Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

In The Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort believed she was destined for greatness. Since she was deeply religious, she imagined that her life would include doing God's work, much like her idol, Joan of Arc. However, when her family marries her off at a very young age, she has to rethink those plans. When her son Henry is born, she decides that her greatness will come from his conquests. She's determined to see him on the throne and will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.

I absolutely loved this book. I can't believe I haven't read any books by Gregory before. If this book is anything like her previous ones, I'm going to love them, too. The history in this story was so interesting that I looked up the Tudors on the internet to find out more about them and their place in history. Fascinating stuff. I've only been reading historical fiction for a couple of years and love being transported to another place and time. Gregory did not disappoint me.

The beginning of the story was a little confusing for me. I wasn't used to all of the names and positions that the characters had. For example, Jasper Tudor, was also the Earl of Pembroke and from the house of Lancaster. It was a bit too much to take in. After awhile, though, I got used to it and found that it really wasn't so hard to remember all of the names, positions and relationships. A family tree would have been nice inclusion, though. [Note: it's possible that it will be included in public editions of the book.]

Margaret was certainly a determined woman. She was obsessed with keeping her son Henry safe and getting him on the throne. She could be ruthless. She really believed that she was doing God's work and used that as an excuse for everything she did, whether it was proper or not. According to her, everyone who didn't see things as she did was evil. I laughed at her behaviour a few times because of how adamant she was in her convictions and how she believed that only she was following the true and rightful path.

One of my favourite characters was Margaret's last husband, Thomas Stanley. He was smug and couldn't be relied upon, but I loved him. He was determined to be on the winning side of any fight. Even though he appeared to be loyal to a few different parties, he was capable of double-crossing anyone to ensure he came out on top. A true turncoat. I think he and Margaret deserved each other.

It was interesting to see how the women were treated at that time. Male heirs were valued and protected, while female children were little more than tolerated. My favourite quote comes from Margaret's mother as she's speaking to Margaret:
Since you were a girl you could only be the bridge to the next generations; you could be nothing more than the means by which our family gets a boy. (page 59)

New word Alert (page numbers refer to the ARC). There were numerous words in the book that were new to me. Here are a sampling:
pillion (page 12) - passenger seat
portcullis (page 40) - heavy castle gate
prie dieu (page 45) - piece of furniture for kneeling at
cudgels (page 53) - club
marchpane (page 81) - marzipan
tocsin (page 155) - alarm bell
liegeman (page 172) - loyal follower
fealty (page 172) - faithfulness
fecundity (page 221) - richness
sequestration (page 301) - confiscation

Highly recommended. I already have The White Queen sitting on my to-be-read shelf. I can't wait to get to it. I look forward to reading many more books by Gregory. I love her work.

For more information about this book or to browse inside selected sections, please visit the Simon & Schuster website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Philippa Gregory's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster Canada for this review copy.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, Touchstone (Simon & Schuster), ©2010. ISBN 9781416563723(Advance Uncorrected Reader's Proof), 387p.


  1. I read The White Queen earlier this year at the recommendation of somebody in my book club. It was also the first Philippa Gregory for me. I also couldn't believe I hadn't read any of her books before. I'm envious of you getting to read the ARC. I hope the hold I've put on at the library doesn't take too long to come through.

    If you haven't read any of C. J. Sansom's Mathew Shardlake books I heartily recommend them. The first one is Dissolution. They are also set in Tudor England but a little later than The White Queen and The Red Queen.

  2. Another of her books I would recommend is The Constant Princess, following Catherine of Aragon from her birth up until she marries Henry 8. Beautifully written, historically intriguing.

    I still have as yet to read The White/Red Queen, but have heard both are excellent.


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