Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir
|Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Weir makes the most of the paltry information available to her in this interesting and accessible biography. Those interested in the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors will find their general understanding fleshed out but Elizabeth herself remains as elusive as ever.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 576||Date: August 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Elizabeth of York could have ruled England were she not a woman and were she not born in the fifteenth century. Oldest daughter of Edward IV, she was the heiress of the Yorkist dynasty after the death of Richard III at Bosworth (and her own younger brothers in the Tower of London). Henry VII, the first Tudor king and victor by conquest, had at best a tenuous claim to the English throne. He legitimised it by his marriage to Elizabeth and proclaimed it through the Tudor rose, that joining of the emblems of York and Lancaster. Elizabeth's marriage to Henry produced one of our most famous kings in Henry VIII.
And so Elizabeth was a crucial player in English history. Yet precious little about her is well known in today's public consciousness. What was she like? How did she feel about the huge events that took place during her life? Alison Weir sets out to tell us with her usual impeccable research.
I love Alison Weir. I say this every time I review one of her books, I know. But it's true. She writes in an accessible way and she picks the under-represented women of history as her topics. She sees these women as themselves and not through the prism of a patriarchal study of history that so often ignores not only their roles and influences but also their personalities and the non-political details of their lives. At the same time, she doesn't pretend that her subjects were more in control of their lives than they actually were. I think she brings us a real picture of what life was like for the medieval queens and princesses and I love her for it.
Her work on Elizabeth of York is as careful and accurate and interesting as ever. It covers England's transition from the Wars of the Roses to the Tudor era and this is a period about which we never tire of hearing. It's full of huge characters, devastating wars, horrible crimes and grimy politics - no wonder that we can't get enough of it. And what there is to know about Elizabeth, Weir draws out. Was her marriage to Henry VII a happy one? Before it, did she really throw her weight behind engineering a marriage with her own uncle, Richard III? How did she get along with her mother-in-law, the fearsome Margaret Beaufort? Did she ever know for sure what happened to her brothers, the princes in the Tower?
If there is a problem with the book, it's that Weir has so little to work with. The sources are patchy and there really isn't enough for any historian worth his or her salt to draw any real conclusions. So there's a lot of speculation here; a great many ifs and buts and maybes.Those who already know something about the period will find their understanding fleshed out and will be able to form their own educated guesses about the truth of Elizabeth of York. But I wouldn't really recommend it as a first foray into the times because there just isn't enough meat to enable Elizabeth to rise from its pages in more than elusive glimpses at a person so crucial to English history. It's not Weir's fault; it's just the way it is. To those readers I would say: read more general works first and then return to this book. And for myself: I thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew I would.
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