Book Review: The Red Queen (The Cousins’ War)

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Title: The Red Queen

Author: Philippa Gregory

Publisher: Touchstone

Publication Date: 2010

Synopsis: The Cousins’ War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series – The White Queen – but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses.

The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England.

Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees to a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth’s daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty. 

Rating: 2/5

Review: Honestly, I have never met character that I despised as much as Margaret Beaufort. At the beginning, I thought her dedication to God in spite of everyone putting her down, including her cold, calculating mother, was endearing and her strength when giving birth at 13 years old and coming close to death was admirable but that’s where it ended. In this book, Margaret believed that she was an equal to Joan of Arc and that, if life had been different for her and she wasn’t made to marry, she would have been just as great. However, when her desire to simply serve God is taken away from her, she sets her sights on being able to sign her name Margaret Regina by making her son, Henry Tudor, king. This sounds great in theory, but what follows is pious, devout drivel from a woman who passes judgment on everyone, believing them all to be inferior to her in every way.

In a nut shell, Margaret is a horrible, selfish woman who thinks of no one but herself. Aside from Jasper Tudor, who she claimed to love, everyone else was used for her own gain including her son. Her second marriage to Henry Stafford could have made her happy if she wasn’t so blood-thirsty and so “driven for greatness”. As a character, Henry Stafford is sweet, thoughtful and simply wants to live his life peacefully , however, he is married to Margaret who makes his life miserable by insisting he fights for her son and turning against him when he refuses to commit treason for her. I really felt for his character and it made me dislike Margaret even more.

Margaret’s final marriage is exactly what she wanted and what she deserved – a marriage of convenience. She marries to get Henry Tudor on the throne, she marries a man who has no loyalty to anyone but himself i.e herself in male form. For me, it gave me a sense of joy when her husband sided with the king and took everything from here; that may sound very harsh but this woman had elevated herself so much, believed herself to be saintly and was creating a world of misery for those around her, she needed to be knocked down several pegs.

In all, the story was OK, for want of a better word, just focused on Margaret’s personal gain through God, but the most enjoyable part was the battle description at the end. It was exciting and you really felt the anticipation in the air, it put me on edge even though, a as history lover, I knew the outcome. It was just intolerable how it ended with Margaret gaining her Queen Mother status she felt she was entitled to and deserved! I have never felt so angry that a character who is so selfish and cold achieved what they set out for.

Gregory’s portrayal of this woman left a lot to be desired because she gave Margaret a selfish, pious nature and simply expanded on that rather than creating a complex character. I felt she could have been so much more, there was so much potential for her to have been a strong woman who broke the typical conventions of her time but it was not utilised. I felt 2 stars was all it deserved.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Red Queen (The Cousins’ War)

  1. I HATED this book sooooo much!! And exactly for the reasons you mentioned! Margaret’s character was extremely selfish and pious and not expanded on at all unless in that nature. I totally forgot about her early life in this book, but you mentioning it made me remember and I agree with you that that part was well done. I do like other books in this series, but not this one 🙈 nice review!

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