Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose by Alison Weir

Reviewed by Margaret Elizabeth

What is it possible to do when you are born a royal woman in a time of misogyny and war? Alison Weir explores this question in Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose. The reader follows three-year-old Elizabeth, daughter of Edward lV, niece of Richard lll, from her dramatic flight to sanctuary in the hallowed ground of Westminster Abbey through a turbulent childhood and adolescence to her death as Queen Consort of Henry Vll. Elizabeth faces much hardship and terror as the War of Roses plays out in her lifetime. Time after time she is caught up in betrayal from those close to her and endures the deaths of those she loves most.

In the author’s note, Alison Weir explains Elizabeth of York’s historical importance. Elizabeth of York is “the ancestress of every English monarch since 1509, every Scottish monarch since 1513 and every British monarch since 1603.” Alison Weir is a passionate historian and the author of many historical fiction books and non-fiction history books. This novel is based on extensive historical research from Alison Weir’s non-fiction book about Elizabeth of York.

The facts of Elizabeth’s life make for exciting reading. Throughout the book, Elizabeth asks herself questions that show how few choices she has as a woman living in a time when women were valued for beauty, fertility and fortune. Often the tools of male family members and husbands, medieval women navigated in a world of strict rules concerning female conduct with sometimes brutal consequences for perceived transgressions. Events seem incredible at times but they are real events that Alison Weir skillfully weaves into a thrilling novel that is hard to put down. Elizabeth emerges as a woman who understands her time and her possible pathways. A woman who uses her skills, experience and intelligence to choose the path of stability and peace over a prize that might seem greater to others.  Is it a real choice? Is it the right choice? Alison Weir leaves it open for the reader to form a personal conclusion.

Alison Weir adapts Elizabeth’s language and thoughts to her chronological age so the reader sees Elizabeth grow from trusting innocence to watchful adulthood. Through Elizabeth’s eyes and dialogue, spoken and overheard, details of medieval culture are naturally depicted as Elizabeth eats, drinks, plays and loves. The reader travels with young Elizabeth as she learns and grows into Elizabeth of York, Queen of England, co-founder of the Tudor Dynasty, mother to Henry Vlll and grandmother to Elizabeth l. It is a wonderful journey. Alison Weir is a writer of great skill who draws the reader into an imagined world that feels very real. The reader wants to jump into the pages to protect the child, teach the teenage Elizabeth how to evade predators and yell, “No don’t do that!” It is a thought-provoking book too, as the reader is drawn to think about what the reader would do with the same hand of cards.

Readers who are captured by Elizabeth of York and medieval history can learn more about her in Alison Weir’s non fiction book, Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen (2013).  A young Elizabeth of York can be seen in a Netflix series: The Last White Rose, based on three of Alison Weir’s books.

Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose is well worth the read and for readers who are discovering Alison Weir for the first time, there is the great pleasure of many more books by the same author. The story of the life of Elizabeth of York is eventful, terrifying and joyous. This book will appeal to lovers of a cracking, good yarn and readers who enjoy learning history in an accessible way.

Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose

by Alison Weir



ISBN: 978 147227 804 3

$32.99; 480pp

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