The White Princess

Written by Philippa Gregory
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

In The White Princess, Gregory attempts to tell the story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Raised as a royal princess, Elizabeth has been a pawn for power since her birth. When Henry Tudor defeats Richard III at Bosworth, Elizabeth is offered as a wife, the White Rose that will bring about a united England by merging with Lancastrian Henry VII, thus creating the Tudor rose.

Told in first person, the story unfolds as Elizabeth, formerly in love with her uncle and king, Richard III, must marry the man who murdered him in battle. She does her marital duty, bearing Prince Arthur in due course. But she does not love her husband and he does not trust her. As time passes and she gives him more children, she begins to care for him. However, her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, continues to plot for the House of York, throwing her support to any number of pretenders to the throne. Intrigues and spy networks surround the White Queen, and Henry VII is in a tough spot. How can he arrest his mother-in-law?

Having just read Gregory’s The Kingmaker’s Daughter, which I enjoyed very much, I will confess some disappointment with this latest book. Though told from Elizabeth’s point of view, a clear sense of Elizabeth, the woman, eludes me. It is somewhat repetitive and slow in spots, and more character development is desired for the mother of Henry VIII. And, though history leaves us little factual information about this woman of mystery, I would have hoped for a clear vision in Gregory’s deft hands. However, even with this flaw, the book is of interest.