Angela Roberts, Purdue University Global Writing Center Tutor
The White Queen is a historical fiction novel by Philippa Gregory. It provides a fascinating account of the life of Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who marries the Yorkist King of England Edward the IV, in 1464. Gregory weaves the historical facts of the wars of the Plantagenets in with a mystical fiction surrounding the couple.
Elizabeth is a beautiful young widow whose first husband died fighting for the Lancastrian side in one of the early Cousins’ Wars (aka Wars of the Roses). She falls in love with King Edward, the Lancastrian enemy, and they secretly marry. Edward’s advisors and family never accept Elizabeth and when he dies unexpectedly, her family is in danger. Edward’s oldest son with Elizabeth becomes king; however, Edward V is only 12 years old. So Edward’s brother Richard becomes protector of England until Edward V comes of age. This never happens because Edward and his brother are taken away from Elizabeth to the Tower of London. They are never seen again. Edward’s brother Richard becomes king, so Elizabeth believes he had her sons killed.
Elizabeth is descended from Melusina, who was a river goddess in European folklore. Gregory uses this myth to add a mystical element to the novel that helps to give Elizabeth some power in her male-dominated world. Elizabeth’s mother was caught with some lead figures for charming (or using magical powers), and some people believed that her daughter used this enchantment to become the queen. Many people believed in the power of witchcraft during this time in English history. This is another reason Edward’s family and advisors disliked Elizabeth and wanted power taken away from her family.
I wanted to read this novel because I love the historical fiction genre and have always wondered what happened to the two lost princes. It is a longer novel that contains many historical facts about the people and battles of the wars; however, I would highly recommend it.