The Red Queen
by Philippa Gregory
Sequel to The White Queen, reviewed in August 2009
Margaret Beaufort is of the House of Lancaster, and in line to inherit the throne. A religious zealot from a young age, she’s convinced that she will one day be a great saint, like Joan of Arc, destined to save the English in their time of need. The trouble is that no one else – not her mother, not her cousin the King, and certainly not her future husband – perceive her near-divine status. At the tender age of twelve, she marries Edmund Tudor, an ‘old man’ at twenty-four, and is shipped off to live in isolation in Wales. By the time she’s fourteen, Margaret is mother to a son, Henry, and a widow. She becomes determined to see her son Henry Tudor on the throne of England, and with his uncle Jasper raises him as a young prince. But the House of Lancaster is in decline; her cousin is now a former King, deposed by Edward IV, severing Margaret’s claim to the throne. But Margaret has God on her side, and she will see her son on the throne, and nothing – not Queen Elizabeth’s witchcraft, her husband’s desire for a quiet life, or the sons of York – will prevent her from becoming Margaret Regina, the King’s Mother.
Lady Beaufort is an extremely unlikeable character. She believes that God has singled her out for greatness, and nothing will convince her otherwise. Thus, she is filled with Holy Ambition, but to anyone who isn’t Margaret it would be called arrogance. She is obsessed with restoring the House of Lancaster to glory, since King Henry IV was an anointed, saintly ruler, even though it’s clear her cousin is mad and England has prospered under Edward. Margaret completely lacks self-awareness; everything is about her, and she cannot possibly do anything wrong, because she is the most pious woman in the kingdom and England’s Joan of Arc.
Margaret becomes fixated on the idea that one day, she will sign all her letters as letters as Margaret R, or Margaret Regina, and she repeats this over and over and over and over again. She has a similar obsession with the idea that she is England’s Maid of Orleans. She repeats these beliefs constantly, like a mantra.
If you read The White Queen, you’ll recognize most of the characters because both books cover roughly the time period. It’s interesting to contrast Margaret Beaufort’s interpretation of events against Elizabeth Woodville, since the two women supported different kings but lived together at court, as friends, for many years. The Red Queen can also stand alone, but Margaret is a difficult woman to like, so I really recommend reading both books if you can.
3 out of 5 stars