that irritated me but it wasn't a bad read. It doesn't bring any new information to the table but what was included was interesting. I think readers who want a little more background on how the Tudors came to power but aren't ready for some of the more detail heavy novels will really enjoy this; it would certainly be a good starting point if you're wanting to learn about the period. Serious Ricardians may not like it as it is told from the view point of the woman who helped take his throne. The story moves at a decent pace and it certainly covers a very dramatic time period in English history. I like the fact that it is about someone who writers usually doesn't spend too much time discussing. Gregory's next novel in the Cousins' War series will be about Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville's mother. She also plans on a novel about Anne and Isabelle Neville (Anne was Richard III's wife).
on August 13, 2010
This is the second book in the series The Cousin's War. One doesn't need to read The White Queen(first in the series) to understand what happens in this novel. This is good, because I'm guessing you can read the third novel in the series without reading the second one, which I strongly suggest.
Margaret Beaufort is obsessed with Joan of Arc and religion. The reader is introduced to this in the first few pages of the novel. And then they are heavily beaten over the head with this information for the next 100 pages and then only moderately beaten over the head with it for the rest of the book.
I got it. Margaret wants to be another Joan of Arc. I also understand that Margaret is on a mission from God to put her son, Henry, on the throne. Her obsession makes her a very unlikable character and the only time I felt sorry for her is when she had to marry her first husband at a very young age.
The story that unfolds is about an uptight Margaret(who became really annoying towards the end) who is constantly praying, scheming and telling everyone she comes across she is on a mission from God. She's chaste, she's dull, and she's mean as a wet hornet.
Margaret's husbands were more entertaining than she was. I think my favorite was Lord Stanley, Margaret's last husband. He marries her only for political reasons, agrees never to have sex with her and loves to be on the winning side. He also has a knack for making her angry. For example(and I'm paraphrasing) he mocks her mission from God saying of course God would want her to become wealthy and powerful, not poor and help those who are less fortunate.
The story limps along at an unusually slow pace. The beginning had promise and then we get to the second half of the book which is dull, talks about battles, fighting, and I just don't care. There was nothing to grab my attention in this novel. But I think its the character. I didn't feel anything towards her, except dislike.
In this book Philippa Gregory manages to do what some YA historical fiction authors do, and that is leave out the details of the time period. Nothing puts my knickers in a knot faster than no historical details. There was no explanations of food, clothing..nothing. I hate that.
This is a book to be missed for all of the reasons stated above. If you are a Ms. Gregory fan and need to read the book I would loan it from the library.
on January 4, 2011
"The Red Queen" falls far short of Philippa Gregory's usual. Normally, although historically debatable, her books provide a new interpretation on an old story. A different viewpoint, a way things might have possibly gone - although there is little historical proof, there is often little proof that it DIDN'T go the way she writes it either.
I'm appalled at the lack of time spent on Margaret Beaufort's story. While the idea that Margaret is inspired by the story of Joan of Arc is an interesting idea, this character's incredible stupidity makes entirely implausible for her to run a successful rebellion. She dreams of being Joan... and that's it. Her character shuttles back and forth between hating her family for using her as breeding stock and nagging her husband to fight for her family's rights. She wants to be an abbess... she lusts after her brother-in-law and then later after King Edward. She's enraged that the Lancasters line has been overtaken by the Yorks and that her husband didn't fight for the "true and rightful king", and then twenty pages later is wishing that she could have married Edward the King in order to "end the wars". Her character makes no sense and apparently has no grounding or political acumen. Her husband tries to teach her, but she never listens to a word he says.
I'm on page 212 and I'm so disgusted I'm not sure I'm going to be able to finish the book. Two thirds of it have been spent making her out to be a... well a nothing. She's passive and then suddenly aggressive. She hates her family... she's desperately loyal to her family. She wants to be an abbess... she's happy as a wife. She finally sees the results of battle, compares it to her imagination, realizes that her imagination was wrong... but then still judges her husband to be a coward for not wanting war. She's all about war and fighting for her family... but then suddenly starts wishing that she could marry Edward York and "make peace".
This character does not have the political acumen or intelligence of the real Margaret Beaufort, and I'm starting to think it's not just a travesty of historical-fiction, but also a travesty if this is the way Philippa Gregory's books are going to go from now on.
Even though the reviews of 'The White Queen' were less than stellar, I went ahead and read it anyway, and I really enjoyed it. I was looking forward to this book mainly because I've come across Margaret Beaufort in many other novels, but never had a clear picture of where exactly she came from, and what all it took for her to get her son Henry to the throne. Unfortunately, this book was a disappointment. It's not terrible, but Margaret is an incredibly unlikeable woman, which makes reading an entire novel about her seem kind of like a chore.
I knew going into this that Margaret was an EXTREMELY religious woman. Every time she's been mentioned in other novels, it's always remarked about what a pious and Godly woman she is. Well, you will certainly be reminded of it over and over and over again in this book. As well as her fascination/obsession with Joan of Arc. If you read the first book, think 'Melusina the Water Goddess'. Remember how tired you were of hearing about her? It's the same with Joan.
I never, at any point in this book felt sorry for Margaret (except maybe when she was giving birth). I'm not sure if it's how Ms. Gregory wrote her, or if she was actually like this as a person (I'm thinking it's a little of both), but for being so holier-than-thou, she sure was a nasty woman. NOTHING would please this her. Her first marriage was a very good match. Though she was still a child, she just couldn't understand that this was her lot in life. Being born into the family she was, it was her duty to marry young and have children. After being widowed a year later, her second marriage, while to a man twice her age, was a very lucky match. Henry Stafford was extremely caring and patient towards her. He gave her books to read, taught her Latin. He let her run their church on her terms and he was never 'rough' with her in physical terms, though she constantly whined about about how terrible it was to married to him. She was never happy.
There were times when I actually laughed out loud, like whenever she would talk about how unfair if was that she wasn't the Queen of England. How she deserved above any other woman to be Queen. How God had chosen her for great things. I was SO pleased when someone (her 3rd husband, Thomas Stanley) finally said what I had been thinking all along, that he thinks much of it is just Margaret hearing only what she wants to, and that maybe it's her own voice telling her she's destined for greatness. Really, the whole 'Chosen by God to do great things' theme began to run thin.
Also, because Margaret spent much of her early years in the country, nothing really happens TO her, it all happens AROUND her. Battles that were won or lost, secret plans that were hatched, they all come to us in quick little blurbs since Margaret was never in the thick of things. I think one would really need to know this time period to be able to fully understand everything that's happening. Some major events are passed over in just a paragraph or two. Those unfamiliar with the times will miss quite a bit. And when Margaret finally DOES get to court, the chapter jumps 10 years, and she speaks of it in past tense, like it was nothing!
*Sigh*...I could go on, but I'll stop here. Overall, I was very disappointed with this book. Even though there were parts of 'The White Queen' that were irritating and repetitive, it had some action to it. I felt like people were doing things and stuff was happening. This, this just felt like a whiny old woman constantly complaining about why nothing ever works out for her. Why God, who supposedly chose her for great things, would ignore her for so many years. By the time she finally gets everything she felt she deserved, I just didn't care anymore.
on August 23, 2013
Gregory is very good at being entertaining. Being factual... No.
--Please note, this will include spoilers. Do not keep reading if you don't want to see them.--
This book has a very one-dimensional view of Margaret Beaufort, and one that is not backed up by any source, either contemporary or modern. There is 0 evidence that Margaret Beaufort ran around from the moment Henry Tudor was born and obsessed about getting him on the throne. In fact, contemporary sources say the exact OPPOSITE, that all Margaret wanted was for Henry to return home and have his land and titles back. She continually petitioned Edward IV for Henry's return, and begs him to return and marry one of the little princesses. Henry did not trust it, and stayed in Brittany. In reading this, it seems that Gregory literally HATES Margaret Beaufort, as her plot choices and adaptations warp what we know of Margaret into a monster.
There was no love relationship between Margaret and Jasper Tudor. None.
Margaret did not and could not sign herself as Margaret R, as it is worshiped and wished for over and over again in this book. R, or Regina, was reserved for the actual King and Queen. Margaret did not sign this way until after Elizabeth's death, as she was taking up the job of the deceased queen, not instantly as Henry became king.
I know that Gregory is all about how "none of these women were able to pick their spouses," and that's true... because a marriage based on love or chosen by the two parties joining was a very rare thing, and only a handful of marriages based on love existed at this time. Nobel women knew they would not have the choice of their husband, they knew that they were expected to have babies and run households. These was not some kind of mean surprise once Margaret was married. It wasn't a punishment her hateful mother gave to her. The union with Edmund Tudor was a very, very good match, as he was the highest ranking Earl and half-brother to the king. To think differently is a modern feminist mindset and does not apply to unions created more than 500 years ago.
Margaret Beaufort is a horrible, horrible person in this book. She seems to think that she's perfect and innocent and everyone else is the devil. She does the same thing as the next person, but condemns them for it. As for the Princes in the Tower, she is not even a suspect in their disappearance, so to put it against her is a great injustice.
In interviews with Gregory, I have heard her state all of the above complaints as supported facts. There is no explanation in the Author's Note to say that these are all inventions of hers, plot choices made to make the story move or to achieve whatever ends she wants. The danger here is that anyone who reads this and doesn't know anything of the actual history will start to think this is just as good, because "these things actually happened!" Even in cases where the physical events did come to pass, the context, people involved, origin and culmination have been molded. This is a work of fiction, not historical fact. Take it with a grain of salt.
As for the writing, we are subjected to repeated phrases and ideas until they literally are being beat over our heads. We don't need full titles every time someone shows up. We don't need to hear, over and over again, that "someday Henry will be king and I will sign myself as Margaret Regina." This shows a great disrespect for readers, as if we are little children who have very short memories.
I would suggest reading something by Alison Weir. Her non-fiction reads better than this story.
on October 16, 2011
I have enjoyed Gregory's earlier books but this is seriously one of the top 10 worst books I have yet to pick up. SO boring and nothing but a confusing back and forth fighting between king's. The WORST is the constant, I mean constant use of the word "pray". This word is used at least 500 times, I stated to cringe every 30 seconds that is was used. The woman prays this prays that prays till her knees are bleeding, prays for hours a day, prays in the morn, prays at mid morn, prays when she has to use the restroom....PLEASE give us a break....Finally after about 1/2 way (and I skimmed through the fist half mostly it is that awful) and reading the word pray one to many times, I just quit. No story line, just monotonous back and forth boring story line and one too many overuse of the word pray.
on August 27, 2010
I usually love Phillipa Gregory, but this time, she missed mark. I found the book uneventful and drawn out. I felt nothing for "the red queen" except distaste. There was no excitement in the book. I felt no sympathy or happiness for the main character. Usually Ms. Gregory keeps me reading and reading, but this time I couldn't wait to be done and move on.
on September 30, 2010
The main character of this novel is a vain, self-centered, nasty, hypocritical woman who tries very hard to poison virtually everyone she comes into contact with against the Yorks. I truly wish I hadn't purchased this book - I now feel obligated to finish it, and it's been a painful read since page 1.
The vanity and self-centeredness displayed at the start of the novel was understandable. After all, Margaret was just a child when she married for the first time. But it continues, no matter how old she is. She just never grows up. She's constantly hoping to call others' attention to how pious she looks, wanting them to admire her self-proclaimed status as one of God's chosen.
Her nastiness really comes to the fore after her husband chooses to follow the Yorkist cause rather than the House of Lancaster. Not only does she discard her husband's affection as though it were garbage, she actually manages to justify praying for others' deaths. After all, she IS God's chosen.
I am truly grateful I'm almost done with this book. I've rarely disliked a protagonist as much as I dislike this one.
on November 9, 2014
Imagine a woman who believes that God and the Holy Mother talk to her only, that she alone knows God's will; that she and her son are the only saving grace for England. This is Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen. Mother of Henry VII, grandmother of Henry VIII.
Having read many Philippa Gregory books before, I know that they are what I call Historical Fiction. Mainly based on truth, but to put a novel together,there has to be a lot of "what if's", or, "let's imagine's" to round out the story and make it gel. And to write a novel about a story that took place over 500 years ago, one must have a great imagination to flesh out the characters, to supply dialogue, to make the story work. And I think it works, and that it is a great story! Using the backdrop that Margaret's cause is the most just and holy, that she must be the Queen Mother, or Margaret Regina, Ms. Gregory has weaved gossipy, by-god, I am the most righteous person around. When Henry's first try for the throne is postponed because of horrendous weather, it's everybody's fault but Margaret's. She starts to blame herself, but quickly dismisses that idea, because God would not have it any other way! What a smug, self-righteous women.
Some readers say you don't need to read The White Queen first. I recommend that you do. By reading The White Queen first, I learned the basis, through Wikipedia, about the War of Roses. It helped knowing the background to seque into this one.