Book Review: The White Queen

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory was published in 2009 and is 408 pages.  It is a shining example of Philippa Gregory at her best, managing the delicate balance of history and story with ease and style. 

The story begins in the spring of 1464, when the proud and beautiful widow, Elizabeth Woodville, catches the eye of notorious womanizer and fearless soldier Edward IV.  Edward is a descendant of the York line, and his family’s feud of cousins became known as the War of the Roses.  Elizabeth’s family is of the Lancastrian line, who had been at war with the York’s.  But in this fast-paced historical novel, it is clear that switching allegiance to preserve family comes as easily as the changing seasons.

The novel chronicles the rise and fall (and rise and fall, again) of Elizabeth and Edward and their many children.  Their sons became the victims of one of history’s greatest mysteries when they disappeared without a trace.  Their daughter, Elizabeth, eventually became the queen who mothered Henry VIII. 

Woven throughout the text of The White Queen was the story of the goddess Melusina, of whom Elizabeth Woodville and her mother believed themselves to be descendants.  It added an interesting element of fantasy to the story, and broke up the weight of the historical facts.

Gregory is an acclaimed historian and Tudor expert.  Her meticulous research comes through within the framework of her fiction.  As always, I am in awe of her balance of history and story, and look forward to the next book in the series.


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