The White Queen (Novel) Review


I recently finished reading Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, which the recent television drama is based upon.

I found it relatively engaging, but it was a little disappointing for me. Unusually, I felt that it was done better on screen.

'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory (2009).
‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory (2009).

Genre/s: Historical Fiction / Romance / Drama / Mystery

Setting: Grafton & London (England).

Characters: Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV, Richard III, Anne Neville, Elizabeth of York, George Duke of Clarence, Isabel Neville, Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, Henry VI, Cecily Neville, Jacquetta Woodville, Anthony Woodville, Thomas Grey, Richard Grey, Prince Richard, Edward V.

Storyline: Elizabeth Woodville is a Lancastrian commoner who marries the Yorkist King Edward IV in the midst of the Wars of the Roses i.e. the Cousins’ War. The Earl of Warwick, the ‘Kingmaker’ hates the marriage and plots against Edward to instead bring his brother to the throne. With their downfall, other plots spring up and after Edward’s death Elizabeth has to deal with the fact that her son, the King, has gone missing, and his uncle is in his place.

Point of View: Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV.

Strengths: The characters come to life very well, particularly Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York and Edward IV. I loved how Gregory tackled the Princes in the Tower, although not very historically accurate, it was gripping and offered an alternate explanation. I also thought that the perspective was very good; the reader only knows what Elizabeth Woodville herself knows, which keeps us guessing as well as the characters in the story.

Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.
Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.

Weaknesses: The historical accuracy is disappointing, although there is obviously a lack of surviving sources on the period, particularly relating to the Princes in the Tower, so writers do make use of historical license and rumour. Some minor characters appeared to be too minor, like the Earl of Warwick and Anne Neville, who both played a part in Elizabeth’s fate, and that of her children. I felt that they could have had a larger and more important role. Some parts were skipped over, like most of the Earl of Warwick’s rebellion.

Overall Rating: 16.5 / 20.

Recommend? Yes. A great light read, though I wouldn’t put too much store in accuracy.

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10 thoughts on “The White Queen (Novel) Review

  1. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Many thanks, However
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    1. Yes, it is engaging, but not very historically accurate in places. I normally love Gregory’s writing – I couldn’t put ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ or ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’ down! I’m not really sure why I found this one more disappointing, but it is still engaging!

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        1. Again, it’s not very accurate, but Gregory’s style is engaging. Possibly I enjoyed this one more because I know the story of Anne Boleyn so well, but it was also possibly because of the Mary Boleyn angle. I suppose it’s a matter of personal opinion really, and what you enjoy reading.

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