Wednesday, June 12, 2013
PHILIPPA GREGORY and her fellow historians describe the extraordinary lives of the heroines of her Cousins’ War books: Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford; Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV; and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.
In her essay on Jacquetta, Philippa Gregory uses original documents, archaeology, and histories of myth and witchcraft to create the first-ever biography of the young duchess who survived two reigns and two wars to become the first lady at two rival courts. David Baldwin, established authority on the Wars of the Roses, tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the first commoner to marry a king of England for love; and Michael Jones, fellow of the Royal Historical Society, writes of Margaret Beaufort, the almost-unknown matriarch of the House of Tudor.
In the introduction, Gregory writes revealingly about the differences between history and historical fiction. How much of a role does speculation play in writing each? How much fiction and how much fact should there be in a historical novel? How are female historians changing our view of women in history?
The Women of the Cousins’ War is beautifully illustrated with rare portraits and source materials. As well as offering fascinating insights into the inspirations behind Philippa Gregory’s fiction, it will appeal to all with an interest in this period.
Since I've read a number of historical fiction titles over the years about Henry IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Richard III and the Nevilles, Lady of the Rivers (about Elizabeth Woodville's mother, Jacquetta, and her husband Lord Rivers,) The Red Queen (Margaret Beaufort) and numerous other stories about the Tudors, Plantagenets, etc., I found this book quite historically engaging. I would have rated it higher, but it took me over a year to finish reading it. Not because it wasn't interesting, but because of the many details including references and historical events. It takes me a lot longer to read non-fiction for this reason. Regardless, I think it helped illustrate the backgrounds of several prominent women during the Middle Ages and their political aspirations/issues. I would highly recommend it for history lovers, particularly those interested in the politics of the 14th and 15th centuries. It also has lineages and pictures in the book, which added to its appeal.
The Women of the Cousins' War was published by Touchstone and released in Sept. 2011.