This is the second of the series of the Cousins War books by Philippa Gregory and tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, part of the Lancaster line and how she was to mother another future King (Henry VII) and her quest to put him on the throne.
Initially it’s easy to feel sorry for her, married off at the age of 12, a mother by the age of 14 and widowed the same year then married again just 12 months later! A whirlwind of a life when most modern girls are still working out what boys are for J Each husband is more than twice her age and it’s mentioned many times that women are simply around to marry for duty and give birth to family heirs. There is no such thing as marrying for love. Margaret has no say in her own life. As a small child she desperately wants to be a nun and give herself over to God, however as she is a direct descendant of the current king Henry her mother only wants her to give birth to a future king. Indeed, such is the desire for a son that it’s mentioned by her mother to let her die if it means saving the child.
Margaret is the complete opposite to Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. While Elizabeth has a child practically every year, Margaret only has the one. Elizabeth marries King Edward for love and Margaret marries 3 times for duty and for ways to further her own son’s rise to the throne. As she ages I found her to be very unlikeable. She derides Elizabeth for her desire for power yet all Margaret’s life is focused on the goal of putting her son Henry on the throne. This is a child she didn’t nurture and very rarely saw. During her second marriage she was with her son once a year then as he got older and fled to Brittany after a failed rebellion she didn’t see him for many years. Yet her ambition never waned.
She refuses to take responsibility for any of her actions believing that everything she does is God’s will and that He talks to her and no one else. In the end all her plans and vanity works in her favour. It may take approximately two decades but the books ends (not a spoiler – its British history 🙂 ) Henry finally becomes King.
This takes nothing away from Gregory’s writing. Like The White Queen the story covers the decades quite quickly and she writes with a very easy style. It’s also good to read about the other side of the story and the Lancastrian part of the War of the Roses. Elizabeth was very glamorous and Margaret very pious. I liked the book; it’s just a shame about the lead character.