Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Review of The Last White Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York, by Alison Weir

Following her successful Six Tudor Queens series, Weir moves back one generation with this comprehensive fictional take on Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York.

The adored eldest daughter of Edward IV during the tumultuous Wars of the Roses, Elizabeth spends part of her childhood in sanctuary with her mother and siblings. The early sections move slowly, with outside events mostly recounted to her.

However, her personality blossoms over time, and Weir provides a realistic feel for the worry Elizabeth’s family experiences as their fortunes shift, especially after Richard III usurps the throne following King Edward’s death and her brothers disappear while in his custody. The story gives a coherent, convincing picture of the treacherous political climate’s many players, showing why Elizabeth plots to marry Henry Tudor.

Weir doesn’t anachronistically superimpose a feminist viewpoint on Elizabeth, who knows her value yet prefers being a supportive wife and mother, but her female characters are overly prone to weeping. Weir’s thorough approach to her subject is impressive, as is the sumptuously recreated atmosphere of late-medieval royal life.

The Last White Rose was published by Ballantine this week.  In the UK, the publisher is Headline Review, where the title is Elizabeth of York: The Last White Rose (the title and subtitle are switched).  I wrote this review for Booklist's May 1st issue.

Some additional comments:

- The novel is 544pp long and about evenly divided between Elizabeth's childhood/adolescence and her marital life. The story gives a realistic sense of the political scene from a child's perspective, but it does mean that Elizabeth isn't an active participant in events until a good ways in. Some readers will appreciate the evenly-paced comprehensiveness; others may feel the beginning sections could have been pruned.

- This novel is first in a projected trilogy of novels: first Elizabeth of York, then Henry VIII (whose wives we've already gotten to meet in Weir's previous series), then Mary Tudor.  Three generations, in other words.

- If you've read Philippa Gregory's The White Princess, also about Elizabeth of York, this story is quite different, especially regarding Elizabeth's feelings toward her uncle, Richard III, and her eventual husband, Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII).  I prefer Weir's version.


  1. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Hi Sarah,

    Did Alison Weir use info from Tudor Chamber Books, that Elizabeth of York and Henry VII progressed together in 1502? Or did she rehash the info from her Elizabeth biography?

    Did Weir mention Margaret Tudor's betrothal/proxy-wedding, as context why Henry gave gifts of clothing?

    Did Weir claim Elizabeth was attracted to her uncle?

    I love The Lady Bessy Ballad. I love Elizabeth and Henry.

    I would greatly appreciate your info. Many thanks.

  2. Hello there,

    Those are pretty specific questions. :) I'll answer as best I'm able - it's been a while since I read the book.

    Elizabeth goes on progress in 1502 in the novel, starting out alone, but Henry meets up with her at Langley. I haven't read the Elizabeth biography.

    Weir mentions items in Margaret's trousseau for Scotland and what she wore for her betrothal ceremony but doesn't mention where they came from or other context.

    Elizabeth is not attracted to her uncle. She's prepared to marry him if necessary, for political reasons.

    Hope this helps!