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Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World    by Alison Weir order for
Elizabeth of York
by Alison Weir
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

The distinguished historian Alison Weir offers readers another wonderful excursion into the late medieval and early renaissance English monarchy with her latest offering, a compelling biography of an extraordinary woman, Elizabeth of York (1466-1503).

Readers hear the name Elizabeth within the context of English history, and they almost unanimously think of either one or both of the following: Elizabeth I, the remarkable virgin queen of the 16th century, and Elizabeth II, the current monarch of modern England. Almost no one thinks of the other Elizabeth - daughter, sister, niece, mother, and grandmother of monarchs: daughter to Edward IV, sister to Edward V, niece to Richard III, wife to Henry VII, mother to Henry VIII, and grandmother to Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Moreover, it must be pointed out that Elizabeth of York was the ancestress to every English monarch since 1509, every Scots monarch since 1513, and every British monarch since 1603. Clearly, Elizabeth of York is an important person, and - like many of her contemporaries belatedly realized - she should not be ignored.

There is also, however, in any consideration of Elizabeth of York, a catalogue of paradoxes: She was proactively astute in royal politics, yet she was docile and compliant (if perhaps not always loyal) as a seemingly voiceless royal wife; she was perceived by many as having no influence - perhaps typical of late medieval women - yet she was ambitious for herself and fiercely protective of her family.

What emerges in Alison Weir's highly recommended portrait - especially as her effort is enhanced by vivid and sometimes startling research - is a frequently complicated woman of contradictions, a sometimes seductive woman of mystery, and - as many, including the feckless Henry VII and the notorious Richard III, would find out - Elizabeth of York was a fiercely headstrong woman of sometimes baffling motivations.

The bottom line, readers, is this: If you enjoy brilliantly written narrative history, and if you enjoy making jaw-dropping discoveries about the formative years of the Tudor dynasty in England, then look no further. You must read Alison Weir's biography of a fascinating, enigmatic woman.

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