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White Queen (Gregory)

The White Queen: (Cousins' War, 3)
Philippa Gregory, 2009
Simon & Schuster
432 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781416563693

Summary
Philippa Gregory, "the queen of royal fiction" (USA Today), presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the War of the Roses.

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

With The White Queen, Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series from this beloved author. (From the publisher.



Author Bio
Birth—January 9, 1954
Where—Nairobi, Kenya
Raised—Bristol, England, UK
Education—B.A., Sussex University; Ph.D., Edinburgh University
Currently—lives in the North York Moors, Yorkshire, England


Philippa Gregory is a British historical novelist, writing since 1987. The best known of her works is The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), which in 2002 won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Early life and academic career
Philippa Gregory was in Nairobi, Kenya, the second daughter of Elaine (Wedd) and Arthur Percy Gregory, a radio operator and navigator for East African Airways. When she was two years old, her family moved to Bristol, England.

She was a "rebel" at Colston's Girls' School where she obtained a B grade in English and two E grades in History and Geography at A-level. She then went to journalism college in Cardiff and spent a year as an apprentice with the Portsmouth News before she managed to gain a place on an English literature degree course at the University of Sussex, where she switched to a history course.

She worked in BBC radio for two years before attending the University of Edinburgh, where she earned her doctorate in 18th-century literature. Gregory has taught at the University of Durham, University of Teesside, and the Open University, and was made a Fellow of Kingston University in 1994.

Private life
Gregory wrote her first novel Wideacre while completing a PhD in 18th-century literature and living in a cottage on the Pennine Way with first husband Peter Chislett, editor of the Hartlepool Mail, and their baby daughter, Victoria. They divorced before the book was published.

Following the success of Wideacre and the publication of The Favoured Child, she moved south to near Midhurst, West Sussex, where the Wideacre trilogy was set. Here she married her second husband Paul Carter, with whom she has a son. She divorced for a second time and married Anthony Mason, whom she had first met during her time in Hartlepool.

Gregory now lives on a 100-acre (0.40 km2) farm in the North York Moors national park, with her husband, children and stepchildren (six in all). Her interests include riding, walking, skiing, and gardening.

Writing
She has written novels set in several different historical periods, though primarily the Tudor period and the 16th century. Reading a number of novels set in the 17th century led her to write the bestselling Lacey trilogy — Wideacre, which is a story about the love of land and incest, The Favoured Child and Meridon. This was followed by The Wise Woman. A Respectable Trade, a novel of the slave trade in England, set in 18th-century Bristol, was adapted by Gregory for a four-part drama series for BBC television. Gregory's script was nominated for a BAFTA, won an award from the Committee for Racial Equality, and the film was shown worldwide.

Two novels about a gardening family are set during the English Civil War: Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth. She has also written contemporary fiction—Perfectly Correct; Mrs Hartley And The Growth Centre; The Little House; and Zelda's Cut. She has also written for children.

Some of her novels have won awards and have been adapted into television dramas. The most successful of her novels has been The Other Boleyn Girl, published in 2002 and adapted for BBC television in 2003 with Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May and Jared Harris. In the year of its publication, The Other Boleyn Girl also won the Romantic Novel of the Year and has subsequently spawned sequels—The Queen's Fool, The Virgin's Lover, The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, and The Other Queen. Miramax bought the film rights to The Other Boleyn Girl and produced a film of the same name starring Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn and co-starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, Eric Bana as Henry Tudor, Juno Temple as Jane Parker, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Elizabeth Boleyn. It was filmed in England and generally released in 2008.

Gregory has also published a series of books about the Plantagenets, the ruling houses that preceded the Tudors, and the Wars of the Roses. Her first book The White Queen (2009), centres on the life of Elizabeth Woodville the wife of Edward IV. The Red Queen (2010) is about Margaret Beaufort the mother of Henry VII and grandmother to Henry VIII. The Lady of the Rivers (2011) is the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, first married to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, younger brother of Henry the Fifth. The Kingmaker's Daughter (2012) is the story of Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, the wife of Richard III. The next book, The White Princess (2013), centres on the life of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and the mother of Henry VIII.

Controversy
In her novel The Other Boleyn Girl, her portrayal of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn drew criticism. The novel depicts Anne as cold and ruthless, as well as heavily implying that the accusations that she committed adultery and incest with her brother were true, despite it being widely accepted that she was innocent of the charges. Novelist Robin Maxwell refused on principle to write a blurb for this book, describing its characterisation of Anne as "vicious, unsupportable." Historian David Starkey, appearing alongside Gregory in a documentary about Anne Boleyn, described her work as "good Mills and Boon" (a publisher of romance novels), adding that: "We really should stop taking historical novelists seriously as historians. The idea that they have authority is ludicrous." Susan Bordo criticized Gregory's claims to historical accuracy as "self-deceptive and self-promoting chutzpah", and notes that it is not so much the many inaccuracies in her work as "Gregory’s insistence on her meticulous adherence to history that most aggravates the scholars."

Media
Gregory is a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers, with short stories, features and reviews. She is also a frequent broadcaster and a regular contestant on Round Britain Quiz for BBC Radio 4 and the Tudor expert for Channel 4's Time Team. She won the 29 December 2008 edition of Celebrity Mastermind on BBC1, taking Elizabeth Woodville as her specialist subject.

Charity work
Gregory also runs a small charity building wells in school gardens in The Gambia. Gardens for The Gambia was established in 1993 when Gregory was in The Gambia, researching for her book A Respectable Trade.

Since then the charity has dug almost 200 low technology, low budget and therefore easily maintained wells, which are on-stream and providing water to irrigate school and community gardens to provide meals for the poorest children and harvest a cash crop to buy school equipment, seeds and tools.

In addition to wells, the charity has piloted a successful bee-keeping scheme, funded feeding programmes and educational workshops in batik and pottery and is working with larger donors to install mechanical boreholes in some remote areas of the country where the water table is not accessible by digging alone. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/22/2013.)



Book Reviews
Engrossing.... Most of the story is blunt, brutal and bloody, but Gregory has a deft hand with historical imagination, making the most of ancient mysteries.... Elizabeth is narrow and stubborn, but not altogether oblivious. She realizes what her husband and his brothers have done in their rise to power: They broke the law. By which I don't mean that they contravened some statute, though they certainly do that. I mean they broke the whole concept of law, to such an extent that it no longer worked. Edward IV ignored the law of sanctuary to murder the innocent. Now his wife and daughters may be humiliated, his small sons kidnapped and murdered because they stand between the throne and someone who wants it. Good historical fiction always provides at least incidental commentary on the present (if not outright warnings). In this case, the warning is clear: Turning your back on morality for the sake of political gain will come back and bite you in the bum.
Diana Gabaldon - Washington Post


The queen of British historical fiction (The Other Boleyn Girl) kicks off a new series with the story of Elizabeth Woodville Grey, whose shifting alliances helped the War of the Roses take root. The marriage of 22-year-old Yorkist King Edward IV to 27-year-old widow Elizabeth brings a sea change in loyalties: Elizabeth's Lancastrian family becomes Edward's strongest supporters, while Edward's closest adviser, the ambitious earl of Warwick, joins with Edward's brother George to steal the English crown. History buffs from Shakespeare on have speculated about this fateful period, especially the end of Edward and Elizabeth's two sons, and Gregory invents plausible but provocative scenarios to explore those mysteries; she is especially poignant depicting Elizabeth in her later years, when her allegiance shifts toward Richard III (who may have killed her sons). Gregory earned her international reputation evoking sex, violence, love and betrayal among the Tudors; here she adds intimate relationships, political maneuvering and battlefield conflicts as well as some well-drawn supernatural elements. Gregory's newest may not be as fresh as earlier efforts, but she captures vividly the terrible inertia of war.
Publishers Weekly


A lovely young widow, Elizabeth, stands by the side of the road, hoping for a boon from the king against whom her husband fought. Her ultimate prize is far more—marriage and a crown, power, and influence. Edward of York risks much by marrying this commoner, but their union (and his new wife's fertility) brings an interlude of peace to an England tired of ongoing war. Then, Edward, never defeated in battle, is felled by a chill, leaving a child to inherit the throne. His brother Richard is to be protector, but Elizabeth does not trust him. She takes her brood into sanctuary, but her son Edward is captured en route to London. In this recounting of events leading up to Richard III's accession to the throne, Gregory shows a sure touch from beginning to end, weaving a compelling story with vivid characters. Verdict: This series launch will delight fans of Jean Plaidy and Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour as well as readers of sweeping historical sagas, especially those fascinated by the War of the Roses and the mystery of the princes in the Tower. —Pam O'Sullivan, Coll. at Brockport Lib., SUNY
Library Journal



Discussion Questions
1. Discuss Elizabeth's first few encounters with Edward and her motives for seeking him out. Do they marry for love? Did you find it surprising that Edward defied his mentor Warwick and upheld his secret marriage to Elizabeth? Why or why not?

2. How does Elizabeth and Edward's clandestine marriage change England's political landscape?

3. Anthony tells Elizabeth that she and Edward are creating enemies by distributing wealth to their "favorites, not the deserving" (page 204). What are your thoughts on Edward and Elizabeth as monarchs? How adept is Elizabeth at playing the political game, both before and after Edward's death?

4. What is your view of Elizabeth as a daughter, a sister, and a mother? Her daughter Elizabeth says to her, "You love the crown more than your children" (page 312). Does Elizabeth, in fact, place her ambition ahead of her children's well-being? How does she regard her daughters versus her sons?

5. Compare the Plantagenets and the House of York with the Woodvilles. What are the most apparent differences between the two families? What similarities do they share?

6. Elizabeth makes some questionable moral choices, such as standing silently by while her husband and his brothers murder Henry IV and knowingly putting a page boy in harm's way by sending him to the Tower in place of her son. Are her actions justifiable or not? How does she feel about the choices she made?

7. What is the significance of the legend of Melusina? Anthony dismisses Elizabeth's belief in Melusina and in her own mystical abilities as "part fairy tale and part Bible and all nonsense" (page 239). Is he right, or are she and Jacquetta really able to perform magic? With the penalty for witchcraft being death, why do they take the risk? What unintended consequences are there of some of their actions?

8. In what ways are women especially vulnerable during this tumultuous time? What power do women have? How do Elizabeth, Jacquetta, Cecily, and other female characters in the novel use their intelligence and influence?

9. Elizabeth is aware of and even tolerates the king's adultery. Why then does she take exception to his association with Elizabeth Shore? Why does Edward's former mistress later come to the queen's aid while she is in living in sanctuary?

10. When the younger Elizabeth pleads with her mother to come to an agreement with Duke Richard, why does she refuse to even consider the idea? How does the relationship between mother and daughter change while they are in sanctuary for the second time?

11. "Despite my own caution, despite my own fears, I start to hope," muses Elizabeth. "I start to think that if King Richard marries Elizabeth and makes her his queen I will be welcomed at court again, I will take up my place as My Lady, the Queen's Mother" (page 392). After all the bloodshed, why is she willing to risk putting her daughter on the throne?

12. The fate of the two princes in the Tower is a mystery historians have been trying to solve for centuries. What is your opinion of the way Philippa Gregory presents this aspect of the story? Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is suspected of being responsible for their deaths. Why is Elizabeth inclined to believe him when he says he did not order her sons to be killed?

13. Elizabeth paid a high price for the throne, losing her father, brothers, and two of her sons. What, if anything, do you think she would do differently if given the chance? What would you have done in her situation?

14. When Edward is overthrown and flees to France, Elizabeth says, "It is as he warned me: he could not spread out the wealth quickly enough, fairly enough, to enough people" (page 130). What does The White Queen reveal about human nature?

15. How does The White Queen compare to other works of historical fiction you have read, including books by Philippa Gregory? The novel has somewhat of a cliffhanger ending. Are you interested in reading the next book in the series? Why or why not?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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