One of the good things about the BBC’s well-intended series ‘The White Queen’ is it made a lot of people take a new interest in learning more about the women behind the thrones of medieval England. They need look no further than this highly readable new book from Alison Weir, Elizabeth of York – A Tudor Queen and Her World.
By my calculations this is her sixteenth non-fiction history book and her experience shines through. Alison has been accused of writing ‘popular history’ but there are worse insults levelled at authors. I particularly like the way we are drawn in to the excitement of her research. For example, Richard III was being dug up in a car park while she was writing about him – and there is the ‘startling’ new connection to the mystery of the princes in the tower (which I shall leave for readers to find out about.)
It is also interesting to wonder how different things would have been if Elizabeth had been allowed to rule in her own right (like her granddaughter) as she was on of up to thirty people who arguably had a better claim on the throne than Henry VII. I did smile a few times at Alison’s love of noting the very precise details from the records of the time. (We learn not only that 156 pounds of wax were used for Elizabeth's embalming but also the details of where it all went.)
This is an indulgent book but also one you will return to and learn more on a second reading. Elizabeth died young, on her birthday 11th February 1503, living long enough to see one son die but not long enough to see what became of her youngest boy – but of course that’s another story.