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This is actually the one book in the series I least wanted to read. The rest cover the period of when Elizabeth rose to prominence as Queen of England and as events unfolded afterwards. A story in the middle of her mother’s life just seem to be going backwards. However I ended up enjoying it more than The Red Queen.
I loved Jacquetta and the story of her life from her first marriage to the Duke of Bedford and being widowed young to her second husband (the Duke’s squire) Richard who was the great love of her life. Marrying for love and to a man much lower down the social scale was for Medieval England (and up to maybe 100 years ago) hugely frowned upon. Even Richard himself was wary. In the end Jacquetta had to get herself pregnant to enable her marriage.
And what a surprisingly fertile woman she turned out to be! When reading The White Queen for our local radio book club a friend commented that she lost track of the number of Elizabeth’s pregnancies. I was ok with that one but Jacquetta far outdid her in the child bearing stakes. Twelve I believe the final tally was. This book however didn’t dwell too much on the pregnancies and the woman’s role to procreate; rather they were the backdrop and a sub plot to Jacquetta’s friendship with Queen Margaret of Anjou and her need to have a child to solidify her husband’s reign.
Surprisingly to me was the lack of elements of witchcraft that Jacquetta performs herself. In The White Queen she trains her daughters in the arts of scrying and spells however while she does have some second sight for seeing into the future she never to me seems to be very good at it. I think this element could’ve been played up much more than it was seeing as she was meant to be such a good teacher to her family.
An interesting part of the story is the beginning and the young Jacquetta’s relationship with another accused witch, Joan of Arc. Friendship is the underlying theme throughout this book and it must have been awful to pretend that you are not heartbroken to see someone you care about being burnt at the stake just because your family has to be seen to be doing the right thing. It’s difficult in this day and age when we have much more power over our own opinions (in the majority of places) and how to voice them.
The backdrop to the friendship of Jacquetta and Margaret is the beginning of the Cousins war and the mysterious illness of King Henry. Modern day Layman’s thinking seems to me like he was catatonic brought on by too many shocks to the system; losing France in battle and his wife being consoled by another man however I have no idea what the medical modern day thinking is. But the thing I took from those parts of the story are the shocking ways in which doctors and alchemists try and raise the King from his sleeping state; forcing boiling liquid down his throat; draining the blood, burning various parts of him – it just felt like torture and I ended up sympathising with him much more than anyone in the book. Give me modern medicine any day!
I’m glad I decided to give this book a try to discover the origins of the Cousins war and the births of future Kings & Queens. It gives the later stories a bit of perspective and rounds out the series quite nicely. Can’t wait to start the next one!