Phillipa Gregory has delivered a tautly paced book of historical fiction with The White Princess, the fifth book in her Cousins’ War series. The book is set in the years after Henry VII defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. After his victory, Princess Elizabeth of York is forced to marry Henry Tudor. Princess Elizabeth York is the eldest daughter of King Edward IV, and the niece of Richard III. By joining the houses of Lancaster and York in this way he hopes to end the period of conflict now known as The War of the Roses.
This book is told from Elizabeth’s perspective as she watches her unconfident husband try to win the hearts of the English people. He doesn’t have the easy charm of the Yorks. He’s constantly looking over his shoulder for new threats to his crown. His mother, Margaret Beaufort who insists on being called, “My Lady the King’s Mother” resents Elizabeth and is wary of her and every remaining York family member.
After all, Elizabeth’s two brothers Edward, (Prince of Wales) and Richard (Duke of York) were the two little princes who were sent to the Tower of London by their Uncle Richard, and were never seen again. What happened to the boys? Did either one of them survive? Does Elizabeth know anything about whether one or both of the boys are still alive? Where will her loyalties lie when York “pretenders” to the throne appear? Will she recognize a long-lost brother who could steal her children’s inheritance? Her son Arthur, Prince of Wales is next in line to the throne and her younger son Henry was named Duke of York when he was just three years old. Will she support the new Tudor dynasty, or her York heritage?
Those are all the fascinating questions posed in The White Princess. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it was surprisingly suspenseful. There were a few times when I got annoyed with the repetition of key sentences several times on a page as if I couldn’t grasp the concept the first time it was presented. Henry VII isn’t painted in a very flattering light, but I think that the portrayal was accurate. Elizabeth seemed long-suffering to put up with all his and his mother’s paranoia. But really, what other option did she have? She was a royal princess in a political marriage in a time when women didn’t have control over their own destiny.
I appreciated the accurate depiction of the historical era, and the interesting theory about what might have happened to the York princes. Gregory skillfully illustrated how the threat posed by this mystery would have formed the outlook and actions of the first generation of the Tudor dynasty.
Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.