Book Review – ‘The White Princess’ by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory's 'The White Princess' (2013).

Also published on my sister blog

From the bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl comes the haunting story of the mother of the Tudors, Elizabeth of York, wife to Henry VII. Beautiful eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville – the White Queen – the young princess Elizabeth faces a conflict of loyalties between the red rose and the white. Forced into marriage with Henry VII, she must reconcile her slowly growing love for him with her loyalty to the House of York, and choose between her mother’s rebellion and her husband’s tyranny. Then she has to meet the Pretender, whose claim denies the House of Tudor itself. [Description from Waterstones]

I’d heard mixed reviews about ‘The White Princess’ before I started reading it and, to be honest, I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not. There were parts that I really enjoyed like the furore over Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick at the end, but it took me a while to get into it.

I found the beginning slow and it felt like Gregory was adding sensational details to try and hook the reader, which I didn’t think were necessary. The character of Elizabeth Woodville really annoyed me in this one, which she didn’t in ‘The White Queen’ so I’m not sure what changed, but I loved the character of Maggie Pole and I am now quite looking forward to reading her story in ‘The King’s Curse’ by Philippa Gregory, as I think she was a very intriguing woman and her own story doesn’t seem to get told, except as part of the wider story of the Tudors. It’s about time someone wrote a fictional account of her life.

I actually prefer her Tudor novels to her Wars of the Roses novels, perhaps because there generally seems to be less sensational detail in them. I think this was my least favourite of the Wars of the Roses novels because it seemed a little forced in places. Nevertheless I was engaged in the story because I wanted to know what Gregory would put in the story next. Knowing the facts as well as I do it was like a guessing game for me.

What I did find very interesting in this novel was the portrayal of Henry VII – he is often seen a miserly old man, but in this account he is shown to be passionate, manipulative, angry and quite fearful. There are also suggestions that he didn’t really want to be king, but believed it was god’s will. Gregory’s account of Henry VII’s manipulation of Warbeck does fill in some of the gaps in the historical record which cannot really be explained.

If you want to read fictionalised accounts of key figures in the Wars of the Roses or the Tudor dynasty, then pick up a book by Philippa Gregory. Just beware of some of the more sensational details, but they are generally enjoyable to read, and I enjoyed listening to this one on audio book as well.

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