The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Title:  The Red Queen
Author:  Philippa Gregory
Release date:  August 3, 2010
Publisher:  Touchstone
Pages:  400
Genre:  Historical fiction
Source:  Library

This second novel in Gregory’s Cousins’ War series focuses on Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, grandmother of the infamous Henry VIII.  Having seen these same events through the eyes of Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen, Gregory now gives us a peek into the other side of the story.  Margaret, who wanted to be a nun from her youngest days, is forced into marriage at age twelve, and widowed a year later.  But out of this union came her son Henry, whom she believes is destined by God to be the king someday.  It is with this belief in mind that she does just about everything else in her life – from the marriages that she ends up in, to the political decisions she makes, to how she cares for her son.  Everything, for her, is about power, and about destiny – the destiny that she believes God has in store for herself, her family, and especially her son Henry.

Philippa Gregory may not be a literary genius, but when I pick up one of her books, I know what to expect, and there’s something about that which is extremely comforting.  I know I can trust her to deliver an interesting look at a character in history, perhaps it might not be 100% accurate, but I will certainly be entertained. The Red Queen delivered exactly that, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

Honestly, I didn’t like Margaret at all.  I just didn’t appreciate the fact that her behavior was so out of sync with her beliefs.  She believed to the core of her soul that Henry was destined by God to be King – but she behaved as though it was up to Margaret herself to get him there.  Perhaps I’m crazy, but if something is destiny, wouldn’t it follow that it will happen, no matter what the obstacles?  Instead, Margaret made it her mission in life to make sure that Henry would eventually get that power.  Based on the way she was portrayed in The Red Queen, she was one of the most selfish people in history.  Every single decision she made was with her own interests in mind.  I just didn’t understand how she could be so unbelievably selfish and also be so devout.  To me, a belief that deep in God would mean that you are selfLESS, you are working towards His kingdom, not your own.  But Margaret didn’t think that way.

Even though I didn’t like the main character of this novel, I was still extremely immersed in it and had a difficult time putting it down.  As always with historical fiction, the battle scenes are my least favorite parts and the drama in the palaces and the houses is my favorite, and The Red Queen provided me with plenty of drama.  I enjoyed seeing the same events that Elizabeth described in The White Queen through Margaret’s eyes.

I enjoyed The Red Queen and I will definitely be reading the next book in The Cousins’ War series.


15 thoughts on “The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory”

  1. I’ve never read anything by Philippa Gregory yet, but I’ve heard that The Other Boelyn Girl is a great place to start… but this one looks very tempting as well, though I often have difficulties with books with unlikeable characters. I’ll give it a shot!

    1. I would agree that The Other Boleyn Girl is a good place to start. That was the first of Gregory’s books I read, and it turned me on to trying all of her books. They aren’t all as good as that one, so I would absolutely start there.

      1. I think my problem with The Other Boleyn Girl was knowing too much of the history going in. It really bugged me, for example, that she decided to switch the birth order of the girls. I think if I could have gotten past those things, I wouldn’t have minded the story. I loved the intrigue and the imagery.

        1. If you read more of her books you will find that she tends to, shall we say, play with the facts a bit. But if you can get over that, you’re good to go. 🙂

  2. Philippa Gregory writes books which are pure fantasy. They are NOT about real history. Any relationship between people living or dead is purley conincidental! When will people realize this?!

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