Fiction is fun, but don't mess with the history

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Cousins' War: "The White Princess" (book 5), by Philippa Gregory

This is a continuation of earlier reviews of books 1-4 in Philippa Gregory's six-novel series known as The Cousins' War. As noted in the review of book 4 of this series, The Kingmaker's Daughter, novelist Philippa Gregory used the contrasting personalities and viewpoints of prominent female members of the competing Plantagenet family lines to illustrate the rivalries that produced the "War of the Roses". And, as promised, book 5 converges those lines in the story of Elizabeth Tudor - The White Princess.

Elizabeth's conflicting loyalties and emotions mirror those of the rival families as she goes from princess to outcast to political pawn and finally to Queen of England, but with a crown never allowed to sit comfortably. Because of the tortuous path to the crown, Henry Tudor - King Henry VII of England - never felt secure wearing that crown. But he survived all challenges, as did his queen. The resulting Tudor dynasty utterly failed to smooth the troubled royal waters, but produced much more great material for historical novelists. Henry VIII gets all the attention, but The Cousins' War is a worthy prolog.

Out of all the dynastic furor, Philippa Gregory reserves greatest sympathy for the three generations of Woodville women - Jacquetta, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth again. In these novels, they lack the arrogance and ambition of the noble families, perhaps owing to their more humble English lineage coupled with descent from a French goddess. It makes for a good theme to tie the series together.

The mother of all "War of the Roses" novelists, Sharon Kay Penman, presented yet another very different picture of the Woodvilles, Yorks, Lancasters and Tudors. Next - a look at The Sunne in Splendour 

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