"...I think that these are women's troubles indeed - when a woman loves a man who betrays her. Betrays her completely - in thought and word and deed. In plan and in whisper, in the day and in the night, and - worst of all - in public, before the world...
...I wake in the night, thinking that I am the greatest fool that ever lived and I am humbled to dust for my stupidity."
from Three Sisters, Three Queens
It is one o'clock in the morning and I have just finished reading the latest novel by Philippa Gregory; Three Sisters, Three Queens. I have enjoyed it, mostly because it is set in Scotland and much of the story takes place at Stirling Castle which is one of my favourite places north of the boarder.
It tells the story of Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII and the granddaughter of both the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort and the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, so if you enjoyed those books you might like this one too, as it successfully bridges the gap between the end of the Cousins War and the better known history of Henry VIII's Tudor court.
Margaret is sent to marry the King of Scots, James IV and so secure a lasting peace between England and Scotland. Of course, it doesn't work and she finds herself at war with members of her own family in England and with the Scots lords, who all want to manipulate her for their own purposes. The Scots dismiss her as 'the English Princess' and she has to fight to claim her power as Queen. Much of the book is about this constant struggle, the betrayals and so on. There are some hair raising exploits along the way and it keeps you guessing as to whether her husband is really on her side or working against her.
I have to say though, that I did find Margaret quite irritating at times; her constant envy of her sisters was tedious. She has a well developed sense of entitlement and her jealousy is just annoying - but then I have known women just like her and it was an accurate description of how petty minded female jealousy works! I just wanted to give her a slap though and tell her to stop whinging.
Margaret marries three times and each time she has to fight for her position in Scotland. The constant jostling for supremacy is evident throughout the novel and the author doesn't shy away from describing the cultural habit of the Scots for being completely two- faced, which I really admire her for - it takes a Yorkshire woman to tell it like it is! The Scots say one thing and do the opposite; they make promises they have no intention of keeping and then come back with a ready excuse and a bit of charming prattle - and Margaret falls for all of it. Of course she does - she's English, she has been brought up to believe that an man's word is his bond - but the Scots just aren't like that. She has some harsh lessons to learn.
My favourite part of the book happens quite early on, when a Comyn gets punched in the face - this was a treat I wasn't expecting and it did make me giggle. What can I say? I'm a Bruce, right through to the bone - I'm always going to feel smug at the fall of a rival clan. This is a nice book to add to my collection of Tudor novels, but due to the constant struggle of Margaret's life it is a rather sorrowful read - in that respect it reminded me of The Red Queen by the same author. If it's a period of history that you like reading about though, you will probably enjoy this novel.
"To be loved by a man like Archibald Douglas is to be scorched, to be rejected is to be scarred. I want to heal and forget that I ever knew him."
from Three Sisters, Three Queens