Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Tour and Review: The Women of the Cousins' War by Philippa Gregory

The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother

My thoughts:
The Women of the Cousins' War was written to bring to light the "truth" behind the women featured in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War trilogy, The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Lady of the Rivers.  Jacquetta (The Lady of the Rivers), Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen), and Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen) take center stage in this exploration of their lives and how they were very much a part of the Cousins' War, or the Wars of the Roses.  I have to admit to not knowing much previously about the Wars of the Roses except for the most minute details.  I found the accounts of the events very interesting and thorough in this book.

While Philippa's "essay" was supposed to be about Jacquetta (mother of Elizabeth Woodville), her section really centers on the unfolding of the events in the Cousins' War...we really do not learn too overly much about Jacquetta.  However, I don't fault Gregory for this, as she does state in the introduction that very little is known about Jacquetta.  What Gregory does reveal about Jacquetta is that she was a loyal and staunch woman who bore fourteen children--a major feat in that era.

I found that David Baldwin's account of Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV and mother to the princes in the tower and the future queen of England, Elizabeth, mother to Henry VIII) was the most interesting, as he explores both sides of what was said about her.  On one hand, she has been maligned as a witch, that she obtained her marriage to Edward IV through sorcery and that once she achieved such high status, she became a cold and calculating person.  However, in some accounts of the time, she is portrayed as a generous and charitable woman who was patron to many religious institutions.  She also had a great love of learning and the written word.

The final woman featured in the book by Michael Jones, Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry VI and grandmother to Henry VIII), would seem to have had one end in mind and that was the advancement of her son, Henry.  According to Jones's account, this was quite the truth.  Throughout the maneuverings of the Wars of the Roses, Margaret had only one goal and that was seeing her son on the throne and, as we know, she succeeded.  Margaret was the most tenacious of the three women, in my opinion.

In conclusion, I have to say that I enjoyed this book thoroughly.  I now have more knowledge about the Wars of the Roses (the Cousins' War) and I look forward to reading more about the all the other individuals who were involved in the events.  Also, I have not yet read Gregory's Cousins' War trilogy (although I own two of the three books) and I feel that when I do, this book has given me great insight into the true events behind the fictionalized stories in the books.

The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael Jones

Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a royal duchess who married beneath her for love and became mother of a queen. In this unique presentation Philippa Gregory uses original documents, site visits and even archaeology to create the first biography ever written of the young duchess who survived two reigns and two wars to be the first lady at two rival courts.

Elizabeth Woodville was a widowed mother when she married the young King Edward IV. Her two sons are infamous as ‘the Princes in the Tower’, but little is known of her own life. David Baldwin, established author on the Wars of the Roses, tells her story, that of the first commoner to marry a King of England for love.

Michael Jones, fellow of the Royal Historical Society, writes about Margaret Beaufort, whose official story is powerfully bland. Yet she committed treason against an ordained King of England and her son, Henry VII, became the first Tudor to take the throne.

In an introduction by Gregory, she discusses her life’s work: history, and the writing style she loves: historical fiction. She answers many of the questions posed by her readers and history scholars alike:

What is the difference between writing history and historical fiction? How much of a role does speculation play in each? How much fiction 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. It offers fascinating insights into the inspirations behind Philippa Gregory’s fiction and will appeal to all with an interest in this period.

About the authors:
Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a tv drama, and a major film. Now, six novels later, she is looking at the family that preceded the Tudors: the magnificent Plantaganets, a family of complex rivalries, loves, and hatreds.

She lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Visitors to this site, Philippa become addicted to the updates of historical research and the progress of ducklings.

Her other great interest is the charity that she founded nearly twenty years ago: Gardens for The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells in the primary schools of this very dry and poor African country, and thousands of school children have been able to learn market gardening in the school gardens watered by the wells. The charity also provides wells for womens’ collective gardens and for The Gambia’s only agricultural college at Njawara.

A past student of Sussex university, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh university, her love for history and commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for the Washington Post, the LA Times, and for UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website, (source)

Visit Philippa on WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | YouTube

David Baldwin taught history at the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham for many years, and is the author of four books dealing with people and events of the Wars of the Roses, including the acclaimed Elizabeth Woodville, Mother of the Princes in the Tower. (source)

Michael Jones did his Ph.D. on the Beaufort family, and subsequently taught at the University of South West England, the University of Glasgow, and Winchester College. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and now works as a writer and media presenter. He is the author of six books, including The King's Mother, a highly praised biography of Margaret Beaufort, which was shortlisted for the Whitfield Prize. (source)

Tour in conjunction with....

FTC Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book in conjunction with Crazy Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  I was not monetarily compensated for providing my opinion.


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  1. I love reading about this time in history and all of these women are fascinating. I have read one of the books in Gregory's Cousins' War trilogy and I liked it. I think I would enjoy this one as well. Thanks for the great review.

  2. I have this one and now I'm really looking forward to it! Thanks for the great review.

  3. One of my favourite authors, I confess I hadn't heard of this particular book, away to add it to my wish list now.

    Oh and thanks for dropping by my blog, I'm really looking forward to your Christmas Spirit Challenge.

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