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This is the second book in a series entitled `The Cousins' War', about members of the rival branches of the Plantagenets: the houses of York and Lancaster. The first book, `The White Queen' featured Elizabeth Woodville, who was married to the Yorkist King, Edward IV. `The Red Queen' is about the Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort, who became the mother of Henry Tudor (Henry VII). The House of Beaufort, of whom Margaret Beaufort was a member, was descended from John Beaufort, the legitimized son of John Gaunt (son of Edward III) and Katherine Swynford. Although the Beauforts were officially barred from inheriting the throne, they played an important role in the dynastic struggles (known as the Wars of the Roses) in fifteenth century England.

The majority of the story is narrated by Margaret and I found this irritating because I did not find Margaret particularly likeable. Margaret had a sense of her own importance from a very early age: envisaging herself as an English Joan of Arc; saving England from the Yorks and ensuring that the `rightful' Lancasters ruled. Still, it is hard not to feel some sympathy for a child married at thirteen and then a widowed mother at fourteen. Margaret's actions from then on, through two subsequent marriages, were aimed at negotiating the shoals of the ongoing wars between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians and ensuring that her son Henry was kept safe to fulfil his destiny.

The final chapters of the book, from a third person perspective, take the story to its conclusion at Bosworth in 1485. In some ways I enjoyed these chapters best: the story moves beyond Margaret and takes us beyond a personal account to the historical record.

Margaret Beaufort may not have been a particularly likeable individual, but as the mother of the founder of the Tudor dynasty, she was certainly influential.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on August 8, 2010
Source: Received for review from publicist. Many thanks to both Loretta and Michelle from Simon & Schuster for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 4/5

Margaret Beaufort is a cold, pious, and calculating woman. She has given birth to the Lancaster heir, and knows that she will be known as the mother of the future King of England. She believes it is her destiny to bring her son, Henry to greatness. However, the York family has grasped the throne from her hands. King Henry VI has succumbed to madness, and has been locked away in the Tower. Margaret's plans for the moment have been halted. However, she never stops working towards bringing Henry closer to the throne, as rightful heir. She walks a fine line, bringing people over to her cause, yet maintaining the appearance of remaining faithfully loyal to the York family.
At first glance, Margaret has known a hard life. Her mother only sees her as a vessel to be used to bear an heir and marries her off at an exceptionally young age. She then, having fulfilled her duty, also becomes a widow. She is wrenched away from her young son after his first year, and is married off again. She at this stage in the book, is a character that I pitied. She was shipped off from one place to the next, and gained the knowledge that her mother didn't care for her. She was mocked by many as she proclaimed she had "saint's knees" from praying so much, and for having visions of Joan of Arc. As I continued reading, I found that she evolved into a very radical, and stubborn woman. The circumstances of her early years may have caused her to become more zealous, but she also grew into a disagreeable and unlikeable woman. However, she also became one of the most influential characters in this time period, as she created the rebellion that ultimately led to her son being crowned King.
I applaud Gregory's skill at weaving history with fiction. She creates a thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere with the blend of history and fiction, making the story come to life as opposed to the dryness of a textbook. I enjoyed the perspective given in this book, however, having read both The White Queen and The Red Queen, I have to say, that I found Elizabeth of York an easier character to like. Regardless, Margaret was a strong woman, and she didn't let anything get in the way of procuring the throne for her son.
All in all, this was an excellent read, and Gregory's fan are sure to love this installment in the Cousins' War. It has left me wanting to read the next book, all the more.
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on November 26, 2010
I have read EVERY book from Philippa Gregory in regards to the Tudors dynasty. Therefore, I am a HUGE fan of the author and of this time period in England. I've read the White Queen and LOVED it! And like mentioned by others, it was so easy to fall in love with the character and the story of the White Queen. So, when you go on reading the Red Queen, what a contrast!

I'm not trying to say that Philippa Gregory didn't do a good job on this book, but she really managed to make me hate the character because Margaret Beaufort is really irritating! She's portrayed as a very unpleasant woman, with a very unfortunate life, and nothing exciting. There's no passion, no love story, or romance in this book because none of it happened to Margaret! And we can't reinvent history.

So if you love Philippa Gregory's books because of her well-crafted mix of history with fiction, and passion and romance, beware, you will not like this one! You will not like it simply because the character and her story is not as compelling as other Tudor characters.

Another disappointment is that having read the White Queen, you feel like you are reading the same story again but from Margaret's point of view. So there's nothing new. I would have loved to read more on once her son Henry becomes King and goes on to marry Elizabeth of York. I guess this could be another book!

So voila, a very well portrayed book of who the Red Queen might have been which will leave you hating the character :)
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on September 2, 2010
The more I read about Tudor England, the more fascinating I discover it to be. I've read historical books about royalty before and enjoyed them - Reay Tannahill's Fatal Majesty (about Mary, Queen of Scots) and The Seventh Son are just two, (I enjoyed the former more than the latter) but this book is different. Maybe because I recently started watching The Tudors and I'd just read The King's Mistress by Emma Campion (you can read my review of The King's Mistress here). They both piqued my interest and I wanted more. Then along came The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and now I can't get enough!

The first in this historical series is called The White Queen (which I have not read yet) and is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England and wife to King Edward IV. The Red Queen is Margaret Beaufort. She is born into the house of Lancaster and from an early age is raised to believe that she has one purpose - to bear a son who will one day rule England as the one true king. Her life is therefore dedicated to achieving this goal for her son, Henry Tudor, born when Margaret is just fourteen. She is blocked by the Yorks who want the kingdom for their line and so battles rage back and forth over the years. Never does she waver from her belief that her son is the only rightful heir to the crown.

I enjoyed this book tremendously for several reasons. It fed my growing addiction to historical novels about the royals and it was well-written and not overly romanticized. I found the writing to-the- point in that there was little description of gowns, styles, cloth, not to mention the various activities such as hunting and hawking that people spent time doing in that century. Depiction of life in the 1400's was shown rather than described.

My favourite character in The Red Queen was Margaret Beaufort's second husband, Henry Stafford. I found him very sympathetic and he was the only one I could relate to. Margaret thought him weak and a coward but the way he was written showed he had character and didn't buckle under prevailing opinions. During stressful events, he showed maturity while she displayed anger. And that brings me to Mary. I would say that the author did not write this character to be liked at all. Her one-track mind - getting her son on the throne - was unpleasant. Granted, her mother taught Mary that her only raison d'etre was to bear a son, and so I can see where she would have learned this righteous attitude. Still, the added distraction of this character using her piety and belief that God had ordained her son to be the one true king, just made her unlikeable. And now I'm curious - was her arch enemy, the white queen, equally unlikeable? Or was she a more sympathetic woman? Either way, the facts are known; I just have to read them!

The Red Queen is a must read for anyone who loves historical novels and it's a stand-alone book - you don't need to read The White Queen first to enjoy it. And for anyone who hasn't tried this genre yet - I'd say go for it!
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on August 19, 2010
I'm never sure when picking up a book by Philippa Gregory if I will like it or roll my eyes and mutter about historical accuracy or believable characterization. Well, I rolled my eyes; but I enjoyed "The Red Queen". Ms. Gregory's Margaret Beaufort was not a likeable woman. She had too great a sense of her saintliness. I agree that the real Margaret Beaufort believed her destiny was to rule through her son. She did style herself "Margaret R", as though She was Queen. I believe she was truly pious, that she acknowledged her sinfulness (as much as any noblewoman believed she could be sinful) and sought to be an exemplary Christian woman. She was arrogant about her state in the world, but not her state before God, unlike Ms. Gregory's character.

Ms. Gregory got the harshness of Margaret's character right. Also her determination to put her son upon the throne. The development of that character from "the girl with saint's knees" to "Margaret Regina" was enjoyable to read. If everyone, including her mother, saw her as merely a child-bearer of a male heir for the Crown, is makes sense that she hardened her heart and saw her daughter-in-law as the same.

Two quibbles though. Would Margaret, a Lancastrian and cousin to Kings Henry V and VI, have taken their enemy Joan of Arc as a spiritual role model? Joan defeated their armies and kicked them out of most of France.
And would Margaret, pious daughter of the church, think of marrying Jasper Tudor, her late husband's brother, without a dispensation from the Pope? Think of the mess Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon got into (Was the dispensation good or wasn't it? Did the Pope have the right to dispense with Biblical law or didn't he?)

It's worth a good read from the library. While you are at the library, check if it has Of Virtue Rare: Margaret Beaufort, Matriarch of the House of Tudor,The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby,The King's Mother: Memoir of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (1899),Life of Margaret Beaufort: Countess of Richmond and Derby, Mother of King Henry the Seventh (1839)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 6, 2011
I enjoyed this book but while reading it so many times what ran through my mind was how many wars have been fought in the name of God. It seems Margaret Beaufort seemed to have a very chatty relationship with God with an attitude if I stay on my knees long enough God will tell me what to do even if it consists of treachery, treason, and even murder. Hmmm....not the God I know. Just shows how confused people of that age were. Anyway re the book. I did not like Margaret Beaufort but I don't think Phillipa Gregory wanted us to. As a young girl she was treated terrible but even then she had grandiose ideas of being some incredible servant of God along the lines of Joan of Arc. I preferred the White Queen but I think that is because I liked the Elizabeth W and that was truly a love story.I could hardly believe Margaret's involvement and actual instigation of the murder of the Princes in the Tower. I don't think this is factual as no one knows for sure who murdered those boys, it could have been Richard. But there certainly is enough circumstantial evidence to assume Margaret played a role. I agree with the other reviewer that I enjoyed that last three chapters the best. Parts of the book were a bit tedious but still it all weaved an incredible story that changed history. I thought the characters were well described and believable. I too would have liked to have learned more of when Henry Tudor became king but maybe I need to hit the history books for that, or wait for Philippa Gregory to tell us. Bottom line? I liked this book and would recommend it.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon March 16, 2011
Book 2 in "The Cousin's War" trilogy

The second book in the series brings Margaret Beaufort, the heiress to the red rose of Lancaster to life. Narrated in her words, she tells her story commencing at the tender age of nine and continues into adulthood including her three marriages. She details her bitter struggle to ensure that her son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England.

The running theme throughout the book is Margaret's belief that she is another Joan of Arc, dedicated to her religion and loveless marriages in the pursuit of power. She feels personally abandoned by God and cheated out of her rightful position by her rivals but believes God's will is for her son Henry to lead the house of Lancaster to victory and eventually be crowned King and she will do anything to reach this goal.

Having enjoyed previous novels on the Tudor dynasty, I was looking forward to reading the role Margaret played in the continuous struggle for power and the barbaric methods used, a time when allegiance was here today, gone tomorrow.... Ms. Gregory's simplistic prose made it easy to follow the scenes and historical figures but unfortunately the storyline pacing is slow, repetitious and a tad boring. There are too many pages describing Margaret's ego and obsession with religion to the point it is a turn off. She is depicted as a cold, ambitious and unpleasant person but she must have had a conning side to live long enough to see her son reach the highest position in the country.....Reading became tedious as the story progressed.
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on August 17, 2014
Philippa Gregory's grasp of historic detail blends with her imaginative recreation of the main character, the Red Queen, Margaret in this unsentimental look at how this Queen rose to some power, schemed for ever more power and eventually...This Margaret believes she is beloved of God and if so, that's a good thing since she has no ability at all at loving those around her nor at being someone they want to love. When she finally wrestles with the notion that as a woman she will never hold the power she longs for, she places without pause the same halo of expectation and Divine Ordination on her only child, a boy.
This book is a study in character and in character development. I found myself disliking Margaret intensely and enjoying the read more for it.
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on September 20, 2011
I really enjoyed the red queen and the white queen. Was great to see the same story from both sides of the coin. Books are well written and draw you in. If you enjoy English history with a twist you will enjoy this.
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on May 15, 2011
After finishing "The White Queen", I read "The Red Queen" in 4 nights. I Love these books. I am an Historical Fiction nut, and these books are soooo intriguing! Definitely read "The White Queen" first.
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