“The English court is at its summer pursuits of hunting, travelling and flirtation.”
A descendant of Melusina, the river goddess, young Jacquetta has already started to experience her magical powers when she meets Joan of Arc and sees her burned for witchcraft. Jacquetta is married at seventeen to the Duke of Bedford, who puts her magic to work. She is soon widowed and marries the Duke’s squire Richard Woodville, returning with him to the English court, where the couple rise in power at the court of Henry VI and his fiery French queen. While the king sleeps deeply and mysteriously and Richard of York threatens the monarchy, Jacquetta and Richard will not have the peaceful country life they wish.
I wrote last Sunday:
I started The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory… my inner book snob, romantic and good-story-lover are all fighting with one another. Victory report to appear soonish.
Well, this novel set those aspects of my reading personality at odds and they haven’t quite resolved anything.
The writing is better quality than in The Other Boleyn Girl – not only is the history less well-known, but the fear, political intrigue and the turns of fortune are the main features here, not a boorish king’s infidelities, which makes the subject matter more appealing to me. Jacquetta is an educated woman, tactful, respected, ambitious but not hubristically so, so she is a more appealing protagonist than Mary Boleyn.
There are various romantic lines, and I found the contrast in Jacquetta’s two marriages, as well as the relationships of the queen, very interesting – of course we don’t know how much is fact and how much is fiction, but historical evidence tells us that Jacquetta and Richard had a large number of child, so a sweet, large, happy family has been constructed for them by Ms Gregory.
And it’s a cracking story! Married as a girl to the second most powerful man in England, who turns out only to want her for her virginal magic, widowed and wealthy at twenty-two, wedded soon after to her true love, then summoned to court to advise a fiery queen and try to bridge the gap between the French pride and the English customs – Jacquetta had quite a life. Some of the history dragged a little – the constant battles got a little boring, factual though they may be.
All in all, if you can get over the snob factor, this is definitely one to pick up.