“The Red Queen” by Philippa Gregory is historical fiction set during the time of the Cousin’s War where the Yorks and Lancasters battled each other for the right to the crown. The Cousins War paved the way for the Tudors. “The Red Queen” follows Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII of England and it is the second book in the Cousin’s War series. What I really enjoy about historical fiction is, since I do not have a strong grasp of history, everything is still a surprise! Not to mention, I really enjoy Philippa Gregory’s writing. I think she mixes fact with fiction well and her writing often inspires me to spend time reading up on the history she writes about.
From a young age, Margaret Beaufort has her duties and loyalties engrained into her mind. When she is being married off her mother lectures her: “…you must know that you could never choose your own life. You are a girl: girls have no choice. You could never even choose your own husband: you are of the royal family. A husband would always have been chosen for you. It is forbidden for one of royal blood to marry their own choice. You know this too. And finally, you are of the House of Lancaster. You cannot choose your allegiance. You have to serve your house, your family, and your husband.” (The Red Queen, pg 24).
Despite knowing her fate from a young age, Margaret still wallows in the unfairness of it all. “A parcel – taken from one place to another, handed from one owner to another, unwrapped and bundled up at will – is all that I am. A vessel, for the bearing of sons, for one nobleman or another: it hardly matters who. Nobody sees me for what I am: a young woman of great family with royal connections, a young woman of exceptional piety who deserves – surely to God! – some recognition.” (The Red Queen, pg 53). I liked this passage. I think it exhibits well the kind of person that Margaret Beaufort is. She struggles with the duties that she was born into, and allows herself to wallow a bit. But she always points out that she has ‘exceptional piety’ and therefore knows the Will of God. Her relationship with religion was fascinating in my mind. The way that she was portrayed made it seem like praying was something she did to have the appearance of piety, where in reality, it was all an act. She tried so hard to prove that she had a special connection to God and she used this to prove how things must go her way because God Wills it. Multiple times while reading this book I felt my eyebrow raise up at some of her reactions to different events, and the way that she wove the world around her into a fictional truth, and that she knew what was best because of the special relationship she held with God.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, I really enjoyed reading “The Red Queen”. I think that Margaret Beaufort is a remarkable character and it was a lot of fun trying to guess what she was going to do next. I think that Philippa Gregory’s writing is easy to get into and she makes history, (which I always thought was boring), absolutely mesmerizing! This is the second book in the series, so I would recommend you start with “The White Queen”. The way that she tells her stories makes it helpful, but not completely necessary, to start at the beginning. I am already planning out which of her novels I will read next. I think that Philippa Gregory is a great author to try out if you’ve never read historical fiction before.