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The Red Queen: The Cousins' War    by Philippa Gregory order for
Red Queen
by Philippa Gregory
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

As a child Margaret Beaufort desires a life of holiness, but her family doesn't take her seriously. Margaret's destiny, her mother insists, is to marry and produce a son, a young kinsman to the King of England who will be in direct line to the throne since Margaret is heiress to the Red Rose of Lancaster.

At twelve Margaret is married to Edmund Tudor, a favored half-brother to King Henry VI. Edmund is twenty-five. Their alliance is intended to produce a child with royal blood from both parents. King Henry is already fighting a trance-like illness that comes and goes, causing challenges to his reign, the strongest being from Richard of York. After King Henry's son, Edward V, Margaret and Edmund's son will be next in line for the crown.

Margaret is lonely at Lamphey Palace in Pembrokeshire. Except for the two servants she brings with her, the rest of the staff speak only Welsh. Edmund and his brother Jasper are always riding to battle to keep the king's peace against uprisings throughout Wales. When they are home she is all but ignored except when Edmund, in stupor from drink, visits her bed at night.

At last Margaret is pregnant. But before the child is born, Jasper sends word that Edmund is ill with the plague and that Lamphey Palace will soon be under attack. She is forced to fee to Pembroke Castle. Edmund dies before their child is born.

While Margaret labors to give birth to her son, it is once again brought home to her that her role in life is to be a vessel for a future king. Her delivery is difficult, so should there be a choice of whether to save the child or Margaret, the child will live. Although this was not unusual, Margaret is stunned that she is so little valued.

Margaret is allowed few choices about her life and soon leaves Pembroke Castle to marry again - this time an even older man, Henry Stafford. She must also leave her son, who is under the guardianship of Edmund's brother Jasper. One battle she does win is to name her son Henry Tudor, although Jasper wants him named after Edmund.

Her only consolation is that Jasper loves her son like his own. After Edmund's death and Henry's birth, Margaret and Jasper become friends. He tells her that he keeps faith with his family, his king, and his country, in that order.

As a child and later as an adult, Margaret's mother is cold to her, never offering love or advice that would benefit her personally. Despite her mother's example and her loss of access to her son, Margaret manages a more loving relationship with him through letters and the few visits they have together.

During her life, Margaret marries three times. All of her marriages are political and after Henry is born, her life is spent furthering her ambition to be the queen mother, with Henry as King.

As a child, Margaret aspires to be a saint, comparing herself to Joan of Arc, and spending hours on her knees in prayer. Despite her pious beginnings and her belief in God's will, Margare's desire to bring her son to the throne often forces her to assume that God's purpose is the same as her own.

Margaret Beaufort's story is told almost entirely in first person beginning when she is a nine year old child. Readers will pity her, dislike her, admire and root for her as she lives an incredible life. Gregory's research has produced an exciting historical novel.

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