The White Queen

Written by Phillipa Gregory
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Gregory’s newest entry is all about Elizabeth Woodville, told in her voice and with a few twists and turns.

Elizabeth is a commoner who we meet as a young widow with two small boys. That she is beautiful beyond description is apparent. Using that beauty, she is determined to snare Edward IV, newly made the Yorkist king of England, not merely because he is beautiful as well and she is drawn immediately to him, but because she seeks to ensure the survival and elevation of her own family, Lancastrians all, by becoming his queen.

The story of the woman many label “the Woodville Witch” is one of legend. That Elizabeth cleverly manages and manipulates Edward is the stuff of history. However, Gregory, a very talented writer, deftly develops Elizabeth into a sympathetic character from a history that is not always kind to her. A significant part of that characterization, though, is an embellishment on the “witchy” aspect of the Woodvilles. After all, how does a commoner manage to get, catch and keep the eye of Edward other than by magic and sorcery? A different perspective, perhaps, and a bit distracting.

While much is made of Elizabeth’s use of magic, much also is made of her tenacious fight for her family, and particularly for her children, two of whom are the two young princes who vanish from the Tower of London. Elizabeth’s relationship with Richard III, too, is an interesting read.

Clearly, Gregory knows her history and has done extensive research. True to time and place and well-written, this is a far superior entry to her last novel about Mary, Queen of Scots. That said, some of the writing is a bit pedestrian; it doesn’t grab you and keep you in its sway as did many of her earlier books. Overall, though, a worthwhile read and a different take on Elizabeth.