The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Cousin's War #2

The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty

Another fantastic book by a master of the genre.

The Red Queen basically tells the same story as The White Queen*, but this time from a polar-opposite angle. Here, Margaret Beaufort of Lancaster House is the narrator and she is utterly mad, zealously devout and painfully bitter about her lot in life - a huge difference from the charming and rather successful Elizabeth Grey who got intimate with the House of York in its glory days. (Quick history lesson here, York & Lancaster, the white and the red rose, are bitter enemies and compete for the throne of England. They both descend from Edward III and are thus all cousins).

Where The White Queen finds herself in the midst of things, The Red Queen is far more detached and watches from afar as things unfold. Convinced of her own importance and connection to God (surely she is chosen and thus her will is his) she plots and schemes and is the ultimate cause of many wars and deaths. Margaret is determined to regain the throne from the usurping House of York and claim the throne for her son.

Gregory paints yet another amazing portrait of an era and of a woman who never gave up fighting for what she believed to be rightfully hers. The characterization of Margaret is so perfect and particularly her religious devotion and reflections are brilliant.

In short, I loved it, but because it feels a bit more distant from the actual happenings of the time and thus less fast-paced I can't quite give it a full 5 stars.

392 pages / published in 2010
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2011

*Just realized now that I never reviewed that book, because I read it before setting up Borough of Books. Will get around to doing that soon (tm).


  1. I listened to The White Queen on audio and loved it, Phillipa Gregory is one of my guilty pleasures! :P

  2. I've enjoyed both of these books, but not as much some of her other books, I also thought they were less complex and complicated. I liked The Red Queen better than the White Queen, mostly because I was more interested in the story of Margaret, and how amazing it is that despite nearly loosing it all so many times she eventually succeeded.

  3. @Sam - she is such an enjoyable read :)

    @mummazappa - I'll agree this series isn't the best of them all, but it's still very captivating. I think it's just the way she so perfectly portrays the main characters' thoughts and feelings, you can really feel with them in all her books.


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