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Carpe Librum

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Review: Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World - Alison Weir

Confession time. I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.

Alright, maybe that's not saying much since it did spend some time on my "never-gonna-happen" shelf. I received this book for Christmas and it popped up as a group read, so happen it did.

The opening chapters of this book were almost as annoying as I thought they would be. Toning down her anti-Richard tone, she retells her Princes in the Tower theory. Yes, she still casts Richard III as the villain, but she sounds slightly more like a historian and less like a prosecuting attorney this time.

Throughout this book, Weir continues her habit of using words like "certainly" and "there is no doubt" - really none? Cuz I'm feeling doubtful. She interprets people's motives in a way that make me want to throw the book across the room. For example, at one point she is discussing how unlikely that Richard would do something. Therefore, he clearly didn't do it. I would just like to point out that Richard III did plenty of things that seem unlikely and don't make sense to us. (Trusting the Stanleys, not punishing Margaret Beaufort and others for their treason...) That's why so many people are still discussing him over half a millennia after his death. Stop assuming and just present the information. Present your theory as a theory and leave me to determine my own.

I also abhor the habit of presenting sources that support said theories as if they are more reliable than they are, but dismissing sources that do not line up with her predetermined conclusion. The reader is told that they can consider rumors that Richard killed his nephews, basically because rumors become rumors for a reason. When rumors later circulate about Henry, the reader is flatly informed that no support for these rumors exist. I mean, "The Song of Bessy" as a source?

Now that I have that out of my system....

There were parts of this biography that I truly enjoyed. Weir has a talent for presenting information that is compelling to read and not as textbookish as other nonfiction writers. Some sections were still skim-worthy (see section on "The Song of Bessy"), but once she got past Elizabeth's marriage, I found some interesting tidbits.

This biography is much more in-depth than Amy Licence's recent EoY biography. Depending on how deep you want to go, I guess you can determine which is better for you. The most interesting part for me, that wasn't even mentioned in Licence's bio, was the discussion of Elizabeth's final year. Did she speak to Tyrell at the Tower when he made his confession? Why did she go on her one progress without Henry and visit places like the former homes of Katherine Plantagenet (RIII's illegitimate daughter) and Francis Lovell? Very interesting, and I had never before read that she had done these things. While no conclusion can be reached, it gave me something new to think about.

As other reviewers have stated, there are pages of detailed descriptions of purchases and building projects which may make the eyes glaze over (or some people may love that kind of thing). I appreciated that it was the most comprehensive look at Elizabeth that I have read.