Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswomanto half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Dukeof Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took theextraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her household for love, and thencarved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou’s close friend and aLancaster supporter – until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fellin love and married the rival king Edward IV.
Of all the little-known but important women of theperiod, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina,and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation formaking magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.
The Lady of the Rivers is the third in Philippa Gregory’sPlantagenet women series.
On this magical fictional journey (based on fact) throughhistory, we get to experience Jacquetta’s life by her side.
Before we begin the story there are family trees (if youread my reviews you will know I love to see a family tree!) detailing thehouses of York, Lancaster and Tudor in the summer of 1430.
The story begins in a cell in Castle Beaurevoir (1430) wherewe see Jacquetta become friends with Joan of Arc and then we journey with herthrough her marriage to John, the Duke of Bedford and on to her life as thewife of Richard Woodville and confidant to Queen Margaret.
As the Duke of Bedford’s wife we see her welcomed in Londonand obeying his rules. Throughout hermarriage to Richard we see her grow as a woman with much importance in her ownrelationship as well as that alongside Queen Margaret.
We see what happens in a man’s world when a woman walks tothe beat of her own drum and experience betrayal and deaths. The fear of living on the edge, not knowingwho you can turn to is a page turner in itself!
History really does come to life in this book with the rivalcousins at court …with all the politics and alliances that are made and brokenand the day-to-day living at court. Weget a brief glimpse of how the peasants/commoners live and a chance to spendtime at the edge of a battle.
I thought that Joan of Arc’s demise was powerfully portrayedas seen from Jacquetta’s perspective.
I really enjoyed our journey into alchemy and washeartbroken with Jacquetta when she heard the song of Melusina. This aspect of the gift she inherits, a songlikened to that of the music of the spheres, is torture. Not enough time to do anything constructivebut the knowledge that a family member will be leaving this earth.
Alongside the court intrigue and history, we watch Richardand Jaquetta’s relationship spark and grow. In it’s early days it survives the fact that she married beneath her andduring the cousins differences, survives the distance separating them. Their relationship offsets the negativitythat accompanies an unstable court.
I love it that this book is based on a real character fromhistory. The author pieced togetherevidence of Jacquetta’s life and has woven the fact into an absorbingworld. There is a lot of truth in TheLady of the Rivers.
Anyone with a love of history, heroines who struggle to findtheir way in a man’s world and find their power will enjoy this book. You won’t be disappointed. I would love to see more women from historyresearched and brought into public awareness! We need a balanced view – not just the ‘great’ men that shaped the world.
For the past week I have been thoroughly absorbed inJacquetta’s story. I am giving The Ladyof the Rivers my highest rating not only because of the fabulous weaving of thestory but also because of the way it is written.
The Lady of the Rivers is published by Simon & Schuster15 September 2011.
I would like to thank the publishers for sending me a copy.
Philippa Gregory has written an essay on Jacquetta’s lifeand joined together with two other historians to create ‘The Women of theCousin’s War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother (also published bySimon & Schuster 15 September 2011).
The authors website contains new essays, historical debatesand responses to questions about this and other novels in the series.
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