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Carpe Librum

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Historical Novel Society

Review: Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury by Hazel Pierce

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership - Hazel Pierce

Margaret Pole, like Elizabeth of York, is a Plantagenet princess who becomes lost to history with the dawning of the Tudor dynasty. Even less is written about this daughter of George of Clarence than her cousin who became Henry Tudor's queen. This was the only biography of her life that I was able to locate.

Pierce does an admirable job of piecing together the existing documentation on Margaret Pole, her rise and fall, and her family to create a thorough as possible timeline in this book. There is little or no assumption or expansion of what the author has found in historical sources. For every statement she makes, it is followed with a quote from her source of information.

This means that it cannot be a completely satisfying story of Margaret's life, because there is simply too much that remains unknown. Pierce seems to refuse to take up the habit of many modern historians who are happy to insert their own opinion on what the subject "must have thought" or "would have done." While this dedication to accuracy was appreciated, it also left gaps in Margaret's life that I would have loved to have seen filled.

This is a very scholarly written biography and is in fact an expanded version of Pierce's dissertation on Margaret. Some paragraphs extend more than a page, and it can be difficult to keep track of the large number of family members who enter Margaret's story, even for one who is quite familiar with her history. I would recommend this only to someone who is prepared for a serious study.

It is also not available inexpensively, and I had to pay around $28 for a used paperback copy. I know that the original dissertation is available online (I am not sure how much it differs from the book), so if you are mildly interested you may be better off locating that.

Thanks to Susan Higginbotham for the book recommendation.