THE WHITE PRINCESS – Philippa Gregory
A Cousins' War Novel
A Perfect 10
England During the Reign of Henry VII
Richard III is dead and buried in an unmarked grave, and the victor of Bosworth field, Henry Tudor, is the new king of England. But the crown doesn't weigh comfortably on his head until he shows the citizens of his country that he deserves to rule. The best possible way to imprint on everyone that the houses of Lancaster and York are united is to marry a York princess. And so Henry, controlled by his mother, Margaret Tudor, and his late father's brother, Jasper Tudor, weds Princess Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV.
Elizabeth is hardly enthused about this arrangement, but as a true royal, something even Henry realizes when meeting her, she knows her duty is to wed the man who killed the king she loved. Henry is hardly the ardent bridegroom, as he is too busy worrying about who is plotting against him. It doesn't help that he has his famous, or infamous, mother-in-law, Elizabeth Woodville, living in the palace, showing everyone her icy calmness in the midst of the hatred emanating from Henry's mother. For the former queen has friends, and some of those friends may be hiding her youngest son out of the country so that someday, somehow, he will return to reign as Richard IV.
Caught between two powerful queens, her mother and her mother-in-law, Elizabeth walks a tightrope not wanting to show preference to her family, yet not exactly warming to her new relatives. Henry's mother has spent most of her life fighting for her only son to be in, what she believes, is his rightful place as King of England. But treachery and rumors keep the Lancaster side paranoid and, at times, delusional about how many plots are cropping up against them. Instead of a calm, confident ruler, the English people see a frightened, nervous man surrounded by men his mother has handpicked.
The new Queen Elizabeth tries her best to direct her husband's paranoia away from her and her family, but it isn't easy when her mother's name keeps showing up in reports of a young boy being sheltered in Europe—a young boy who others say looks like a York.
Even the birth of their first child, a boy, doesn't ease Henry's fears. He is cool towards Elizabeth from the first, but she isn't much better in her response to him.
THE WHITE PRINCESS is the latest in The Cousins' War series, and it's one of the best. Elizabeth is the narrator, and readers are well aware of her feelings from the beginning. Her love for Richard III is difficult to forget as she marries his killer, and Henry knows this only too well. He distrusts her and her family, as he distrusts nearly everyone who wasn't on the battlefield with him that day. The dialogue and characterizations are realistic, as are the descriptions of everyday life in the new court. If I had to quibble about anything it's how many times Elizabeth is made to sound less bright than she obviously was when she repeats things being told to her by Henry back to him, as if she doesn't understand what he's saying. And I must say that I didn't envy either Elizabeth or Henry living with the mothers-in-law they had!
All in all, this was an informative, historically fascinating novel. I highly recommend THE WHITE PRINCESS.