This was my destiny: to put my son on the throne of England, & those who laughed at my visions & doubted my vocation will call me My Lady, the King's Mother, & I shall sign myself Margaret Regina, Margaret R. ~Margaret Beaufort.
Having enjoyed the White Queen enormously I thought I'd try The Red Queen. Not my period of history. I do dislike the Medieval period. Full of wars & nasty characters & downtrodden women & I have yet to come across anyone or thing I feel the remotest sympathy for. Besides everyone seems to be using one or other of just a handful of names & it all gets very confusing even before you add in the various names & titles people were known by. Just so you know. And I have to admit I'm not overly fond of either the Tudors or the Lancaster's though I do now actually understand what the Wars of the Roses was all about & why they even bothered.
Like the good little Aussie I am my understanding of this period began & ended with Henry VIII ~ he of the many wives ~ & my first introduction to Gregory's work was The Other Boleyn Girl ~ before it became a movie & popular by default; a book I enjoyed. I was on reasonably familiar territory with Arthur behind & Elizabeth before but step back several generations & I was in pretty uncharted waters. I know why I never really got intrigued by knights & jousts, castles & fair maidens. It was a pretty nasty, violent & sexually exploitative world. To say nothing of the offence to my sensibilities their version of Christianity affords.
So this is the story of Margaret Beaufort, cousin to a Lancaster king & in a direct line to the throne. She is 12 when she is married to Edmund Tudor & banished to his remote castle in Wales. By 14 she has born him a son, Henry Tudor. Having managed to get that far I was reeling in disgust. I have major issues with thinking a 12 yr old girl still playing with dollies is suitable marriage material & though, of course, I knew this was the norm for those times it wonders my soul that no~one ever made the connection with unformed, immature childish bodies & the high death rate of young women in child~birth...but I digress.
It is impossible to like Margaret ~ or at least Gregory's version of Margaret ~ & as a scholar she has certainly researched her material, as the bibliography attests. She is an utter nut case. Smart, but convinced she is next thing to an oracle of God, forever on her knees & pontificating about how pious she is & how much time she spends on her knees, utterly convinced God means for her son to be the next king of England, never mind the 4 other contenders between him & the English throne. No wonder religion gets a bad name with people like her ranting on. Digressing... This book tended to infuriate me, while remaining highly readable.
What Gregory is very good at is making absolutely clear the familial relations that are at the heart of the war & the inadvertent cause of the initial squabble for the throne. The most interesting aspect of this period is whatever did become of the Princes in the Tower ~ & whether, in fact, young Richard was ever there in the first place. Gregory speculates, on rather thin evidence, in The White Queen that his mother sent a serving boy in his place & smuggled her youngest son out of the country. It is rather irrelevant because even if that was managed the boy never managed to rise enough to contend for the throne.
It is conniving Margret who by hook or by crook manages to set in motion the events that put young Henry Tudor on the throne of England ~ & by default begins a dynasty whose end product was Elizabeth I & a culture stable enough to produce the likes of Shakespeare, Drake, Raleigh & Donne. Just the same, for me the overall impression is one one of disgust: at the power driven madness, at the self~delusion of all the main protagonists, at the deceit & lies & betrayals, at the religious hypocrisy & downright cruelty & the casual disregard for the lives of ordinary people. Ugh. This book requires a strong stomach. Read it at your peril.