Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose (UK) / The Last White Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York (US)

Written by Alison Weir
Review by Edward James

Elizabeth of York, whose marriage to Henry VII united the Houses of York and Lancaster after the Wars of the Roses, is not a neglected queen. Alison Weir herself published a non-fiction biography of Elizabeth in 2014, and Philippa Gregory novelised her life in 2016 in The White Princess. So what’s new to say about her?

Frankly, not very much, but then we do not read historical novels to learn history but to experience it. There have been over 100 novels about Anne Boleyn, but they keep coming even though we all know how it ends. Paradoxically Gregory’s novel began shortly before the princess became queen. Weir begins much further back, with Elizabeth as a frightened toddler taking sanctuary in Westminster Abbey while her father’s enemies occupy London. She does not become queen until over halfway through the book.

Weir is too good a historian to stray from the historical record, and her interpretations of the enduring mysteries of the Princes in the Tower and the identity of Perkin Warbeck are not revisionist. Yes, the murderer was uncle Richard.

Weir tells the story through Elizabeth’s eyes, narrating it in the first person. As with all her books, it is superbly readable and engaging. I doubt we will ever tire of the Tudors, not while we have novelists like Weir to bring them to life.