Book Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

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.

I am so glad I found this series and this author.  It's my new mission to read all of Philippa Gregory's books---I love her blend of history, rumor, and fiction.  She combines these elements into a compulsively readable novel that I find impossible to put down.

I think the mark of a great author is their ability to make you care about a character whom you don't really like.  I did not like Margaret, the heroine and narrator of The Red Queen, but I found myself rooting for her time and again.  I wanted her to realize her goal of putting her son on the throne, and I wanted her to find love, or at least, find happiness.

The story starts with Margaret as a ten-year old girl, who prays constantly.  She has visions of Joan of Arc, and wants to be a saint, or at least an abbess.  Margaret is thrilled to discover that she has saint's knees (worn, wrinkly knees achieved by kneeling in prayer for hours on end).  She fasts every week and on holy days and spends many hours each day in prayer.

Margaret is dismayed to learn that she will be married when she turns twelve, and is expected to produce an heir for the Beaufort house and the Lancaster line to the throne.  She dedicates her life to putting her son on the throne, stopping at nothing (even ordering the murder of children!) to make Henry the king.

Margaret fancies herself a holy woman, high above all others, including Queen Elizabeth, due to her fastidiousness, education, prayer habits, life of sacrifice and superior birth.  Her high opinion of herself got old sometimes, but I had to admire her unflinching dedication to her cause.  The thing I found humorous is that she commits these atrocious acts and believes them to be done in the name of God.  I found her entire mindset to be very ironic.

I would recommend this book to fans of Philippa Gregory and fans of historical fiction.

Just One Gripe: 
Margaret was a supremely unlikable character.  The fact that The Red Queen takes place at the same time as The White Queen, made me want to go back and read Elizabeth, The White Queen's story again.  My second gripe is that the ending felt rushed.

The Best Thing About This Book: 
It's hard to define, but there is a compulsively readable element to Gregory's work which makes it impossible for me to put her books down.

Appropriate for a younger audience: 

Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Setting/Imagery: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Ending: 4/5
Total Score:  20/25


  1. I love this series too, although I preferred The White Queen to this one. Margaret Beaufort was a difficult character to warm to for sure!

  2. Great review! I've heard a lot about this series, and I love the sound of how history and fiction combine and play together in this story. I'll definitely need to try it! :)

  3. I've never read anything by this author. I should...but I have to be in the right mood for historical fiction...! Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I have really been wanting to read this after finishing The White Queen. Philippa Gregory's books are absolutely phenomenal and I'm glad you enjoy them as well :)

  5. one of the best author i´ve ever come across, the tudor serie is just wonderful!, i haven´t read the white queen, but i will soon

  6. I read The White Queen this summer, but I haven't gotten around to reading this one yet. I've read about 6 or 7 Phillipa Gregory books...I LOVE HER! I really enjoyed all the books about Henry VIII's wives. Fantastic!

  7. oh HELL yes. so so so glad to hear this book is good! okay so I know I'm late in knowing who this author is but I recently am huuuuugely into historical fiction..especially stuff like the duchess of devonshire and anything about queens princesses and royalty. well i'm going to start reading the constant princess soon and omg I am just so excited that she has all tehse books and series out! =D cant wait!!!

  8. Another amazing review and the Phillipa Gregory shrine is growing at my house too. First read The Other Boleyn Girl and have never looked back.


Word verification stinks--- but spammers are worse. Thank you for your patience!