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`I was born for this, my son was born for this.'
on August 16, 2010
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.