Saturday, September 17, 2011

REVIEW: The Red Queen (Cousins War Bk 2) by Philippa Gregory

Margaret Beaufort knows her destiny from a young age.  Although extremely pious and wanting nothing more than to serve God as a nun, Margaret knows she is heiress of the house of Lancaster and her role in life is to produce an heir to ensure her house maintains its hold on the throne. Margaret marries to fulfill the expectations of her household and at the tender age of 14 gives birth to a Lancastrian heir.  As King HenryVI sinks in and out of madness, Margaret's fortunes change.  Through these turbulent times Margaret never forgets that she is of the royal house of Lancaster and fervently believes that one day God will help her realize her goal of seeing her son on the throne of England.

Before reading this novel, all I knew of Margaret Beaufort was she was mother to King Henry VII and she was very religious and that was about the extent of my knowledge.  Here I gained a little bit more insight into one of the key players in the War of the Roses.  Margaret did not have an easy childhood.  Apparently, her mother only valued her as a political pawn and did not show any kind of affection toward her daughter at all.  Margaret is married off at a very young age to Edmund Tudor (this is after the King conveniently cancels a previous betrothal) and so begins a lifetime of this lady being used for the greater good of her house.  At the beginning of the book I actually felt a little sorry for her being made a mother at such a young age, having her child taken from her, having to learn the ropes quickly and become a political chameleon, and dealing with the constant change in fortunes due to the instability of the kingdom.  Margaret dealt with a lot of upheaval from a really young age.

Gregory likes to incorporate fantastical elements into her stories in order to grab the reader. In the White Queen she used the water goddess Melusine.  In Red Queen Margaret has a spiritual connection with Joan of Arc which is referred to on several occasions.  She thinks God speaks to her in the same manner and like Joan did for France, her mission is to see the true king on the throne of England.  I'm not sure if I liked this angle or not.  I know the goal here was to show the reader Margaret was uber religious but the constant Joan of Arc comparisons made it kind of ridiculous.  We see Margaret grow and marry twice more for political reasons.  I started to like Margaret a lot less as the book progressed. She became fanatical about the cause of putting her son on the throne and completely ruthless. She did not care who she had to betray or who ended up as a casualty to her ambitions (the lost Princes for one) and she was extremely jealous of Elizabeth Woodville.  It was really kind of fascinating to see Margaret adapt to the constant changes occurring and see how to turn them to her advantage and also to see Henry's improbable path to the throne.  What was not so great was even though the events occurring were interesting, Margaret herself wasn't exactly the most exciting person on the planet.  The only signs of life beyond her all consuming ambition were her feelings for Jasper Tudor, her dead husband's brother.  Unfortunately, this never goes anywhere.

I think this was much longer than it needed to be and I still have no clue why Margaret Beaufort is the subject of a book entitled the Red Queen when she (as far as I know) was never more than a countess.  Just because you're mother to the King doesn't make you a Queen even if you sign your name Margaret Regina.  To me the Red Queen would be Margaret of Anjou so as I read the book the title kind of threw me off. This was a decent enough addition to the Cousin's War books but not my favorite one by Philippa Gregory.  I am left with the feeling that there is a lot more to this lady than what was written in this book.

 This book is from my own personal library.


  1. I sort of wondered about the title too, since she wasn't a queen. I haven't read the book yet but it is on my shelf. Thanks for the review

  2. I wasn't a fan of this book either, so glad that someone agrees :P I hadn't noticed about the title but you're totally right. Should've been something like The Red Countess or the scarlet countess. Anyways I've also reviewed this book if you'd check it out I'd appreciate it a lot.