The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory was a book that I did not want to put down and I was sad when I reached the end.
The Red Queen, is the second book in a series Gregory wrote on The Cousin’s War focusing on the period between 1453 to 1485 is from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort born from the House of Lancaster (a red rose).
Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England, Ignored by her sainted cousin Henry VI, mocked by her mother, married at the age of twelve, and endangered by childbirth, she sets her hear on putting her son on the throne regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy.
The beginning of Margaret’s story where she is married at the age of twelve to Edmund Tudor, a man 13 years her senior, is touching. She is moved away from her mother to Pembroke Castle with the royal duty of producing an heir of the Lancaster line. When she nearly passes in childbirth, she is fueled to ensure that her son, Henry, remains in his rightful place as heir to the throne of England.
After the death of Edmund Tudor, she is married once again to a much older man of high standing, who is a reluctant actor in helping Margaret achieve her life’s work of putting her son on the throne. She keeps herself going with the letters she receives from her son exiled in Brittany and her son’s protector, Jasper Tudor (her brother in-law) and her devotion to God.
After the brutalities of war, Margaret is left a widow once again, but this time she is also completely alone, with no other family left around her and so she takes control of her own life’s direction. Marrying Thomas, Lord Stanley, a deceitful strategist during the period of the Counsin’s War, she finally gains the position she needs to plot and fight for her son and the House of Lancaster.
Margaret’s long-term struggle, undying faith, and belief that her son’s destiny is to be king, makes her a person that a modern-day woman feels some pity for. Her first two marriages were loveless and not her choice, she survives childbirth, and she must keep pushing herself to have something to look forward to. Margaret doesn’t have happiness in her life, she doesn’t even get the pleasure to raise or even visit her son very often throughout his childhood. As a piece in a chess game played by the men of Lancaster and York, Margaret maneuvers her way through as best she can and she waits for the game to be won, all the while urging and praying for her red rose to rule.
Gregory knows how to write a novel, there is action and suspense throughout the whole book. She writes war scenes surprisingly well. The scenes are tense, include details of strategy, time and place, as well as vivid images of carnage and victory. These scenes are a welcome contrast to the inner conflict of Margaret Beaufort who at times can become wearying to read because of her despair, desperateness and exhausting devotion to God.
The Red Queen was a book that enveloped the rise of Margaret Beaufort and held my attention from start to finish so much that I was looking forward to immediately reading the next book in the series. However, the next book in the Counsin’s War series by Gregory is actually a story pre-dating the Red Queen (2nd book) and the White Queen (1st book) so that it is basically a prequel. So I hope Gregory writes the sequel to the Red Queen.
Have you read a book by Philippa Gregory? What do you think of her historical fiction? Have you ever read a book series that was written “out of order”?