Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty, By Elizabeth Norton

Portrait of a medieval matriarch

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The Independent Culture

Such is the pull of Philippa Gregory that Amberley feel compelled to advertise this book as "the true story of the 'Red Queen'".

Alas, Elizabeth Norton doesn't quite have Gregory's way with plot and characters – essential, even in non-fiction – and this account of a complex moment in history, when the reign of the Plantagenets came to an end and the Tudor period began, is packed with names (lots of Elizabeths and Margarets) and events (battles, intrigues and constant switching of sides) that are often hard to distinguish from one another. Norton emphasises Margaret's holiness while never really reconciling it with her immense ambition for her son, soon to be Henry VII, which presupposes a real degree of ruthlessness.