Friday, September 2, 2016

Read - The Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of the Rivers
by Philippa Gregory
435 pages

'Philippa Gregory brings to life the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman of passion and of legend who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the War of the Roses to bring her family unimaginable power.

When the young and beautiful Jacquetta is married to the older Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta has visions of the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals. Jacquetta fights for her king and queen, as she sees an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the white rose of York, and the throne of England…

I received this as a gift from bloggy friend Sunnee two Christmases ago and have just now finally gotten around to reading it.   I have a strong interest in the stories of royalty back in these old days, back in the Tudor days and all around then.  Even though I know a lot of people cringe at Philippa Gregory's books because they're supposedly highly inaccurate, I had decided some time ago that I wanted to read all of them.  This one almost had me changing my mind about that most of the way through though.

The problem I was having with most of this book is that since there isn't much documented about Jacquetta's life, this story seemed like more of a history of England at this time with Jacquetta just happening to be an observer at important places and events.  One review I'd read said this was more the story of Margaret of Anjou, and it really was.  It was quite an interesting story in that way, when I finally gave up on the idea of learning more about Jacquetta.  And in the end, I did come back around to wanting to keep reading the many other books of this author.

Even though Jacquetta's story was rather thin, or shallow, it did provide some really though provoking situations.  Jacquetta and her husband Richard were loyal to the House of Lancaster, to young King Henry VI and his wife Margaret.  Jacquetta and Richard were very high up in the royal court, well respected, trusted, rich and powerful.  As the House of York continued to battle for the throne, and as Henry became more incapacitated and Margaret became more evil, Jacquetta started to question her own loyalty.  At one point when the Yorks had indeed seized power, Jacquetta was forced to admit to herself that they were doing good things and getting the troubled country turned around.  She dared to hope that they could live in peace, that her husband would have stop riding off to war, and even secretly hoped that Margaret would never show up again.  But Margret did return, after gathering more money and armies (and more hate and anger), and tried to win their power back.  Jacquetta and Richard had no choice but to return to court and support Margaret and Henry.  Eventually it was just too much, the terror that Margaret had become, and Richard chose to surrender his sword and switch loyalty to the Yorks.

It really does make you think though.  Someone you'd been so close and loyal to, and then one day you start to see that maybe they weren't making the best choices afterall . . . only, what can you do at that point?  I think it was the emotional toll of having to admit, 'Hey, maybe the other guy IS better for us,' is what sucked my back into the story.

It is Jacquetta's daughter Elizabeth who becomes the mother of the two eventual princes who went missing in the Tower of London.  That is also a story I'd known nothing about until more recently and a story that fascinates me.  Jacquetta was grandmother of Elizabeth (Elizabeth's daughter), who would become the mother of that most famous Tudor, Henry VIII.

So while this particular book might have been better off being about Margaret of Anjou right from the beginning, it was still interesting enough to keep me wanting to read the rest of Philippa Gregory's books about these crazy royal times.


  1. It sounds like a book I would love. I enjoyed many of her stories about that time period in England. I agree, the thought that someone you supported for years turning out to be a liability rather than the leader you think is fit would be tough to endure. Especially when so many lives were on the line back then. Not supporting the right person often cost one their life.

    1. Exactly. And when Jacquetta first started having doubts, Margaret had already become blood thirsty, so there was nothing to do but remain loyal.