Thursday, September 15, 2022

Book Review: The Last White Rose by Alison Weir

Pages: 544
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 10, 2022
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: A Dangerous Inheritance
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Elizabeth of York is the oldest daughter of King Edward IV. Flame-haired, beautiful, and sweet-natured, she is adored by her family; yet her life is suddenly disrupted when her beloved father dies in the prime of life. Her uncle, the notorious Richard III, takes advantage of King Edward's death to grab the throne and imprison Elizabeth's two younger brothers, the rightful royal heirs. Forever afterwards known as the princes in the tower, the boys are never seen again. On the heels of this tragedy, Elizabeth is subjected to Richard's overtures to make her his wife, further legitimizing his claim to the throne. King Richard has murdered her brothers, yet she is obliged to accept his proposal. As if in a fairy tale, Elizabeth is saved by Henry Tudor, who challenges Richard and kills him in the legendary Battle of Bosworth Field. In recognition of his victory, Henry becomes king and asks Elizabeth to be his wife, the first queen of the Tudor line. The marriage is happy and fruitful, not only uniting the warring houses of Lancaster and York--the red and white roses--but resulting in four surviving children, one of whom, Henry VIII, will rule the country for the next thirty-six years. As in her popular Six Tudor Queens series, Alison Weir captures the personality of one of Britain's most important monarchs, conveying Elizabeth of York's dramatic life in a novel that is all the richer because of its firm basis in history."

 

If you are a fan of the Tudors of the show The White Queen, then you know that King Henry VIII's mother is Elizabeth of York.  But not much focus is on her when studying the Tudors as Henry's life always takes center stage. In The Last White Rose, it's the opposite. Weir focuses on Elizabeth, her rise to power, and her marriage to Henry Tudor, who is supposed to be her enemy. It starts off with Elizabeth's father, King Edward IV's untimely death and her family in an uncertain place. They spend most of their time in sanctuary for safety purposes. Due to a power struggle over the crown, Richard III rises and Elizabeth's brothers go missing in the Tower of London. You may be familiar with them as the "Princes in the Tower." One can only assume that Richard had them killed, as sadly, they are never seen again. Richard needs a wife and is looking Elizabeth's way (could you imagine?!?!), as a marriage with the daughter of the former King would make his grasp on the throne more legitimate. Obviously this is upsetting to Elizabeth and her family as they know Richard is responsible for killing her brothers, who, I might add, were just children! Thankfully, there's the Battle of Bosworth Field where Henry Tudor, who also has a claim to the throne, challenges Richard and wins. After winning, he asks Elizabeth to be his wife and unite the two families. They live happily and have an heir to the throne in Arthur, and then another son who will become the notorious Henry VIII.  If you enjoy stories about the Tudors, War of the Roses, and Royal life, you will appreciate Weir's take on Elizabeth of York in The Last White Rose.

I have always liked Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York's mother, so I was excited to learn more about this time period as well as her life.  I loosely knew about Elizabeth of York, her marriage to Henry Tudor, and the unfortunate Princes in the Tower, but I was happy to do a deep dive into her life. It was truly a crazy one with her father's sudden death and then Richard's rise. I can't imagine the immense pressure she must have felt if Richard wanted to marry her, but what about her brothers who are still missing? It was almost unbelievable. Then just when all is lost, in comes Henry Tudor, and he pretty much saves the day by winning the Battle of Bosworth, becoming King, and making Elizabeth his Queen.  I thought it was wise to unite the two fighting families once and for all and Elizabeth becomes the first Tudor Queen.

Their marriage was a happy one for the most part in The Last White Rose and I enjoyed the details surrounding their initial years of marriage. Their first born, Arthur, wasn't very strong, but got healthier as the years went by. Elizabeth never really could connect with him at first, and this made her feel guilty. When her second son came along, Henry, she fell for him immediately. She would dote on him and secretly wished he was their first born as he was stronger, more confident, and suited to the role. We all what happens, but it's the journey to get there that was very interesting and captivating.  

Elizabeth's time as Queen wasn't always easy though in The Last White Rose. There were many people popping up with a claim to the throne causing major disturbances, such as people claiming to be the long lost Princes in the Tower. I can't imagine how that would make Elizabeth feel as she wouldn't want someone competing for her son's claim to the throne, but also could her brothers still be alive? She can't help, but hope. Elizabeth had many children, but not many of them lived to adulthood. It was very sad at times, especially since she died after the childbirth of her last child, who also didn't survive long.

The Last White Rose also features the future Henry VIII's childhood as this provided much insight into the kind of person he would become as well as the kind of King.  His childhood was much different than Arthur's, as he was just second in line, so he wasn't trained or scrutinized as much as Arthur, but instead, doted on.  He was a willful child and the details surrounding his childhood definitely made me understand exactly how this molded his into an adult.

Elisabeth of York is a fascinating woman who played an important role in British history. She was known to be a good mother, an excellent Queen, charitable, smart, and kind. I am glad Weir chose to focus on her in The Last White Rose as her life is often overlooked, but is very important.  If you want to learn about the War of the Roses, check out Weir's The Last White Rose this fall, especially if the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II has prompted you to read more books about the Royals. 

So, are you a fan of the War of the Roses time period? Do you like to read about the Tudors? Is The Last White Rose on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.


1 comment:

  1. I love Tudor history; it's such a fascinating time and sometimes it's hard to believe everything that happened, it was like a soap opera!

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