Book Review – ‘The Woodvilles’ by Susan Higginbotham

Susan Higginbotham 'The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family'
Susan Higginbotham ‘The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family’

Higginbotham, Susan, The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family (Stroud: The History Press, 2015), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-7509-6078-6

Title: It is clearly about the Woodville family, the most popular members being Elizabeth Woodville and her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg. They were very active during the Wars of the Roses, and became infamous when the Lancastrian commoner, Elizabeth Woodville, married the Yorkist king, Edward IV.

Preface: The introduction is short and to the point, outlining the rise of the Woodville family and their time at the top. There hasn’t really been a book about the Woodville family before so this is the first of its kind. It is made clear that the Princes in the Tower won’t really be discussed because there is already a lot of literature on them already.

Citations: The citations are clear and concise, with extra information in the footnotes which add some small tit-bits of information. More primary texts used than secondary, which means that a lot of the information in the book comes from the actual times.

Contents: It is a useful and interesting extra with the wills of the Woodville family. I liked the titles of the first two chapters – an interesting comparison about the rise of the Woodvilles “Duchess and the Knight” and “King and the Widow”. Also some interesting choice of chapter titles like “Under the Hog”. The chapter titles immediately give a sense of the violence of the Wars of the Roses.

Susan Higginbotham
Susan Higginbotham

Genre/Audience: Aimed at a more scholarly audience than a general audience. The sheer amount of sources and information packed into quite a small book means that people who only know the basics about the Wars of the Roses could be easily confused. It combines being a history book with essences of biography, as Higginbotham explores the different personalities that made up the Woodville family.

Concepts: People know about Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York, as Queen Consorts, but less is known of Katherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham, and Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. This book tries to remedy that by exploring what is known about them, and trying to fill in the gaps.

Sources: The notes and bibliography are very comprehensive and it is easy to track down the sources used from the information given. Sources divided down into primary and secondary sources, printed and unprinted. There is a huge range used in this research.

Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.
Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.

Illustrations: The selection of images is very wide-ranging, from portraits to places to stained glass windows and letters with signatures. I have seen the majority of the images before, but not all in one place. It’s just a pity that all the images are in black and white.

Other works: Susan Higginbotham has written fiction, including The Traitor’s Wife (2005), Hugh and Bess (2007), The Stolen Crown (2010), The Queen of Last Hopes (2011) and Her Highness the Traitor (2014). There aren’t really any books written on the Woodville family, but David Loades has written a book on the Boleyn family and Robert Hutchinson has written a book on the Howard family.

My Rating: 16/20

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