“The Red Queen” by Philippa Gregory

 

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Internationally bestselling author of “The Other Boleyn Girl,” Gregory has been renowned for the quality of her historical fiction, with richly drawn female characters determined to reach beyond their expected roles in life in order to direct the course of the English monarchy.

 

In the NYTimes bestseller, “The Red Queen,” Gregory travels back to the War between the Roses and views the conflict from the vision of the would-be queens behind the thrones of the family of Plantagenets. The first in the series, “The White Queen,” told the story of Elizabeth Woodville. “The Red Queen” reveals the life-long ambition of Margaret Beaufort, the heir to the House of Lancaster and her son, Henry, who was second in line to the throne of England.

 

In the 1400’s, even women from important families were merely chattel; their hands in marriage (and therefore lands and wealth) given as a reward for loyalty to the king in battle. Beaufort was unable to identify with the life planned for her and after hearing about the exploits of Joan of Arc, wanted to devote her days to prayer. Her mother ridiculed her faith and engineered a politically and economically advantageous marriage instead.

 

Married, pregnant and widowed by the age of fourteen, then widowed again and bequeathed a great fortune, Beaufort was married a third time to Lord Stanley, a man even more calculating than she. She had no say in the management or distribution of her wealth, but her maniacal single-mindedness to place her son on the throne drove her life, and her fanaticism kept her focused for over twenty years. Stanley’s ambition mirrored her own and their scheming defined their loveless marriage.

 

Gregory deftly illustrated the changes in Beaufort’s life by describing the worktable: “…once covered with books of devotion, it (was) now covered with maps and codes for secret messages.” Beaufort herself recognized her sins of ambition and greed, but placed blame for all her problems on the mother of two boys who had an equal claim to the throne.  Boys who mysteriously died a treacherous death in the Tower of London, clearing the way for Henry to return from exile and fight against the usurper, Richard III, to claim his birthright.

 

Murder, intrigue, bribery, war – actions committed for the right to wear the crown. More bloodthirsty and politically savvy than most of the hardened warriors she sent off to champion her cause, Beaufort fervently engineered it all.

 

Visit www.philippagregory.com for more information about her books, the new ‘Order of Darkness’ series, and TV shows based on her work.

 

 

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