I had the privilege of attending Philippa Gregory’s book launch for her new novel, The Red Queen, in Cape Town on Friday evening. A large crowd assembled in the upmarket Exclusive Books store at Cavendish Square shopping centre to meet Philippa and buy signed copies of her new novel. A sparkling, petite, yet feisty woman engaged elegantly with the audience and held everyone in rapt attention as she explained ‘Why the Tudors?’, ‘Why Mary Boleyn?” and more particularly in relation to her latest novel, ‘Why Margaret Beaufort?”
A self-confessed feminist, Philippa explained that there are many remarkable women in British history who have never been written about in history books. In the Tudor era, women had no rights. They were the property of their fathers, who would marry them off to a man of their choosing, through whom a good family alliance could be made. From that point on women belonged to their husbands who were even allowed to beat them. So in writing about these determined and ambitious women, particularly when one considers the environment in which they lived, Philippa feels that she is doing due diligence to them in some small way. Without her novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, for example, Mary Boleyn would have remained the insignificant, un-talked about sister of Anne Boleyn.
The Red Queen Review
Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.
Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife’s train at her coronation.
Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.
In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and cold-hearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.