GANEIDA'S KNOT.

Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

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.

15 comments:

Ruby said...

Don't know if I will read that one since it takes a strong stomach! However, it has whetted my appetite for a good historical book on the hols. Must look around. Any suggestions? I am not as clued in as you so time periods aren't so important. Have you read Elizabeth and Mary, Csusins, Rivals and Queens by Jane Dunn? that was the last book of this type I read and really enjoyed it.
Have a great weekend!

Ganeida said...

Ruby: I don't know Dunn but have ordered that book from the library. I need recommendations as I have a lot of waiting time to fill in. I like Gregory because she was an historian first & is reasonably accurate. Her books are highly readable but the period is gory. It's not particularly graphic but it is set in the middle of the Wars of the Roses & lots of people come to rather sticky ends. Ick.

Ruby said...

LOL! I am reading Rosemary Sutcliffe's Frontier Wolf to the boys. Yikes...why do I do that to myself? Hacked off heads on pikes etc.

Jo said...

I tend to avoid these books as I never sure how accurate they are- do you think they are historically correct? I have been watching the History of Britain and find it so fascinating. I wouldn't want to live in many of these era's but it is so interesting.

Ganeida said...

Ruby: Oh well, if you can do hacked heads on pikes... ☺

Jo: Gregory is a PhD of Edingburgh Uni & while, being fiction, her books aren't annotated she provides a detailed bibliography & often historical notes at the back. Obviously there will be some things that aren't exact. After all she is telling a story but overall she's not bad.

Ganeida said...

Oops, Jo: Meant to add you can check out her website here:
http://www.philippagregory.com/living-room/

Ruby said...

I just checked out her website ~ so now I have many titles to choose from! Thanks Ganeida!

Ganeida said...

Ruby: lol I hope you get a book you enjoy. I find Gregory's style highly readable & very easy to not put down while cramming in a lot of information. I haven't really had a dud with her though I wasn't all that fussed with The Red Queen. I have several of hers so if you want one of those I'll send it up. If you are squiffy about witchcraft you might want to avoid The White Queen wich uses rumour & old superstitions as a base for the main story~line but as it is based on fact ~ as in this was a dominating rumour at the time & certain "coincidences" concurred with other things. Interesting but be warned. Anne Boyelyn, of course, was also rumoured to dabble in witchcraft. Seems to have been a handy accusations when someone wanted to do away with you. %(

Ruby said...

I have eyed off the Other Bolyn Sister for years but was a little put off by the rauchiness of the movies trailers. I never saw the movie for that reason. Is the book too bad in that respect. It's a hard one as it is probably realistic, it just depends on how it is handled I guess.
I do not like witchcraft per se but of course with many historically based books there is an element of it, whether fact or fiction.
Will wait till my little holiday jaunt is over and hit the library. I am doing some lighter reading at present.
Might take you up on the loan but don't send them....when we meet again will be fine:-)

Ganeida said...

Ruby: I have the Other Boleyn Girl. It is not sexually graphic [haven't seen the movie so can't comment on that] but it is a politics of sex & intrigue manipulated by powerful & ruthless men who are perfectly happy to sacrifice their own flesh & blood in their efforts to rise to even greater power.

I think half of Henry's wives were accused of witchcraft but they were superstitious times. I don't have problems that way. Half of history & archaeology is all about strange religious customs. What is fascinating is how people believe affects how they act.

Ember said...

:0) When I was a teenager, I lived in the place where Edmund Tudor was born. His mother, Catherine de Valois, fled for safety to the palace of the Bishop of London, where she gave birth to Edmund.
The Palace and its outbuildings were with the passing of time made into a complex of private dwellings. My family lived in what had been the groom's cottage and our vegetable garden, situated in what had been the medieval stables, grew very nice veggies!
I loved its sense of history, and had those buildings very much in my mind when I wrote my Hawk & Dove trilogy set im medieval England.

Jeanne said...

Interesting reading your comments, girls. I've put this on my list. I actually like the mediaeval period of history, but I rarely read historical fiction because I worry about accuaracy. This sounds good! (Albeit gory!)

Ganeida said...

Ember: How very exciting! I love that sense of history in England. Everywhere is special in some way or another. Not my favourite period. I think life was extraordinarily hard for everyone but particularly for women.

Jeanne: If you link to her website you can click on her historical notes for each novel which is helpful in seeing the pov she takes & why. There is also an extensive bibliography. I don't read a lot of historical fiction for the reasons you mention but as this isn't my period I don't find too many clunkers.

seekingmyLord said...

Have you ever read Sharon Kay Penman's fictional books on medieval history?

Ganeida said...

Seeking: No. I'll add her to my authors to try ~ & Ember's, of course! ☺ I have several of Ember's NF on my *want* list. ☺