The inspiration for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen, #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory brings to life Margaret Beaufort, heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, who charts her way through treacherous alliances to take control of the English throne.
Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her Lancaster house is the true ruler of England, and that she has a great destiny before her. Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of all time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and awaits his opportunity to win the greatest prize in all of England.
The Red Queen is a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.
About the Author
Philippa Gregory is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Many of her works have been adapted for the screen including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her most recent novel, The Last Tudor, is now in production for a television series. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She founded Gardens for the Gambia, a charity to dig wells in poor rural schools in The Gambia, and has provided nearly 200 wells. She welcomes visitors to her website PhilippaGregory.com.
Date of Birth:January 9, 1954
Place of Birth:Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
Education:B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984
Read an Excerpt
I go to bed uneasy, and the very next day, straight after matins, Dr Lewis comes to my rooms looking strained and anxious. At once I say I am feeling unwell, and send all my women away. We are alone in my privy chamber and I let him take a stool and sit opposite me, almost as an equal.
‘The Queen Elizabeth summoned me to sanctuary last night and she was distraught,’ he says quietly.
‘She had been told that the princes were dead, and she was begging me to tell her that it was not the case.’
‘What did you say?’
‘I didn’t know what you would have me say. So I told her what everyone in the City is saying: that they are dead. That Richard had them killed either on the day of his coronation, or as he left London.’
‘She was deeply shocked; she could not believe it. But, Lady Margaret, she said a terrible thing . . .’ He breaks off, as if he dare not name it.
‘Go on,’ I say but I can feel a cold shiver of dread creeping up my spine. I fear I have been betrayed. I fear that this has gone wrong.
‘She cried out at first and then she said: “At least Richard is safe”.’
‘She meant Prince Richard? The younger boy?’
‘The one they took into the Tower to keep his brother company.’
‘I know that! But what did she mean?’
‘That’s what I asked her. I asked her at once what she meant and she smiled at me in the most frightening way and said: “Doctor, if you had only two precious, rare jewels and you feared thieves, would you put your two treasures in the same box?”’
He nods at my aghast expression.
‘What does she mean?’ I repeat.
‘She wouldn’t say more. I asked her if Prince Richard was not in the Tower when the two boys were killed? She just said that I was to ask you to put your own guards into the Tower to keep her son safe. She would say nothing more. She sent me away.’
I rise from my stool. This damned woman, this witch, has been in my light ever since I was a girl, and now, at this very moment when I am using her, using her own adoring family and loyal supporters to wrench the throne from her, to destroy her sons, she may yet win, she may have done something that will spoil everything for me. How does she always do it? How is it that when she is brought so low that I can even bring myself to pray for her, she manages to turn her fortunes around? It must be witchcraft; it can only be witchcraft. Her happiness and her success have haunted my life. I know her to be in league with the devil, for sure. I wish he would take her to hell.
‘You will have to go back to her,’ I say, turning to him.
He almost looks as if he would refuse.
‘What?’ I snap.
‘Lady Margaret, I swear, I dread going to her. She is like a witch imprisoned in the cleft of a pine tree, she is like an entrapped spirit, she is like a water goddess on a frozen lake, waiting for spring. She lives in the gloom of sanctuary with the river flowing all the time beside their rooms and she listens to the babble as a counsellor. She knows things that she cannot know by earthly means. She fills me with terror. And her daughter is as bad.’
‘You will have to summon your courage,’ I say briskly. ‘Be brave, you are doing God’s work. You have to go back to her and tell her to be of stout heart. Tell her that I am certain that the princes are alive. Remind her that when we attacked the Tower we heard the guards taking them back from the door. They were alive then, why would Richard kill them now? Richard has taken the throne without killing them, why would he put them to death now? Richard is a man who does his own work and he is hundreds of miles away from them now. Tell her I will double my people in the Tower and that I swear to her, on my honour, that I will protect them. Remind her that the uprising will start next month. As soon as we defeat Richard the king, we will set the boys free. Then, when she is reassured, when she is in her first moment of relief, when you see the colour come to her face and you have convinced her – in that moment quickly ask her if she has her son Prince Richard in safety already? If she has him hidden away somewhere?’
He nods, but he is pale with fear. ‘And are they safe?’ he asks. ‘Can I truly assure her that those poor boys are safe and we will rescue them? That the rumours, even in your own household, are false? Do you know if they are they alive or dead, Lady Margaret? Can I tell their mother that they are alive and speak the truth?’
‘They are in the hands of God,’ I reply steadily. ‘As are we all. My son too. These are dangerous times, and the princes are in the hands of God.’
That night we hear news of the first uprising. It is mistimed, it comes too early. The men of Kent are marching on London, calling on the Duke of Buckingham to take the throne. The county of Sussex gets up in arms, believing they cannot delay a moment longer, and the men of Hampshire beside them rise up too, as a fire will leap from one dry woodland to another. Richard’s most loyal commander, Thomas Howard, the brand new Duke of Norfolk, marches down the west road from London, and occupies Guildford, fighting skirmishes to the west and to the east, but holding the rebels down in their own counties, and sending a desperate warning to the king: the counties of the south are up in the name of the former Queen and her imprisoned sons, the princes.
Richard, the battle-hardened leader of York, marches south at the fast speed of a York army, makes his centre of command at Lincoln, and raises troops in every county, especially from those who greeted his progress with such joy. He hears of the betrayal of the Duke of Buckingham when men come from Wales to tell him that the duke is already on the march, going north through the Welsh marches, recruiting men and clearly planning to cross at Gloucester, or perhaps Tewkesbury, to come into the heart of England with his own men and his Welsh recruits. His beloved friend, Henry Stafford, is marching out under his standard, as proudly and as bravely as once he did for Richard; only now he is marching against him.
Richard goes white with rage and he grips his right arm, his sword arm, above the elbow, as if he were shaking with rage, as if to hold it steady. ‘A man with the best cause to be true,’ he exclaims. ‘The most untrue creature living. A man who had everything he asked for. Never was a false traitor better treated; a traitor, a traitor.’
At once he sends out commissions of array to every county in England demanding their loyalty, demanding their arms and their men. This is the first and greatest crisis of his new reign. He summons them to support a York king, he demands the loyalty that they gave to his brother, which they have all promised to him. He warns those who cheered when he took the crown less than sixteen weeks ago that they must now stand by that decision, or England will fall to an unholy alliance of the false Duke of Buckingham, the witch queen, and the Tudor pretender.
It is pouring with rain, and there is a strong wind blowing hard from the north. It is unnatural weather, witch’s weather. My son must set sail now, if he is to arrive while the queen’s supporters are up, and while Buckingham is marching. But if it is so foul here, in the south of England, then I fear the weather in Brittany. He must come at exactly the right moment to catch the weary victor of the first battle and make them turn and fight again, while they are sick of fighting. But – I stand at my window and watch the rain pouring down, and the wind lashing the trees in our garden – I know he cannot set sail in this weather, the wind is howling towards the south, I cannot believe he will even be able to get out of port.
The next day the rains are worse and the river is starting to rise. It is over our landing steps at the foot of the garden and the boatmen drag the Stanley barge up the garden to the very orchard, out of the swirling flood, fearing that it will be torn from its moorings by the current. I can’t believe that Henry can set sail in this, and even if he were to get out of harbour, I can’t believe that he could safely get across the English seas to the south coast.
My web of informers, spies and plotters are stunned by the ferocity of the rain, which is like a weapon against us. The roads into London are all but impassable; no-one can get a message through. A horse and rider cannot get from London to Guildford, and as the river rises higher, there is news of flooding and drowning upstream and down. The tides are unnaturally high and every day and night the floods from the river pour down to the inrushing tide and there is a boiling surge of water which wipes out riverside houses, quays, piers and docks. Nobody can remember weather like this, a rain storm which lasts for days, and the rivers are bursting their banks all around England.
I have no-one to talk to but my God, and I cannot always hear His voice, as if the rain is blotting out His very face, and the wind blowing away His words. This is how I know for sure that it is a witch’s wind. I spend my day at the window overlooking the garden, watching the river boil over the garden wall and come up through the orchard, lap by lap, till the trees themselves seem to be stretching up to the heavy clouds for help. Whenever one of my ladies comes to my side, or Dr Lewis comes to my door, or any of the plotters in London ask for admittance, they all want to know what is happening: as if I know any more than them, when all I can hear is rain, as if I can foretell the future in the galeripped sky. But I know nothing, anything could be happening out there; a waterlogged massacre could be taking place even half a mile away, and none of us would know. We would hear no voices over the sound of the storm, no lights would show through the rain.
I spend my nights in my chapel, praying for the safety of my son and the success of our venture, and hearing no answer from God but only the steady hammer of the torrent on the roof and the whine of the wind lifting the slates above me, until I think that God Himself has been blotted from the heavens of England by the witch’s wind, and I will never hear Him again.
Finally, I get a letter from my husband at Coventry.
The king has commanded my presence and I fear he doubts me. He has sent for my son Lord Strange too, and was very dark when he learned that my son is from his home with an army of ten thousand men on the march, but my son has told nobody where he is going, and his servants only swear that he said he was raising his men for the true cause. I assure the king that my son will be marching to join us, loyal to the throne; but he has not yet arrived here at our command centre, in Coventry Castle.
Buckingham is trapped in Wales by the rising of the river Severn. Your son, I believe, will be held in port by the storm on the seas. The queen’s men will be unable to march out on the drowned roads and the Duke of Norfolk is waiting for them. I think your rebellion is over, you have been beaten by the rain and the rising of the waters. They are calling it the Duke of Buckingham’s Water and it has washed him and his ambition to hell along with your hopes. Nobody has seen a storm like this since the Queen Elizabeth called up a mist to hide her husband’s army at the battle of Barnet, or summoned snow for him at Tewkesbury. Nobody doubts she can do such a thing and most of us only hope she will stop before she washes us all away. But why? Can she be working against you now? And if so, why? Does she know, with her inner sight, what has befallen her boys and who has done it? Does she think you have done it? Is she drowning your son in revenge?
Destroy what papers you have kept, and deny whatever you have done. Richard is coming to London for his revenge and there will be a scaffold built on Tower Green. If he believes half what he has heard he will put you on it and I will be unable to save you.
I have been on my knees all night, but I don’t know if God can hear me through the hellish noise of the rain. My son sets sail from Brittany with fifteen valuable ships and an army of five thousand men and loses them all in the storm at sea. Only two ships struggle ashore on the south coast and learn at once that Buckingham has been defeated by the rising of the river, his rebellion is washed away by the waters, and Richard is waiting, dry-shod, to execute the survivors.
My son turns his back on the country that should have been his, and sails for Brittany again, flying like a faintheart, leaving me here, unprotected, and clearly guilty of plotting his rebellion. We are parted once more, my heir and I, this time without even meeting, and this time it feels as if it is for ever. He and Jasper leave me to face the king, who marches vengefully on London like an invading enemy, mad with anger. Dr Lewis vanishes off to Wales, Bishop Morton takes the first ship that can sail after the storms and goes to France, Buckingham’s men slip from the City in silence and under lowering skies, the queen’s kin make their way to Brittany and to the tattered remains of my son’s makeshift court, and my husband arrives in London in the train of King Richard, whose handsome face is dark with the sullen rage of a traitor betrayed.
‘He knows,’my husband says shortly as he comes to my room, his travelling cape still around his shoulders, his sympathy scant. ‘He knows you were working with the queen, and he will put you on trial. He has evidence from half a dozen witnesses. Rebels from Devon to East Anglia know your name and have letters from you.’
‘Husband, surely he will not.’
‘You are clearly guilty of treason and that is punishable by death.’
‘But if he thinks you are faithful . . .’
‘I am faithful,’ he corrects me. ‘It is not a matter of opinion but of fact. Not what the king thinks – but what he can see. When Buckingham rode out, while you were summoning your son to invade England, and paying rebels, while the queen was raising the southern counties, I was at his side, advising him, loaning him money, calling out my own affinity to defend him, faithful as any northerner. He trusts me now as he has never done before. My son raised an army for him.’
‘Your son’s army was for me!’ I interrupt.
‘My son will deny that, I will deny that, we will call you a liar and nobody can prove anything, either way.’
I pause. ‘Husband, you will intercede for me?’
He looks at me thoughtfully, as if the answer could be ‘no’.
‘Well, it is a consideration, Lady Margaret. My King Richard is bitter, he cannot believe that the Duke of Buckingham, his best friend, his only friend, should betray him. And you? He is astonished at your infidelity. You carried his wife’s train at her coronation, you were her friend, you welcomed her to London. He feels you have betrayed him. Unforgiveably. He thinks you as faithless as your kinsman Buckingham; and Buckingham was executed on the spot.’
‘Buckingham is dead?’
‘They took off his head in Salisbury market place. The king would not even see him. He was too angry with him and he is filled with hate towards you. You said that Queen Anne was welcome to her city, that she had been missed. You bowed the knee to him and wished him well. And then you sent out messages to every disaffected Lancastrian family in the country to tell them the cousins’ war had come again, and that this time you will win.’
I grit my teeth. ‘Should I run away? Should I go to Brittany too?’
‘My dear, how ever would you get there?’
‘I have my money chest, I have my guard. I could bribe a ship to take me, if I went down to the docks at London now, I could get away. Or Greenwich. Or I could ride to Dover or Southampton . . .’
He smiles at me and I remember they call him ‘the fox’ for his ability to survive, to double back, to escape the hounds. ‘Yes, indeed, all that might have been possible; but I am sorry to tell you, I am nominated as your gaoler, and I cannot let you escape me. King Richard has decided that all your lands and your wealth will be mine, signed over to me, despite our marriage contract. Everything you owned as a girl is mine, everything you owned as a Tudor is mine, everything you gained from your marriage to Stafford is now mine, everything you inherited from your mother is mine. My men are in your chambers now collecting your jewels, your papers and your money chest. Your men are already under arrest, and your women are locked in their rooms. Your tenants and your affinity will learn you cannot summon them; they are all mine.’
I gasp. For a moment, I cannot speak, I just look at him. ‘You have robbed me? You have taken this chance to betray me?’
‘You are to live at the house at Woking, my house now; you are not to leave the grounds. You will be served by my people, your own servants will be turned away. You will see neither ladies in waiting, servants, nor your confessor. You will meet with no-one and send no messages.’
I can hardly grasp the depth and breadth of his betrayal. He has taken everything from me. ‘It is you who betrayed me to Richard!’ I fling at him. ‘You who betrayed the whole plot. It is you, with an eye to my fortune who led me on to do this and now profit from my destruction. You told the Duke of Norfolk to go down to Guildford and suppress the rebellion in Hampshire. You told Richard to beware of the Duke of Buckingham. You told him that the queen was rising against him and I with her!’
He shakes his head. ‘No. I am not your enemy, Margaret, I have served you well as your husband. No-one else could have saved you from the traitor’s death that you deserve. This is the best deal I could get for you. I have saved you from the Tower, from the scaffold. I have saved your lands from sequestration, he could have taken them outright. I have saved you to live in my house, as my wife, in safety. And I am still placed at the heart of things, where we can learn of his plans against your son. Richard will seek to have Tudor killed now, he will send spies with orders to murder Henry. You have signed your son’s death warrant with your failure. Only I can save him. You should be grateful to me.’
I cannot think, I cannot think through this mixture of threats and promises. ‘Henry?’
‘Richard will not stop until he is dead. Only I can save him.’
‘I am to be your prisoner?’
He nods. ‘And I am to have your fortune. It is nothing between us, Margaret. Think of the safety of your son.’
‘You will let me warn Henry of his danger?’
He rises to his feet. ‘Of course. You can write to him as you wish. But all your letters are to come through me, they will be carried by my men. I have to give the appearance of controlling you completely.’
‘The appearance?’ I repeat. ‘If I know you at all, you will give the appearance of being on both sides.’
He smiles in genuine amusement. ‘Always.’
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Red Queen includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Philippa Gregory. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the ruler of England and she has a great destiny before her. Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son of the throne of England regardless of the cost. As the political tides constantly shift, Margaret charts her way through two more loveless marriages, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of all time, knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.
1. In the beginning of The Red Queen, young Margaret Beaufort is an extremely pious young girl, happy to have “saints’ knees” when she kneels too long at her prayers. Discuss the role of religion throughout Margaret’s life. What does she see as God’s role for her?
2. As a pious young girl, Margaret wants to live a life of greatness like her heroine, Joan of Arc. However, her fate lies elsewhere, as her mother tells her, “the time has come to put aside silly stories and silly dreams and do your duty.” (Page 26). What is Margaret’s duty and how does she respond to her mother’s words?
2. At the tender age of twelve, Margaret is married to Edmund Tutor and fourteen months later she bears him the son who will be the heir to the royal Lancaster family line. During the excruciating hours of labor, Margaret learns a painful truth about her mother and the way she views Margaret. Discuss the implications of what Margaret learns from her mother, and what is “the price of being a woman.” (63)
3. How does Jasper Tudor aid Margaret in her plans for herself and her son, Henry? What does he sacrifice in order to keep Henry Tudor safe? In what ways are Jasper and Margaret alike?
4. After the death of Edmund Tudor, Margaret marries the wealthy Sir Henry Stafford. How is Stafford different from Edmund? Margaret laments that she is “starting to fear that my husband is worse than a coward” (p. 105). What are her reasons for this? Do you see any sense in Stafford’s careful diplomacy?
5. On Easter of 1461, violence breaks out between the armies of Lancaster and York. This time, Sir Henry Stafford goes out to fight for Lancaster, only to witness a terrible battle. What does he understand about war and politics and why are these truths so difficult for Margaret to grasp?
6. Ever since she was a young girl, Margaret believed she was destined for greatness. How does her pride in her destiny manifest itself throughout the story? Identify key moments where Margaret’s pride overwhelms her judgment.
7. In the spring of 1471, Stafford sides with York and supports Edward in his quest to take the throne of England once and for all. Do you understand Stafford’s reasons for doing this? Is Margaret’s rage at her husband’s decision understandable?
8. Sir Henry Stafford suffers a mortal wound in battle. After his death, Margaret decides she must be strategic in her next marriage and so she approaches Thomas, Lord Stanley, who Jasper describes as “a specialist of the final charge” (217). What does Jasper mean by this? How is Stanley different from Stafford and what does it mean for Margaret that she decides to unite her fortunes with this man?
9. In April 1483, Margaret tries to enlist Stanley in helping to get her son, Henry, and Jasper back on English shores. An argument ensues between the two of them, and the ever-shrewd Stanley confronts Margaret with his view of her true nature, much to her horror (236). Do you think Stanley’s assessment of her is correct? Why is this so significant?
10. Discuss Margaret’s feelings towards the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Why does she cause her so much anger? How does Margaret’s view of Elizabeth change as she becomes her lady-in-waiting, and then as she actively plots with her—and against her—for the throne of England?
11. Once King Richard has installed himself on the throne, Margaret and Lord Stanley scheme to replace him with her son, Henry Tudor. Margaret must make the difficult decision about whether to sacrifice the two princes in the Tower for her own ambitions (271). Is there any way to justify Margaret’s actions? Do you sympathize with her plight?
12. In the winter of 1483-84, Margaret despairs when her plans fail miserably. Under house arrest by the king, she looks back on her schemes and declares, “the sin of ambition and greed darkened our enterprise” (305). Discuss Margaret’s conclusion about her behavior. Do you think she takes responsibility for her actions? What blame does she place on Elizabeth Woodville?
13. As the fortunes of England shift once again, Margaret finds herself playing host to the young Lady Elizabeth, the beautiful daughter of Elizabeth Woodville. Discuss the interaction between these two headstrong women. How does Lady Elizabeth treat Margaret and what does she say on page 344 that leaves Margaret stunned into silence?
14. Discuss the final battle scenes in The Red Queen. How does Henry Tudor, young and inexperienced, eventually gain the upper hand, and how does King Richard lose his throne, and his life?
15. By the end of the book, Margaret, now Margaret Regina, the King’s mother, has achieved all she wanted. Do you respect her and her ideals? Do you think her achievement justifies her actions?
Enhancing Your Book Club
Learn more about the War of the Roses, Richard III, and the fall of the house of York at the homepage of the Richard III Society: http://www.r3.org/
Conduct a mock investigation of the murder of the princes in the Tower. Review the suspects and determine motive and guilt. Resources can be found at http://www.castles.me.uk/princes-in-the-tower.htm and http://www.r3.org/bookcase/whodunit.html
Visit Philippa Gregory's website, www.philippagregory.com, to learn more about the author, view the Plantagenet family tree, and read background information on The Red Queen.
A Conversation with Philippa Gregory
Margaret Beaufort is a very different character than Elizabeth Woodville, star of The White Queen. Was it difficult for you to shift perspective and write in the voice of a woman, in this case The Red Queen, who is the enemy of the main character of your previous book?
One of the most difficult things I have ever done in writing was shift my own perspective so that after three years of thinking entirely from the point of view of Elizabeth Woodville and from the point of view of the house of York, I had to convert to the view of Margaret Beaufort and the house of Lancaster. I thought at the time that the only way to do it would be to find some sort of key to the girl that Margaret was, in order to understand her as a woman. There are three extant biographies of her and I read them all and then thought that the secret to Margaret is her genuine and deep faith. That led me to the picture of this very precocious and serious little girl and once I could imagine and love her – I could imagine the woman that her hard life and disappointments create.
Margaret’s mother tells her “since you were a girl you could only be the bridge to the next generation.” (59) Do you feel sympathy for Margaret and her thwarted ambition? What would her life have been like if she were born a man?
Of course I feel intense sympathy for Margaret who is used by her family, as so many women of this period were used – as a pawn in a game of dynasties. However, to be cheerful about it – if she had been a man she would almost certainly have been killed in a battle or in an attack – all the other heirs on the Lancaster side were killed and she sent her son away to keep him safe. Perhaps the greatest disappointment for Margaret was that she was not allowed a religious life. There is no doubt in my mind that she would have made a wonderful abbess both as a landlord and community leader and as a scholar.
Taken together, The White Queen and The Red Queen present very different portraits of marriage in the fifteenth century. Was either woman’s experience more indicative of the time?
Margaret has the more typical life of a woman of her class. Many of the noblewomen of this time were placed in arranged marriages for the advantage of their families, she was exceptionally young, but most noblewomen could expect to be married at sixteen. What is unusual about Margaret is that it seems likely that her third marriage was indeed arranged by herself, to position herself at the York court, and to give her son a stepfather of immense wealth and influence. In this she was very powerfully taking control of her own destiny, and this was unusual, even for widows. Elizabeth Woodville’s first marriage is also very typical of the time. Her marriage was arranged when she was about sixteen to the wealthy heir of a great estate in a neighbouring county. The Grey family gained the Woodville’s connections at court and the royal and noble connections of Elizabeth’s mother, and the Woodvilles got their daughter into a wealthy house. Elizabeth’s second marriage was, of course, unique. She was the first English commoner to marry a king of England, and the first queen married for love. They married in secret without the knowledge the king’s advisor and mentor. It was an extraordinary marriage.
Sir Henry Stafford is an interesting contrast to so many of the striving, power-hungry men and women in this novel. How much of his thoughts did you base on real life and how much was your own interpretation of his character?
Sir Henry, like so many men and women of his time has left little or no record of his thoughts, and only scanty records of his actions. I had to look at what we knew about him: his age, his decision not to ride out to battle in any of the many battles of the wars: except when he went out for Lancaster in 1561, and for York a decade later. Therefore I had to consider why a man would have fought in the sixth and the fifteenth battle: but no others; and why a man tied to the house of Lancaster by family and habit would change his mind so completely as to fight for York. That was all I had to go on: as well as my general reading about the feelings of so many men who were forced to take difficult decisions about their private and family hopes and fears at a time of constant challenge.
There are three pivotal women in this novel, Elizabeth Woodville, her daughter, Lady Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort. Do you think they are able to rise above what was considered acceptable for women’s roles in their time?
I think what these women demonstrate in this novel is the range of responses that were possible for women; and that this range is probably wider than we as readers of the period might generally think. Because the history of the period has been mostly written by men (for two reasons: that until the 20th century almost all historians were men since only men attended universities, and that histories of war seems to attract mostly male historians) we have very scanty records of what women were feeling thinking and even doing. And those reports we have are often biased against women who seek power. Thus we simply don’t know the extent of the involvement of Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort in the Buckingham rebellion or the Tudor invasion, we can only deduce that they were deeply involved. But we do have very negative views of Elizabeth Woodville as a mother failing to protect her children, as a panic-stricken woman fleeing into sanctuary, and as a hard-hearted manipulator sending her daughters out to the uncle who may have killed her sons. That these views of her are exaggerated and indeed contradictory does not seem to trouble some historians whose view of her is determinedly negative. In contrast, the positive views taken of Margaret Beaufort emphasize her suffering and endurance and not her political skill and manipulation. In this book I suggest that Princess Elizabeth fell in love with King Richard her uncle. This is based on a letter which was seen by an historian but is now missing, and it would suggest that she also had the courage and passion to try to choose her own life. These are women of exceptional courage and determination, but I think they show that even in a society where women are powerfully repressed both legally and culturally, that there are still women who will find ways to express themselves.
How does history remember Margaret Beaufort? Do you feel that she is dealt with fairly by historians and writers?
There are two main opinions on Margaret Beaufort that have emerged for me from my reading. One, very positive, is based on the Tudor hagiography which sees her as the matriarch of the house and a woman who spent her life in the service of her son. It follows the sermon preached by Archbishop Fisher who stressed her suffering as a young woman, and her very early sense of destiny when she believed that she was advised by the saints to marry Edmund Tudor and thus have a Tudor heir to the Lancaster throne. This view sees her as a divinely inspired matriarch, to a family called by God, and was incorporated into the Tudor history of their own line. The other, more modern view of her, is less admiring of her as a spiritual woman but emphasizes her political ambitions and her powers of manipulation. In this view she is sometimes regarded critically as a woman of excessive ambition and greed and suggests that she dominated the household of her son, and influenced the upbringing of her grandsons.
Can you tell us a little about the next book in the series? Is Lady Elizabeth going to feature prominently?
The next book tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville’s mother who is glimpsed in this novel. She was Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg, and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, who was married first to the great Englishman John Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her household for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter – until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, the founder of the house of Luxembourg and her reputation for making magic, she is a most haunting heroine. The story opens as her uncle, Louis of Luxembourg captures Joan of Arc and Jacquetta sees, for the first time, the dangers facing a girl who dares to be extraordinary.
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As a child, Margaret Beaufort felt she was destiny's darling and planed to remain pious while pushing the cause of the red Rose of Lancaster. However, her mother rudely awakens her by informing her she is a worthless chip off the old block of England's military commander in France; and therefore will be sent to Wales to marry some lord older than her parents. She is quickly widowed at thirteen and forced to marry again. This time she has a son, whom she names Henry after the king. To keep him safe she sends him away but pledges him to the daughter of the White Rose rival York family. Widowed and married this time to Lord Thomas and knowing her son is ready to take the throne from the usurper, Margaret executes a coup. This is a terrific historical biographical fiction as queen of the sub-genre Philippa Gregory provides her fans with another strong female royal (see The White Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl). Filled with intrigue, murder and betrayal while occurring for the most part in the second half of the fifteenth century, Ms. Gregory focuses this time on a female dynasty maker as Margaret Beaufort proves to be the matriarch of the Tudor line. Harriet Klausner
A manic desire. A refusal to let things go. An unwavering belief in one's importance. Meet Philippa Gregory's 'The Red Queen.' Margaret Beaufort is the matriarch of England's Tudor dynasty. How she got there is a story of persistence, plotting and piety. Her tale is immersed in the blood of the War of the Roses that divided Britain for generations. Civil strife revolved around two families both claiming the right to rule - the Lancasters (the red rose) and the Yorks (the white rose). Margaret is a Lancaster who during her lifetime sees power shift multiple times. In her heart, she feels with all of her soul that the Yorks are usurpers of authority, and that only the Lancaster line has the God-given authority to rule. As a woman she cannot participate on the battlefield, but behind the scenes she relentlessly campaigns for her side. Every prayer, every thought, every moment of her life is centered on cementing the rights of her family and debilitating her enemies. She is a formidable force - maybe not as famous as her descendants Henry VIII and Elizabeth I - but certainly just as driven. The aspiration of Margaret's life is to see her son, Henry on the throne of England. Henry's father is Edmund Tudor thereby introducing the ultimate victor of the War of the Roses power struggle. Her son is the center of her world, even though she is separated from him for much of his life. This complete and potentially destructive devotion is similar to Halle Berry's portrayal of Alex Haley's 'Queen.' Maternal love is deeply rooted in fear, both real and imagined. Protective instincts are permanently kicked into high gear - they are constantly on alert. Imminent danger is something to be expected, without exception. Their sole purpose in life is to protect their child from danger. A child whose future will fulfill all of their hopes and dreams. Margaret sacrifices her entire life for her self-proclaimed royal destiny. She will not stop until she can sign her name with a flourish as Margaret R. - 'Margaret Regina.' When her first husband, Edmund Tudor dies, she falls in love with his brother, Jasper. The two resist their feelings for each other by placing the needs of Henry before their own. Instead of being happy with her gentle, peaceful second husband, Lord Stafford, she sees him as weakling who runs from conflict. He is kind to her and offers her a loving home protected from the violence of civil war. But it is still not enough, she only criticizes him for compromising with the Yorks. Her relationship with her wily third husband, Lord Stanley is based solely on strategy. The two form a partnership based on establishing her son as liege. Nothing more, nothing less - the only thing is Margaret doesn't know if she can trust him. Like Jessica Lange in 'Hush,' she does not establish any formative romantic relationships for herself, instead she focuses on potential matches for her son. She'll even have him betrothed to the daughter of her arch rival - the York queen, Elizabeth Woodville - in order to firmly establish her son's reign by uniting the families. Margaret's role model is Joan of Arc. As a young girl, she claims to have a vision of the girl warrior. For the remainder of her life, she compares the sanctity of her life to that of the saint. She cannot fail, God is on her side. She twists religion to suit her own needs. Overall, Gregory tries to make the most out of an unlikeable queen.
I find when I read her books, I research the topic myself and in doing this it's like I am actually there. Even though I know what's going to happen, I can't read it fast enough. I really enjoy her writing. She fills in the blanks that history leaves out. She paints a very interesting picture of times past. I love it.
The Red Queen by Ms. Gregory was very well done in that the characters felt real to me and the setting pulled me into the past. While the story was a bit long, the novelization of the struggle between the Yorks and Lancasters was necessarily drawn out. The number of times the throne switched hands, or important people were at risk of being killed because they were on the wrong side at the moment, was staggering. I enjoyed the way the author pulled history into this book and made it come alive. I found the details of Margaret's three marriages fascinating and incredibly sad. I hurt for her and wished that somehow she could have found happiness, but it wasn't meant to be. Over time she just became more bitter. She wasn't taken seriously and was seen as a means to an end, nothing more. I found the way her first husband was portrayed as a child rapist (though he was begrudgingly fulfilling his duty to have an heir,) the second as a coward, and the third as a scheming two-timer quite compelling. Each marriage had a purpose, and while Margaret suffered during each union, she learned a lot in the process. I appreciated that the battle scenes were not overly gross. There were plenty of disgusting details of war without being over the top. I felt bad for all of the people getting their heads chopped off as it was. I loved how the author portrayed Lady Margaret's firm conviction that it was God's will that her son Henry become king. Based on her painful life up to that point, it made sense that she would put everything she had into seeing him fulfill his destiny (which she believed was the reason he was born,) and then her suffering would be for a good reason and not just cruel luck. I found her religious zeal interesting, too. She really believed she was favored by God because she prayed all the time. It caused her to be too proud of herself, and quite arrogant. Of course, the Yorks felt that they were destined for the throne as well. Since King Henry had lost his mind the author made a compelling case for why fear overruled loyalty. I just felt bad for the common English person who fought for either side and the many lives lost over the right of one family or the other to rule England. This was the first book by Ms. Gregory that I've read and it won't be the last. I have The White Queen and plan to read it in the next year.
Instead of recapping the story, I will just say that Margaret, who becomes the Red Queen, is quite unlikeable; she is arrogant and self-righteous while believing herself to be so pious that God speaks to her directly in her prayers. Even so, her story is compelling and I enjoyed the book. If you are a Philippa Gregory fan you will find it interesting how Margaret's personality contrasts with that of Elizabeth in The White Queen.
This is the second book in the cousin's war trilogy. The story is told from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII. This is a period in England's History that is marked with strife and civil unrest as the House of Lancaster and the House of York continuously plot, scheme and wage war against each other for the throne. It covers roughly the same time period as The White Queen, but it's being told from the opposite point of view. There's very little overlap, however it's interesting to compare the few events that are covered in both books from the different woman's viewpoint. Once again, Philippa Gregory brings this era to life, creates wonderful characters and immerses the reader in vivid historical detail. She maintains tension and keeps the plot moving. I always love reading about strong women and the protagonist in this book is as tough and ruthless as they come. In short I enjoyed this book a lot and couldn't put it down at times. A great book for those who enjoy historical fiction and not to be missed by Philippa Gregory's fans.
Book 2 in "The Cousin's War" trilogy The second book in the series brings Margaret Beaufort, the heiress to the red rose of Lancaster to life. Narrated in her words, she tells her story commencing at the tender age of nine and continues into adulthood including her three marriages. She details her bitter struggle to ensure that her son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. The running theme throughout the book is Margaret's belief that she is another Joan of Arc, dedicated to her religion and loveless marriages in the pursuit of power. She feels personally abandoned by God and cheated out of her rightful position by her rivals but believes God's will is for her son Henry to lead the house of Lancaster to victory and eventually be crowned King and she will do anything to reach this goal. Having enjoyed previous novels on the Tudor dynasty, I was looking forward to reading the role Margaret played in the continuous struggle for power and the barbaric methods used, a time when allegiance was here today, gone tomorrow.... Ms. Gregory's simplistic prose made it easy to follow the scenes and historical figures but unfortunately the storyline pacing is slow, repetitious and a tad boring. There are too many pages describing Margaret's ego and obsession with religion to the point it is a turn off. She is depicted as a cold, ambitious and unpleasant person but she must have had a conning side to live long enough to see her son reach the highest position in the country.....Reading became tedious as the story progressed.
I have been a huge Phillipa Gregory fan and I was deeply disappointed with The Red Queen. Although the character Margaret is accurately portrayed as unappealing and unlikeable there did not appear to a believability to the storyline which was extremely dragged out. I found it hard to stay interested and a bit of a lazy read.
I loved this!! but hey you put the Tudors and the Stanleys together when P.G. is writing and well there you have it a page turner for sure!
I just finished reading this book on my nook and loved it but I don't understand why I can't lend it when I paid for it. This does not seem fair. Also not sure if this is normal but it seems like all the older women in her book are mean and I can't help but wonder if there were not at least a few who were nice to their daughters and cared about them, even back then.
Gregory gives a counterpoint to her The White Queen in this further novel of the cousins' war. Quite engaging she brings the history alive with her detailed account which fleshes out the feelings, motivations, and roles of key historical characters.
I've read nearly all of Gregory's books and been unable to put them down, but this one was different. I found it really hard to care about the main character, which in turn made it hard to really want to push on with the book. What I love most about Gregory's other books is that she seamlessly incorporates historical facts and fiction while putting her romantic spin somewhere in the novel. Romance was completely missing and the whole book felt dark. I don't want to say this is the last time I read one of her new books, but I'm glad it takes so long for new works to be published because I need to forget about this book before I would buy anything new from her!
As always, for anyone who loves reading about historical royal figures and families it is hard to beat Phillipa Gregory's fictionalized accounts. Lots of wonderful detail and believable characterizations that bring their stories to life. I very much enjoyed this book have read many of her other books and I look forward to reading more from her in future. It's only shortcoming, in my opinion, is in the scope of the book. It felt to me as though the book ended at the point that I expected from the title that it would really be just beginning. This book is about the life of Margaret Beaufort who was the mother of a son who became King Henry VII of England. It encompasses her life from the time of her childhood until the fall of the house of York and the rise of the Lancasters with Henry's ascension to the throne.
I will give Gregory 2 stars for the historical research. However, I must say that I resented having to spend so much time with a women who I disliked very much. From her narrow-minded view of God to her over-developed sense of her own special nature, she was a person I would not want to spend 5 minutes with. Each time she seemed aware of another person's virtue and humanity, I would hold out hope for her. But she disappointed each time.
This is more like 3 1/2 stars. I really enjoyed this book, but I did like The White Queen better. TWQ's, Elizabeth and the endless battles were more of a page turner for me. In this book Margaret was petty and jealous. I'm not sure how she was in real life, but she was very unlikable in this novel. I believe in karma and if Margaret was that bad, I can't believe she'd be rewarded with a Son on the throne. I wish I could really know what happened to the Princes in the Tower. I wonder if Philippa's next book in this series takes up where this one left off? If you enjoy Phillipa's books, then you will enjoy this one.
Philippa Gregory tackles the figure of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII of England, in this novel chronicling the Wars of the Roses. While it is interesting to learn about Margaret, who married at an extremely young age and endured a difficult childbirth, she was far from a likable character. Margaret displays a self-righteous belief in the Lancaster cause and particularly that her son Henry is destined to be King of England. The ends justify the means to Margaret and she even orders the children of the rival York family murdered at one point to further her son's claim to the throne. I simply could not find much that was sympathetic about Margaret and I found myself hoping her enemies would put this woman in her place, simply because she was so unlikeable.
I listened to the AUDIO version of Philippa Gregory¿s latest, The Red Queen, and I can¿t remember the last time I brought discs from the car into the house, so that I didn¿t have to tear myself away from a story. Young Margaret Beaufort knows that she has been born for a great destiny, and she believes she has the ear of God following in the tradition of Joan of Ark. Later when confronted with the limitations of women of the time, she realizes her destiny is to have a son, the next King of England. With unwavering conviction, she pursues this ambition beyond conscience and reason. Gregory makes no excuses for Margaret. She doesn¿t try to explain her motivations, and she actually writes her unsympathetic to the point of villainy. And it not only works, but makes Margaret fascinating. Her rivalry with Elizabeth Woodville is a delight. ¿This damned woman, this witch, has been in my light ever since I was a girl, and now, at this very moment when I am using her, using her own adoring family and loyal supporters to wrench the throne from her, to destroy her sons, she may yet win, she may have done something to spoil everything for me. How does she always do it?¿ Further Gregory allows the dialogue between her martial and political allies speak for reason, especially when her second husband calls the entire Lancastrian branch ¿insane¿ before riding out to fight for York. Any historical fiction devotee will devour these passages. The Red Queen is easily the most political novel I¿ve read of Gregory¿s, and I am surprised to how her novels continue to captivate despite the limited subjects and time periods she works within. For me, she keeps getting better. This novel is Part 2 of the Cousin War Series (apparently Gregory has planned six), and is a good companion novel to The White Queen providing surprising depth to Gregory¿s version of the time. The characters in that novel manage to tell a new story through Margaret¿s perspective. I will definitely grab the next one, and in no small part hoping for some more glimpses of Margaret.Bianca Amato reads with the necessary fervor to compliment the text.
The first book that I've read that I actually am not cheering for the main character. What a bad person. How often do we read book where the main character does not learn anything and is just as selfish as at the beginning? I enjoyed the change!
I listened to the audio version of this book. I almost gave up on it several times, which is rare for me -- I generally finish books, even if I'm not that keen. I stuck with it because of interest in the history of the period, and reviews here which promised it would get better. It did...a little, and for awhile. Most of the book is written from the 1st person POV of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, the first Tudor king of England. And what a bleak head hers was to be stuck in! As a child she is full of little but self-aggrandizing faux piety, and as she gets older she add bitterness and spitefulness to the mix. While I appreciate that she had a hard life (married off at the age of 12, giving birth at the age of 13 to her only son), but I could not find her sympathetic or even entertaining as a conniving villain or unreliable narrator. Part of the problem is that as a noblewoman, she's far removed from the action (she's seldom even at court), so most of the book is long internal monologues that read like bad fanfiction. Thankfully we leave her head in a couple of places to visit major battles narrated by an omniscient voice. I had hoped to read all three books in the series, but I don't think I can face it. OTOH, I am currently reading Philippa Gregory's nonfiction work about the era, "The Women of the Cousins' War." *That* I'm enjoying
I have heard it said (or written) by scholars of history, that Phillipa Gregory distorts history sometimes in the interest of dramatizing the events in her novels. Not being a scholar of history myself, I can't be sure but she is certainly a prolific author of historical fiction. I have listened to many of her novels on audiobook.The Red Queen is one of the saddest novels she has written. While many of the novels focus naturally on traumatic world changing events in our history, or most often, England's history, they fluctuate between joyous occasions and occasions of sadness and mourning. This novel focuses primarily on the trials experienced by Margaret of Lancaster, whose sole purpose in life is to put her son on the English throne. Her life is determined by the political machinations of the people maneuvering for posiions of power closest to the royal family. She loses her first husband to war, as well as her 2nd husband,Both are arranged marriages at the hands of her mother, neither of which brought her any happiness, except for the birth of her son, Henry. Most of his life is spent away from her,though, in order to keep him safe as a potential rival to the throne., he lives in exile with his uncle Jasper, the only man Margaret has ever loved, despite his being her husband's brother.The reader of the audiobook, Bianca ? is one of my favorite readers. Her voice as the young Margaret is filled with pathos, and as the older Margaret, is filled with bitterness and regret. Margaret sees herself as divinely appointed by God to put her son on the throne, but throughout the novel, the House of York prevails, requiring her to succumb to their rule and falsely place herself in court as one of the most beloved of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting. She even becomes godmother to one of the Princesses. This role in Court requires yet a third loveless, passionless marriage, this time to Lord Stanley, under the promise there will be no children from this union.They are a perfect match, though, as Stanley is a man who keeps a "foot in both camps always", protecting his interests while appearing fully invested in whoever is in power at the moment. Margaret can appreaciate this approach as she is willing to do anything to see her son on the throne.Fate intervenes time and again to prevent Henry from becoming King, but Margaret never gives up, nor does she lose her faith in God, who she believes wants the same things for her son that she does. She longs to be called,"My Lady, the King's mother, and to sign herself Margaret Regina. I recommend listening to this for the pleasure of listening to a story told by a practiced reader, talented in filling her roles with emotion enough to display and portray her characters, giving substance to stories that could seem redundant otherwise.
¿Those who laughed at my visions and doubted my vocation will call me My Lady, The King¿s Mother, and I shall sign myself Margaret Regina¿Margaret Beaufort is heiress to the Lancaster house and has the iron will to rule it. Denied her greatest wish of entering an abbey, she is dispatched to a loveless marriage in Wales and undergoes an arduous childbirth aged only 13 and widowed already. Dispatched into another political marriage, she continues to fight the Lancaster cause, although her methods become more and more devious over time.First off, Margaret is a thoroughly unlikeable person (or is at least portrayed as such), and kudos to Gregory on making a book with a conniving, devious, potentially murderous protagonist so readable. I know that there is another interpretation of her as a feminist hero, fighting tirelessly for the Lancaster cause, but I rather like Gregory¿s interpretation ¿ this is not a period of history that I know at all, apart from some post-reading Wikipedia perusals, so I can¿t pretend to know whether Gregory is messing with the facts, or whether her interpretation fits everything neatly.Plot: annoyed little girl wants to go to abbey, political marriage, battle, tragedy, childbirth ouchouchouch, another political marriage, lots of battles, all a bit boring, tragedy, Lady Margaret gets her Devious Hat On, Royal Court, intrigue, Princes in the Tower, deviousdeviousdevious, yay Lancaster. In other words, it¿s all go, but the battles seem to go on for ever. I know there were lots, and they¿re important, but I can¿t keep all the Dukes and Warwicks and Nevilles and Blahdiblah of Yorks apart. Yo, dudes, stop fighting already.In any case, it¿s a good read (although I got a bit tired of Margaret¿s constant ¿God means Lancaster to rule¿ and pseudo-piety, particularly as I¿m pretty sure the whole ¿thou shalt not murder¿ thing has been around for Quite Some Time). Again, unlike The Other Boleyn Girl and like The Lady of the Rivers, there¿s not so much of the romance and much more of the politics, which is to my liking.Not a huge fan of the cover ¿ methinks the lady doth wear too much makeup and have the scary crazy eyes.The Lady of the Rivers is better¿ I think Gregory has got into her stride more, whereas The Red Queen is the first of the Cousins¿ War series. I¿ve got The White Queen up next and then The Women of the Cousins¿ War which is the non-fiction companion.
This is the follow-up to Gregory's The White Queen. Interestingly it covers the same time period and tells almost the exact same story, just from the perspective of the House of Lancaster as opposed to the House of York in the previous novel. It is quite brave of the author to essentially write the same novel twice. She has done a pretty good job too. Our protagonist, Margaret Beaufort is a deeply pious woman, supposedly a rarely well-educated woman for her time and one of history's first feminists. Unfortunately, none of these qualities make her a particularly nice woman. I often struggle to enjoy books where I feel no sympathy for the main character but this was very readable , and reminds me that there is a great deal I have yet to learn about my own country's history.
This is the story of Margaret Beaufort who was the mother of King Henry VII of England. It traces her life from her early marraiage at the age of 12 to Edmund Tudor, through the birth of Henry and later, to her subsequent marraige. She was a devout Catholic and truly believed she and her son were destined for greatness. She was in line to the throne herself but due to the Wars of the Roses when the Yorks and Lancasters traded the throne, she lost that advantage though never gave up. She devouted her life to backing her son, even when it posed a danger to her. Her husband, Lord Stanley, sat firmly on the fence, and was famous for it, not deciding who to back until he saw who had the advantage. In the end, he backed the Tudors. The book ends with the decisive battle at Bosworth when Henry won the crown.The book is well written as are all Ms. Gregory's books though some of the facts are a bit "fast and loose", also as in her other books but are a good read and give you a good feel for the time period.
This book tells the story of the War of the Roses (or the Cousins War) from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII. Margaret was a very devout little girl who was fascinated by the story of Jeanne d'Arc and modelled herself on her. Married at the age of 12 to Edmund Tudor she was still a child herself when she gave birth to Henry. Edmund had died before his son was born and the Yorks were storming their castle so Margaret moved to Pembroke Castle to give birth to Henry. She almost died in the process and the difficult birth probably made her unable to bear any more children. She was then remarried to Henry Stafford and had to leave her son in the care of Jasper Tudor. As the battles for the throne continued Margaret remained convinced that her son was the true King of England and she plotted to have it come about.Having read The White Queen earlier this year it was interesting to read about the same time period from the point of view of a Lancaster. It was also interesting to read about Pembroke Castle as I have toured that castle.
fascinating book about a fascinating time period, and one that i knew very little about -- in addition to the historical perspective -- it looks at just how easy it is to be blind to our own faults.