The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family

Written by Susan Higginbotham
Review by Phyllis T. Smith

In 1464, Edward IV announced he had wed Elizabeth Woodville, an event that, for better or worse, would impact English history. The Woodvilles, often described as rapaciously ambitious, have long fascinated historical novelists, and it was time for an engaging nonfiction book about the family. Susan Higginbotham has written just that. This account begins with the love match of the parents of the future queen – Richard Woodville, a mere knight, and his social superior, Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford. We watch the family go through hair-raising changes of fortune during the Wars of the Roses, and meet fascinating characters who figure in the story, some well-known – such as Richard III, Henry VII, and Elizabeth of York – and others rescued from obscurity. The book concludes with Elizabeth Woodville’s death, a year after the birth of her grandson Henry VIII.

Vivid details, quotes from primary sources, and flashes of the author’s dry wit bring the Woodville saga to life. The author is careful to distinguish between verifiable fact and conjecture and takes a clear-eyed, balanced look at historical controversies. Combining meticulous scholarship with deft storytelling, The Woodvilles will be relished by both history buffs and historical fiction fans.