A labyrinthine journey through the York-Lancaster feud of 15th-century England from the point of view of its queens.
Biographer Gristwood (The Girl in the Mirror, 2012, etc.) pursues no fewer than seven remarkable women of note between the wedding of Marguerite of Anjou to Henry VI in 1445 and the death of Elizabeth of York, queen to the re-established Henry Tudor, in 1503. The War of the Roses was more accurately known as the Cousins’ War since, of course, everybody was related, descended from Edward III in some fashion, and convinced they had an equal shot at the crown. Gristwood allows several great matriarchs to take center stage between the vying for power by Lancastrians and Yorkists: Marguerite of Anjou, the strong, French-born queen who had to endure a humiliating return to France after her spineless husband was muscled out of the throne after the Yorkist victory at Towton; Cecily Neville, who would lose her husband but see her brilliant son prevail as Edward IV; and Margaret Beaufort, who jealously, devotedly schemed to dethrone Richard III in favor of her son, Henry Tudor. Moreover, there is the tremendously moving love story between Edward IV and commoner Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of the two subsequent young doomed princes in the tower. As Gristwood amply proves in this shrewd, rewarding study, alliances and ambitions involved women as much as men. The author also includes a glossary of select names and a “simplified family tree,” both of which will be particularly helpful for American readers.
A British historian nimbly makes sense and relevance out of the confoundingly entangled dynasties of the Yorks and Tudors.