I just recently finished “The Lady of the Rivers” by Philippa Gregory. This is the third book in the “Cousin’s War” series she is writing, but is technically the first one in the chronology. Gregory is known for her wildly controversial novel “The Other Boleyn Girl” which really stretched the fiction side of historical fiction.
Personally, I enjoyed “The Lady of the Rivers”. Revolving around Jacquetta of Luxemburg, the great-grandmother of Henry VIII, Gregory used what very little information there is on a medieval woman whose significance would never have been foreseen in her lifetime to bring to life the story of a woman who loved passionately, used a strong head and managed to survive the tumultuous War of the Roses and accusations of witchcraft.
Gregory managed to tell a story of a girl who wanted love, and married her late husband’s squire in secret in order to keep her love. She told a story of a mother of sixteen children, thirteen of whom are thought to have survived to adulthood. She told the story of a woman who had a forbidden talent in a medieval court, and could have very well been burnt at the stake for practising it. And she told the story of a deeply loyal Lancastrian supporter, who loved her King and Queen until the day her daughter married their enemy and she became the mother of the new Queen. Gregory’s tale wove a highly engaging and wonderful woman in a book you just couldn’t put down.
Jacquetta was mother to Elizabeth Woodville, queen of Edward IV, and she was one of the witnesses to their highly secret marriage. Gregory’s first book in the series, “The White Queen”, was told through Elizabeth’s point of view, and it was enjoyable to see her from her mother’s point of view, from a newborn baby to a woman meeting the King, her future husband, for the first time. The books pages closed on the very same pages the first book opened on, giving a lovely sense of wholeness to the story. Jacquetta’s story is completed in Elizabeth’s book just as Elizabeth’s was started in Jacquetta’s. A fantastic read, leaving me wanting for the next book, “The White Princess”, about Elizabeth of York, Jacquetta’s granddaughter, and mother of Henry VIII.
By Amanda Wickham