Book Review – ‘Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: a True Romance’ by Amy Licence

Amy Licence 'Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville'Amy Licence, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: a True Romance (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2016) ISBN 978-1-4456-3678-8

First off, apologies, Amy, for being so tardy on my review when you so kindly sent me a review copy! I wanted to get it just right.

I first fell in love with Amy Licence’s writing after reading her book ‘In Bed with the Tudors’. She has a knack of writing in a different way about things that have been written before, but she can make it seem completely new and exciting.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve developed an interest in the Wars of the Roses. I’ve generally thought it too complicated, but it is books like this one that have helped to change my mind – it’s engaging and gives you the basics without feeling like you’re back in school!

But this book isn’t just about the battles and conflicts of the Wars of the Roses, it’s about something simpler – the love of a man for a woman.

~ * ~

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

Starting with the visuals, I love the simplicity of the cover. Sometimes it feels like busy covers are trying to cover or make up for something, though perhaps that’s just me! I also love the chapters; clear and concise so you know exactly what’s coming up next. I don’t really see the point in trying to make clever chapter titles when the content is such much more important!

In content, Licence covers all of the key sections of the relationship between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She makes it very clear which parts of the story are established fact, and which are her own opinions, or rumours from the time. This often becomes confused in some books, with historians putting across their own opinions as fact. Licence examines the lives of Edward and Elizabeth before they met, and how this may have impacted later events. Particularly with Elizabeth Woodville this is a rare insight into something which many historians gloss over, preferring to concentrate on the more heavily documented, mysterious and controversial aspects.

But how can we hope to understand later thoughts and actions without an understanding of how they came to be who they were?

Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.

Licence gives us an insight into this question, even if she doesn’t mean to. It’s a clever and subtle retelling of the Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville story. It’s takes a talented writer to manage to intertwine so many different threads into a coherent whole; often books on the Wars of the Roses period are quite dry, with so many battles and people involved. It often becomes a blur, and the personalities of the people involved often get lost. Edward IV was probably one of the best kings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but his reign often gets glossed over, with people preferring to focus on the more popular Tudors, or the controversial Richard III.

Licence manages to bring these figures from the past back to life in a fresh new way, not dealing just with the politics, but with the family relationships and the cultural and social changes of the fifteenth century. It makes for an engaging and gripping read, well worth the time if you have even a passing interest in history, and a book I will definitely make use of in my own research and writing.

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