Review: The Beaufort Woman by Judith Arnopp


As the struggle between York and Lancaster continues, Margaret Beaufort fights for admittance to the court of the victorious Edward IV of York and his unpopular queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

The old king and his heir are dead, York now rules over England and the royal nursery is full.

But Edward and Elizabeth’s magnificent court hides a dark secret, a deception that threatens the security of the English throne … and all who lust after it.

In 1483, with the untimely death of the King, Margaret finds herself at the heart of chain of events that threaten the supremacy of York, and will change England forever.

My Review

In this second book about Margaret, we see a young woman trying to make the best of a bad situation. She’s stuck in a marriage with a kindly, patient man she’s not in love with, and constantly misses her young son in his formative years. Matters could be much worse, she discovers, when her third husband dies and she marries a brute of a fourth—a marriage of convenience. Lord Stanley doesn’t abuse her; he’s just inscrutable, rough, and not very supportive. At least, it takes him a long time to sympathize with her. Most surprising to me is the pseudo-friendship she develops with Elizabeth Woodville, queen to Lancastrian’s enemy Edward IV. But Margaret sees a kindred spirit behind the arrogant façade, and gives much comfort to Elizabeth after Edward’s death. She even comes to favor the young prince Richard and is fraught with worry when he disappears from the Tower. Margaret also sees—and is puzzled by—the gentle side of Richard III, who is so savage to his enemies:

During the afternoon, although my conversation is mainly with Anne, I watch Gloucester carefully. I am confused. It is impossible to comprehend that this mild-mannered man, so obviously in love with his plain little wife, is the same fellow who sent Hastings to his death; who is not above bullying the queen for possession of her son; and who does not even attempt to disguise his hatred for the queen’s family. He is attentive and pleasant, amusing and gentle. Either he is playing a game and blatantly deceiving me, or he is not the tyrant rumour reports him to be.

What I like about this book is that we get to see both sides of the Lancaster/York issue. Margaret unwillingly lets herself be drawn into the lives of those she once considered her adversaries. Maybe Elizabeth Woodville is not the shrew she is always depicted as. Maybe Stanley is not quite the opportunist he seems. Even Margaret is not perfect, and we see her making blatant errors of judgment, which really humanizes her. This is a very well-written novel about a difficult behind-the-scenes situation which usually gets lost in the more dramatic dynastic conflicts.

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