Tag Archives: Philippa Gregory

Book Review: The White Princess by Philippa Gregory


The White Princess is the fifth book in Philippa Gregory’s Cousins Wars series of novels. I started reading this book with considerable anticipation – I will freely admit that I adored the White Queen and I was really looking forward to reading more about Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter, also called Elizabeth, the Princess of York.

The story starts in the aftermath of the death of Richard III, who it turns out was Elizabeth’s lover (despite his denials to his wife Anne in the Kingmaker’s Daughter). The story follows Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry Tudor and the challenges they faced as the royal family in the first decade or so of his reign. One of the major themes of the book is the threat (sometimes perceived, sometimes actual) of ‘pretenders’ to (or challengers for, depending on your view) the throne, culminating in the affair with ‘the boy’ who claims to be Elizabeth’s lost brother, Richard IV. The story also focusses a great deal of Henry and Elizabeth’s personal relationship, and the births and lives of their children.

In short, the novel did not disappoint. I warmed immediately to Elizabeth; I had already met her as a young girl in the White Queen and in this book we see her mature into a kind, careful and regal woman, who is brave and dutiful in the face of adversity. I cheered for her all the way through the book, and felt keenly her disappointments and setbacks. Next to her, her husband Henry is almost grotesque: to me he seemed deluded by his sense of entitlement, ruthless, cold and calculating, and I disliked him a lot. Nonetheless I found their relationship gripping; how Elizabeth manages (for a time at least) to grow to love this man, despite all his obvious failings, is testament to her character. I equally disliked his mother, the compulsively pious, similarly deluded Margaret Beaufort, who I’d met in the Red Queen. When reading that book I had felt some sympathy for her, but in this book My Lady the King’s Mother’s swing between self-congratulation and vengeful bitterness frankly left a bad taste in my mouth. The one other character I grew to particularly like, along with Elizabeth and her mother, was Elizabeth’s cousin Maggie, who I believe I will learn much more about in the next book, The King’s Curse.

This was perhaps the first of these books where I could see an obvious heroine, and an obvious villain. The tantalising part was that ultimately they had to share a marriage, a bed, a throne, and a common interest in the future of their heirs. This comes to mean tough choices for Elizabeth, a woman who has spent her life wading her way through competing loyalties, especially when ‘the boy’ comes along. It also leaves her with a tragic ending, and a lot to forgive. A fantastic book – can’t wait to read The King’s Curse next.


Book Review: The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory


The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the story of Anne Neville, youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick or the ‘Kingmaker’, and later wife and Queen of Richard III. The novel follows Anne from her early childhood with her sister Isabel, through the twists and turns of history (and her father’s ever-changing allegiances) to her eventual bid for freedom and ultimately, the English crown. This book is the fourth instalment in Philippa Gregory’s “The Cousins’ War” series.

I really enjoyed this book. Married first to the heir of the House of Lancaster then later to a brother of the House of York, Anne’s life was short but almost relentlessly exciting. Philippa Gregory strives hard in this series of novels to place female characters at the centre of events, to create players rather than pawns. With Anne Neville her task is a hard one, and at times it is difficult to get away from the fact that Anne is very much a chess-piece, first for her father, then for King Edward and finally her husband Richard. There’s no doubt that Anne regains some of her autonomy in her choice to run away and marry Richard, but it is also evident that Richard has his own motives for the match, thus dulling any sense of true victory for Anne.

I found Gregory’s Anne very likeable: she is a privileged woman with an inherent sense of arrogance and entitlement, but she is not without humour and good nature. I also enjoyed Gregory’s portrayal of Anne’s marriage to Richard; for all their political manoeuvring, they both clearly loved one another. I also liked seeing Richard through Anne’s eyes – Philippa Gregory does a fantastic job of painting a picture of a shrewd politician, a fair and honourable man, and a loving husband, whilst also hinting through Anne’s own words that there is another side to him, one which Anne is either unable or unwilling to see. I think that ultimately this is what I love most about all of this series of books, this one included: it is essentially the same story, but the heroes and villains change depending on the point of view of the storyteller. In this book, the White Queen Elizabeth Woodville is Anne’s grave enemy, painted as a powerful witch, a seductress, and a murderer – a far cry from the motherly beauty of the White Queen indeed!

I look forward to reading the White Princess next, where the story will move on a little to the advent of Tudor England, and I suspect where we will get to see a different version of Anne’s King Richard altogether.