Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World
By: Alison Weir
Format/Source: galley courtesy of Ballantine Books via NetGalley
Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.
Her birth was greeted with as much pomp and ceremony as that of a male heir. The first child of King Edward IV, Elizabeth enjoyed all the glittering trappings of royalty. But after the death of her father; the disappearance and probable murder of her brothers—the Princes in the Tower; and the usurpation of the throne by her calculating uncle Richard III, Elizabeth found her world turned upside-down: She and her siblings were declared bastards.
As Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, was dying, there were murmurs that the king sought to marry his niece Elizabeth, knowing that most people believed her to be England’s rightful queen. Weir addresses Elizabeth’s possible role in this and her covert support for Henry Tudor, the exiled pretender who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth’s subsequent marriage to Henry united the houses of York and Lancaster and signaled the end of the Wars of the Roses. For centuries historians have asserted that, as queen, she was kept under Henry’s firm grasp, but Weir shows that Elizabeth proved to be a model consort—pious and generous—who enjoyed the confidence of her husband, exerted a tangible and beneficial influence, and was revered by her son, the future King Henry VIII.
Drawing from a rich trove of historical records, Weir gives a long overdue and much-deserved look at this unforgettable princess whose line descends to today’s British monarch—a woman who overcame tragedy and danger to become one of England’s most beloved consorts.
Alison Weir’s quite an awesome and thorough historian, having written many history books about medieval and early modern English kings, queens and families. Her book The War of the Roses actually helped me wade through all of the families and figures involved in the fighting so naturally I was curious about her latest title. Seemed timely too as Elizabeth of York’s parents were Edward IV and Elizabeth of Wydeville, the two principal characters of the recent series The White Queen that aired on Starz. I was approved of an ARC of this title from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available on 3 December.
Once again Alison Weir has compiled a book that goes into great detail about the life of Elizabeth of York and the world in which she lived in. The reader gains a very in-depth sense of the challenges she had to face, both late into the War of the Roses, and later as Queen. Sometimes it can be a little too meticulous as details of the royal coffers and the types of fabrics bought at the celebration of Prince Arthur’s birth, but it’s a valuable resource for historicans who specialise in the period. It also gives the reader an idea of the sort of luxuries that were at the disposal of the monarchs during this period and the way they celebrated holidays and carried out their duties as sovereigns of the realm.
What’s also interesting about this volume is how this book isn’t just about Elizabeth but also about the people around her. There’s quite a bit of extrapolation going on as there’s not a lot of material to go on concerning what’s really going on in her head at the time. One thing is for sure, she was greatly loved by the people and everyone around her; she did her duty and was perceived as an ideal queen and woman but fundamentally she was a woman who tried to do her best. That is the core of this book. Weir argues that because she’s not as vocal or as fierce a presence as, let’s say, Elizabeth I, she gets rather forgotten or overshadowed in the course of reading about these great historical figures.
Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World is an interesting and informative non-fiction title that not only sheds light on the life of the mother of Henry VIII but also reinforces a lot of details about the War of the Roses. It can be a bit dense for some readers not entirely familiar with the period or of titles with plenty of names and dates but it is a very rich volume that will be of great interest for students and researchers of the period as well as readers of history.