I bought this book right when it was released, but didn’t get around to reading it till now. Well, I did try once but I think I was getting a bit burnt out with so many Tudors-related novels, so I had to take a break. I took a very long break … Anyway, I finished this book over the course of two days. While I normally love Philippa Gregory’s books, this one just seemed kind of “meh” to me.
The White Princess is about Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen. The story begins right when Henry VII has claimed the throne of England by conquest. The previous king, Richard, who is also Elizabeth’s lover (and also her uncle) was cut down in battle and thrown into some unmarked grave. Elizabeth is not only distraught over the death of her beloved, but very unhappy that she is to marry her lover’s killer, Henry Tudor.
Henry initially tries to delay marrying Elizabeth, as she is from his rival family, but eventually is forced to by his mother and by Parliament. It is necessary that they wed so that the families can be united and hopefully no more wars will come about. Elizabeth and Henry hate one another at first, but as they begin their family together, slowly come to love one another.
Despite marrying Elizabeth, Henry is not safe on his throne. Elizabeth’s cousin, Edward Warwick, has, what some might say, a better claim to the throne to Henry. And there is a great pretender to the throne claiming to be Elizabeth’s long lost brother, Prince Richard, who has the greatest claim of all. As this pretender befriends the great monarchs of Europe and rallies to his side many, many supporters (many more than Henry has), Henry becomes increasingly paranoid and suspicious of everyone. As for Elizabeth, she wonders if this pretender could really be her brother? And if he is, how should she react to him trying to reclaim his throne from her husband, and her sons?
I have read every book in this series of The Cousins’ War so far. I think the problem is, the entire series is telling the exact same story, but through the perspectives of different characters. I think that is why I did not find the story in The White Princess very interesting. I mean, history is interesting, but there is so much overlap in the books’ stories that I feel like I have read the exact same story four times before already. I don’t think it helps that her female characters all have a very similar voice. Elizabeth narrates very similarly to her mother Elizabeth from The White Queen, Jacquetta from Lady Of The Rivers, to Anne Warwick in The Kingmaker’s Daughter, etc.
Elizabeth, in fact, is a completely unmemorable character in this book. Her character has absolutely no agency, she passively watches events unfold around her, and all she ever seems to say to anyone is, “I don’t know, I don’t know” when asked what she thinks is happening. Her character was rather disappointing.
The second half of the novel is much better, at least, because the stuff with the pretender to the throne, the boy pretending to be Prince Richard, is all new stuff that was not presented in any of the previous novels. It made me very interested in this pretender, and I actually went to look up more information about him after I finished this book. I knew very little about this pretender business during Henry VII’s reign, so I liked reading the fictionalized version of it in this book.
Overall, it was a decent read but nothing to write home about. The next, and final, book in The Cousins’ War series is going to be about Margaret Pole, Elizabeth’s cousin. Since Margaret spent much of her life with Elizabeth, I am predicting a considerable amount of story overlap again, but I will still give the book a chance when it is released.