Set during Henry VIII’s break of the Catholic Church and dissolution of the monasteries and convents after his divorce from Katherine of Aragon, The Crown features young Joanna Stafford, a former novice (nun in training) at a convent that no longer exists. She discovers her beloved cousin has been sentenced to death because of her support for the Catholic Church, and Joanna must use everything in her power as the member of a noble house to save her.
Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World
There aren’t a lot of biographies of Elizabeth of York (this might be the only modern one), but Alison Weir takes a close look at the Elizabeth of York in this book. We have so few contemporary records of this woman; who was she? What did she think of her marriage, of her husband, of what had happened to her family? As with all of Alison Weirs books (fiction and nonfiction) this is an illuminating look into a woman who we don’t know a lot about.
Three centuries after Elizabeth of York was struggling as a pawn between her father, uncle, and future husband, France was facing a different kind of struggle. Michelle Moran’s novel focuses on the woman who would become Madame Tussaud, Marie. The owners of a wax museum, Marie and her family gain notice from the royal family, attention that could be deadly given the revolution that’s brewing on the streets of Paris.
The Last Queen
C. W. Gortner
Juana of Castile, sister to Katherine of Aragon, who would find only tragedy as the first wife of Henry VIII, is the center of this historical novel. Juana is best known as “Juana the Mad,” but who was she, really? Did she actually suffer from mental illness, or was she the victim of the events surrounding her, and like so many other women on this list, the royal blood in her veins? C. W. Gortner reimagines this princess and queen, the last woman of Spanish blood to sit on the throne of Spain.
The Boleyn King
What would have happened if Anne Boleyn had indeed given King Henry VIII a son? What if she had never been executed? That’s the premise of this historical alternate history novel, in which King Henry VIII has died and his son with Anne, William is on the throne. The first in a trilogy, this is more fantasy than historical fiction, but it’s always a thrill to imagine a different history—and to see how things might have changed.
Blood & Beauty
At the same time that the Wars of the Roses were drawing to a close in England, Alexander Borgia was amassing power for his family in Italy. The novel Blood and Beauty is the story of Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of the man who would become Pope. Like Elizabeth, Lucrezia was seen as a pawn in the machinations of the men around her, but as a strong, smart woman, she fought to find some sense of independence in the world around her.
The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and Rise of the Tudors
To understand the circumstances of Elizabeth of York’s life, it’s really necessary to see the scope of the full conflict of the Wars of the Roses, the York versus Lancaster war that tore Britain apart. Dan Jones’ extensive history covers how exactly the Tudor family, who barely had a claim to the English throne, managed to take advantage of the inner warfare between the Plantagenet dynasty to secure the British throne.
The King’s Mistress
Years before Elizabeth of York, King Edward III was on the throne, and Alice Perrers was a young happily married noblewoman. When her husband disappears, though, Alice seeks the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, but when she catches the king’s eye, she gets more than she bargained for. This novel recounts the story of Alice, the young mistress to Edward III, looking at her through new eyes, as she’s been so vilified throughout history.
The White Princess, based on Philippa Gregory’s book of the same name, tells the story of Elizabeth of York, whose marriage to Henry Tudor (crowned Henry VII) brought an end to the bitter civil war in England known as the Wars of the Roses. Elizabeth of York was, over the course of her life, daughter of a king, sister of a king, niece of a king, and wife to a king—which made her extremely valuable as a pawn in royal games (games that, incidentally, George R.R. Martin based his Song of Ice and Fire series on). If you’d like to know more about Elizabeth, her descendants, those that preceded her, and the history that surrounded her, check out these eight books.
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