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Monday, 19 May 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #29 - The White Princess, Philippa Gregory

Last in the series of the "Cousins' War", 'The White Princess' brings together the fascinating conclusion of the series detailing the Wars of the Roses and the reign of the Plantagenets, with the victory of Henry VII over Richard III at Bosworth.

The story begins with Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, lamenting the loss of her lover, Richard III. She knows that she has to marry Henry, as part of a deal struck between her mother and Henry's mother, though the task is abhorrent to her. It seems equally so to Henry, who rapes her before they get married in order to see whether she is fertile or not. He would not waste his hard-fought victory, after being in exile for most of his life, on a barren wife. To the great relief of everyone involved, Elizabeth gets pregnant and gives birth to Arthur, who would later become betrothed to Catherine of Aragon. More babies follow, and the gentle softening of Henry and Elizabeth to each other, until they reach the point where they feel at peace and content with one another, and there is even love on Elizabeth's side, which she would have sworn at the beginning of their marriage would never be so.

Though Gregory uses many sources for her writing, she notes that still much of it is speculation, simply because there are certain things we can never know the truth about. She takes one plausible view and builds on that, and the story is no less intriguing or fascinating for it. And though it's fiction, the knowledge of history imparted is really interesting. For example, I had never known that Henry VII's reign was so fraught with paranoia, that plots seem to abound in every corner to put the Plantagenets back on the throne, including rebels presenting boys who claimed to be Richard, the younger of the Princes in the Tower who went missing. To this day no one knows for sure what happened to them.

Romance, political intrigue, interesting characters, and an easy flow - this novel has them all. A brilliant read, and a fantastic end to a brilliant series.

Until next time!

 

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