The Red Queen

Written by Philippa Gregory

Despite her visions of being England’s Joan of Arc, Margaret Beaufort is nothing more than a pawn in the House of Lancaster’s struggle to keep the throne during the War of the Roses. In 1453, at age 11, she is betrothed to the king’s half-brother, Edmund Tudor, who dies before the birth of their son, Henry, a Lancaster heir to the throne. Edmund’s brother, Jasper Tudor, appointed guardian of Margaret’s son, raises him to be king far away in Wales. Margaret rarely sees her son after her marriage at age 13 to an older, trusted Lancaster supporter, Henry Stafford, whom she comes to regard as a coward and a traitor.

When Stafford dies, a delusional Margaret believes that if Edward IV, whom she despises, could meet her, he would rid himself of his coarse, commoner wife, Elizabeth Woodville, and marry Margaret, the wealthy Lancaster heiress. She then pursues the possibility of marrying Richard of Gloucester, but too late; he’s already married Anne Neville. Margaret’s next ploy is to propose a platonic marriage to Sir Thomas Stanley. Once loyal to Lancaster, he’s now highly placed in the York court. Stanley is notorious for always backing the winning side. Although pledged to Richard III, he holds back his army at Bosworth until he determines the winner and then enters the battle on Henry Tudor’s side. On the battlefield, Stanley removes the crown from the fallen Richard’s helmet and, kneeling before Henry, hands it to him.

Ms. Gregory is a consummate historical author. In The Red Queen she paints a fascinating portrait of a plain-looking, superstitious, extremely pious woman who is convinced of her divine right to rule England. It’s difficult to sympathize with Margaret. This is an interesting companion to The White Queen, and the second novel in The Cousins’ War series.