Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her Lancaster house is the true ruler of England, and that she has a great destiny before her. Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of all time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and awaits his opportunity to win the greatest prize in all of England.
The Red Queen is a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.
From a young age, Margaret Beaufort can swear that angels whisper in her ears and she has visions of the ill-fated Joan of Arc. First and foremost, Margaret knows that she was born to a magnanimous destiny and that God is calling her to a life of holiness. She is a great figure of inspiration and light, for all around her to emulate. A pious individual, she swears that she is halfway to being a saint but for some reason or another, life gets in the way. Worst of all, at best, her mother dismisses her as merely being a minor annoyance. In short, no one takes her seriously.
Margaret is the daughter of the deceased Duke of Somerset and Lady Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. For years, the dowager duchess and her daughter have been loyal supporters of the current king of England, Henry VI, who is known as “the Sleeping King.” He and his wife, Margaret of Anjou are the leaders of the Lancastrian faction. The other faction within the realm of England is the Yorkist faction, headed by Richard, the Duke of York, and his kinsmen, Richard, the Earl of Warwick (known to history as “the Kingmaker.”) England is rife with tension as Henry constantly falls into long periods of sleep, leaving the country to be ruled by Margaret who is considered an untrustworthy Frenchwoman. A great storm is gathering over England and, unsurprisingly, war is on the horizon.
Despite the tense political climate in England, Margaret grows up with her coldhearted mother in relative quiet. She is not only ignored and neglected but she is far from respected by those closest to her. When she turns 12, she is married off to a young man who is twelve years her senior by the name of Edmund Tudor, a half-brother to the king. From the beginning of their marriage, she lives in a rather wild Welsh castle called Lamphey and has no one but herself for company. Edmund is constantly spending time with his younger brother, Jasper, who adores him exceedingly. The male camaraderie causes the young Margaret to feel left out and virtually ignored in all facets of life. Eventually, she becomes pregnant and it is only then that Edmund spares any time to even consider her, promising that he will obtain for her anything that she desires.
The gathering clouds over England have created a storm as the Wars of the Roses breaks out amongst the two factions. Sir William Herbert claims Wales for the Yorkist faction which forces Edmund and Jasper to hasten to war in order to reclaim land. Not long after, Edmund is captured by Sir William and there is talk of a plague having broken out in the general area. Eventually, Margaret orders the entire household to move to Pembroke Castle where they will be safe behind stone walls and it is there that she brings her child into the world. After three days of constant labor, she produces a beautiful little boy, who she names Henry, which she states is the perfect royal name.
From the moment of his birth, Margaret is convinced that one day her Henry, who happens to be a Lancastrian heir (after Edward, the Prince of Wales), will become the King of England. It is then that she has a vision that her life purpose is to raise that little boy up to be a worthy heir of the house of Lancaster. Very shortly after, Jasper writes to Margaret to convey to her that her husband Edmund has died from plague at Carmarthen. As such, not long after receiving the terrible news, she is told by her mother that a new match has been arranged for her, to Sir Henry Stafford, son of the Duke of Buckingham. When Margaret begins her life with her new husband, she is exceedingly unhappy to have to leave her son, who is to remain in the keeping of Jasper Tudor. Why can she never live her life purpose? Why is it always out of grasp? Will Margaret ever obtain her desire of seeing her son on the throne?
The Red Queen is most definitely a book that is rich with history and portrays a lady in the 15th century, in a very troubled time. Author Philippa Gregory delivers to readers a very engrossing tale about a woman who suffered a great deal and depicts the life of a medieval noblewoman. From the very beginning of the story, Margaret reflects upon how women are merely chattel and property to their husbands. They must go wherever they are bid by their husband and it is something that Margaret faced, “a cross she had to bear,” as Margaret often said. What it lacks for in romance, it makes up in a strong heroine who has the determination of a fierce lioness, driven to come out on top. The fantasy aspects of this particular story are a number of visions that the heroine witnesses as well as the angels, who lend a supernatural aspect. Upon my first time reading this particular book, I questioned if Margaret Beaufort was crazy with her visions. However, should you choose to read this book (which I wholeheartedly recommend that you do), I will leave that decision up to you.
In its entirety, The Red Queen is best as a novel. While it was a fantastic read and it caused me to adore the heroine, it fell flat in several areas. It would not fare very well as a series or a major motion feature picture unto itself. As odd as this suggestion may be, The Red Queen would very likely be best when presented as a play with a talented and impassioned actress to portray the tempestuous but passionate Margaret Beaufort.
Content Note: There is sex and violence in this novel and is therefore not for everyone.
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (2010)
Genre: Literary, Historical, Fantasy
Author Website: www.PhilippaGregory.com
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