The White Princess, by Philppa Gregory (#5 Cousins’ War Series)

The White Princess
The White Princess, Philippa Gregory
Historical Fiction
544 Pages
Published: July 2013
Goodreads Page
Buy on Amazon.com

Political history has never been of particular interest to me, that’s generally why I never enjoyed ‘American History’ classes. I don’t necessarily enjoy such recent history (unless my new fiancé is telling me about it – his fascination with things automatically intrigues me) – I generally prefer ancient history…the older, the better. I’d never really considered learning anything about English History, or the monarchy of any country really, it never crossed my mind. After reading my fourth Philippa Gregory novel, however, I find myself captivated by the history. This is the beauty of books – changing people’s perspectives all the time.

The way I used to view Old English Monarchs::

A bunch of old guys and ladies wearing ridiculous outfits that looked heavy, arrogant, and proud.

The way I view them now::

Real people, who really existed. They had brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers – they had enemies and lovers – alliances and betrayals – fears and pleasures. Their lives at the time weren’t ‘He was such a scoundrel he murdered his wife’ or ‘He was the greediest King to ever rule England’ – there were every day struggles, a constant weight of custom and expectation weighing down upon them. They were at times insecure, other times certain of their convictions, but always having to ‘act’ their roles in the kingdom. The King and Queen could never be seen as weak – could never be questioned, always respected and revered – to question them was treason, but who was to tell them what was right, what to do? What a standard to live up to!

This particular novel, The White Princess, is told through the view of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, through her marriage to Henry VII, who stole the crown from her Uncle Richard III and founded the Tutor Dynasty (that is a lot of old guys in one sentence, eh?). This is the furthest in history the War of the Roses series has come so far, and I believe Gregory’s Tudor series takes over from here, although there is at least one more novel, The Last Rose, to be released in the Roses series.

Although this installment had plenty of scandals, mystery, rebellions, and emotion, it was not my favorite. Of all the books I’ve read so far, The White Princess reminds me most of The White Queen, which is the story of The White Princess’ mother, also named Elizabeth. What I was expecting to find out from this novel, is apparently impossible to know for sure. What happened to the princes in the tower?? This is apparently a question never answered with certainty in history.

Although I thought certain elements of the story were almost brutal (and apparently there is no historical support for them), the creativity and story weaving of Gregory is like magic. Yes, she can be a little repetitive, but I find that actually helpful in novels like these, where the reader is not necessarily familiar with the social structure of the times. For example, I think there are less than 5 names in the entire novel that are not Margaret, Edward, Henry, Elizabeth, or Richard, and there are a lot of active players in this novel. We have to know whose title is who’s, who their alliances are, what their ‘job’ may be, if they’re loyal to the king or under suspicion, if they have children, where they may fall in succession to the throne, etc. etc. Repetition of these facts when they’re important really seemed to help me understand what was going on when it was important to know.

I definitely recommend Philippa Gregory’s work. It’s fiction, of course, so don’t come into it thinking she’s just plotting facts, like a hundred historians before her; she brings them to life, shows us their possible motivations, makes them real to us, hundreds of years later. Every time I finish one of her books, I have the serious compulsion to pick up another right away.
They’re good ;-)

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4 thoughts on “The White Princess, by Philppa Gregory (#5 Cousins’ War Series)

  1. I have a strange relationship with history too. I love reading historical fiction and watch period dramas but I’m not that enthused about actual history for I always seem to quickly stumble upon something that makes me cringe and feel very lucky to be living right now. The past is a bleak, bleak place.
    I haven’t enjoyed the Gregory I’ve read – I think her writing is just not my cup of tea (too repetitive, as you said, plus too simplistic) and the time period she chose is of no interest to me (I’m a 19th century – beginning of 20thc person, if anything).

    What’s going to be your next Gregory book? :)

    • Ruby, which of hers did you read? I think I’m going to read The Other Boleyn Girl – that’s the only other I have except The Kingmaker’s Daughter, but now that I know how that one goes, I’m not as excited to read it.

      What are your favorite historical fiction books? Perhaps I’ll add a few to my To-Read list :-)

      • Well, I read The Other Boleyn Girl actually! I’m a bit surprised it was such a bestseller. I really can’t stand her writing but don’t take my word for it, lots of people loved it!
        For straight historical fiction I really, really love the Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman, which is YA. Tracy Chevalier is unique, she’s a bit… cold for me but her books are always worth reading if you haven’t. She explores very random eras of history and it’s always interesting. I like Remarkable Creatures – which focuses on two female paleontologists who struggle to get recognition in the field in 19thc England – the best.
        I like mysteries a lot so at the moment most of the historical fiction I read is in that genre. The Charles Lennox mysteries are good, as is the Mary Russell series, the Enola Holmes ones (YA) and the Maisie Dobbs one (first three 19th century England, last one 1920s England). I also like historical fantasy especially set in my pet eras – recently, Tooth and Claw blew me away (Regency England with dragons) as well as the Temeraire series (Napoleonic Wars with dragons again, coincidence I promise). In YA, the Leviathan series is excellent for alternate WWI.

        Most of what I read is set in the past or some version of the past so I have lots of recommendations! Not too fond of stories about the monarchy though so I can’t give you

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