Today Alison Weir’s latest book on Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World was released in the United States. I’ve been reading an advance copy, and it is marvelous. If you enjoyed my posts on Sansa, I highly recommend Weir’s book and Amy Licence’s new book (more below).
Not to be effusive, but I think Alison Weir is truly at the height of her writing powers. She’s always been a great writer, so it is impressive her style is even smoother and more delightfully readable than ever. Her latest book is sparkles with the life of this forgotten queen. But, it is also judicious, balanced, and moderate. I think Ricardians won’t find it as offensive as they found The Princes in the Tower. Interestingly, she has backed off or downplayed her theory there was incest between Richard III and Elizabeth of York.
Weir’s book covers Elizabeth of York’s life from birth through childhood to her queenship and her death in childbirth. Weir really brings the relatively obscure early years of this pivotally important queen to life. For example, Elizabeth Woodville was so proud that her daughter, Elizabeth of York, was expected to marry the dauphin and become Queen of France one day that she repeatedly asked the King of France when she could send her daughter to him.
I’ve also been reading Amy Licence’s recently released Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen, which while short, is delightful. Like Weir, Amy Licence is a great narrative historian. In fact, Licence’s work is so readable that she writes regularly for the New Statesman and the Huffington Post. Licence’s book is chock-a-block full of evocative details that vivify the entire period. For example:
- Elizabeth Woodville’s emblem was the pink carnation (aka the gillyflower).
- Elizabeth Woodville’s married up on an ironic day to do so. May 1st or May Day was a date when the lowly held power over those on high: servants switched places with their masters, women ruled over men, etc.
- In London, they named streets after trades with signs for those who could not read. Twenty-two percent were employed in various forms of food provisioning (inn keepers, vintners, bakers, butchers, etc).
Licence also discusses the cause célèbre witchcraft trials of Jacquetta Woodville and Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester. Her description of the Readeption is one of the best I’ve read.
At any rate, this brief review doesn’t do justice to either book, but I just wanted to quickly let you know about two great finds. If you have the time, do yourself a favor and get both books. Both are marvelous reads about a woman who vanishes among the shadows of her father, uncle, and son; a queen who gets lost in the divide between Lancaster and York, even though she brought them together.
By Jamie Adair