The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory is about a woman named Jacquetta. She’s somone I’ve never heard of before I read the book.
Jaquetta is a predecessor to most of the women centred around the Tudor era that Phillipa Gregory writes about the most – starting with King Henry VII. Jaquetta was alive at the start of the War of the Rose. Shes suposse to be the descendant of a Goddess called Melusina. She first married the Duke of Bedford, the kings brother, who wanted to exploit her supposed magic powers. When he died, she remarried a squire (for love) and had 14 children by him, which is one hell of a feat given how many women died in child birth back then. Because she was related to the king and to Mary of Anjou, she was royalty and held a highly privileged place at court and had a lot of influence with Henry and Margeret of Anjou. In addition to having 14 children, she also survived wars. The book ends with King Edward (V??) being seated on the throne. Her and her husband, Richard, changed sides. Her eldest daughter ended up marrying Edward (in secret) and she was accused of being a witch and put on trial for which she was later released, but that part wasn’t in the book. You can read more about Jaquetta here.
Any how, I thought that The Lady of the Rivers was really good. Since she wasn’t someone I knew about before, it was pretty interesting getting to learn about her. This is said while bearing in mind that Philippa Gregory writes historical fiction (emphasis on the fiction). From what I can explain, it means that she uses historical fact to structure her books and fleshes out conversations and movements with fiction. Because I had no idea who Jacquetta was, I ended up Googling her because I was sort of like “ok, where’s the author going with this?” and just needed some general social context, such as how far away she was from King Henry VII and VIII, who her children married, and the succession of kings before and after her life. I found that helped just to locate her in history and understand the context and direction of the book a little bit better. This isn’t something other people might be bothered by, and in most cases, when I read a book I don’t need to know such information, but since it’s based on history I thought I should find out.
I think the most impressive things about Jaquetta are that she gave birth to 14 children without dying, that she surived 2 wars and that some people seemed to know about the witch craft (which can hardly be called as such – there was no proof) and yet she managed to not be put to death for it. And that she held so much political influence; that’s pretty impressive for a woman of that era.
In any case, I have never been disappointed by one of Phillipa Gregory’s books, and I am happy to report that this is another book of hers that I am happy with.
Title: The Lady of the Rivers
Author: Phillipa Gregory
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: September 15, 2011
Page count: 512
Genre: Historical fiction / historical drama