The King’s Grey Mare
Elizabeth Woodville, young and unbelievably beautiful, finds favor at the court of her mother’s cousin, Marguerite of Anjou. Catching the eye of a handsome, soon-to-be knight, Elizabeth marries him and retires to his estate as a contented wife and mother. But the factions of York and Lancaster vie for the English throne, and her husband is killed in one of the many battles. Lancastrian Elizabeth’s home is confiscated by the Earl of Warwick, who has put Edward of York on the throne as Edward IV. Returning home in shame, Elizabeth becomes the pawn of her ambitions mother, who uses witchcraft and her daughter’s beauty to allure the new king. Elizabeth becomes Queen of England, but the Earl of Warwick vows to destroy her.
First published in 1973, this fictionalized account of Elizabeth Woodville is filled with lush descriptions of setting and clothing. The political and bloodthirsty maneuvering of York and Lancaster is also detailed, and you understand the tumultuous era where no one was safe on the throne. Elizabeth changes from a starry-eyed bride with her first husband to a manipulative siren with her second. The story slips into the realm of fantasy with Elizabeth’s mother’s use of wax dolls to hurt Warwick and secure Edward for her daughter. The novel would have worked well without this device, although legend often declares witchcraft as an excuse for their marriage.
I enjoyed the detail and for the first time felt sympathy for the much-maligned Elizabeth Woodville.