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Elizabeth Widville, Lady Grey (Hardback)

Edward IV's Chief Mistress and the 'Pink Queen'

British History Medieval History English Civil War P&S History Colour Books Women of History Medieval 15th Century

By Dr John Ashdown-Hill
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 238
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526745019
Published: 8th July 2019

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Wife to Edward IV and mother to the Princes in the Tower and later Queen Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Widville was a central figure during the War of the Roses. Much of her life is shrouded in speculation and myth – even her name, commonly spelled as ‘Woodville’, is a hotly contested issue.

Born in the turbulent fifteenth century, she was famed for her beauty and controversial second marriage to Edward IV, who she married just three years after he had displaced the Lancastrian Henry VI and claimed the English throne. As Queen Consort, Elizabeth’s rise from commoner to royalty continues to capture modern imagination. Undoubtedly, it enriched the position of her family. Her elevated position and influence invoked hostility from Richard Neville, the ‘Kingmaker’, which later led to open discord and rebellion.

Throughout her life and even after the death of her husband, Elizabeth remained politically influential: briefly proclaiming her son King Edward V of England before he was diposed by her brother-in-law, the infamous Richard III, she would later play an important role in securing the succession of Henry Tudor in 1485 and his marriage to her daughter Elizabeth of York, thus and ending the War of the Roses.

Elizabeth Widville was an endlessly enigmatic historical figure, who has been obscured by dramatizations and misconceptions. In this fascinating and insightful biography, Dr John Ashdown-Hill shines a light on the truth of her life.

My knowledge of Elizabeth Widville mostly comes from the novel by Phillipa Gregory so this was a good opportunity to read something more factual. Like all Ashdown-Hill’s books it’s very well researched and a lot of work has gone into the writing. There are some theories I had not considered before including that Elizabeth may have been implicit in various deaths at the time including Eleanor Talbot, the woman who was possibly Edward IV’s real first wife. A very detailed, enjoyable read.

NetGalley, Kirsty White

As this is my favourite period of history to read about, I found it interesting to read Ashdown-Hill’s thoughts on Elizabeth, even if I didn’t necessarily always agree with them – and, as I’ve said, the amount of detail he goes into is very impressive. He can even draw on his own studies into the mitochondrial DNA sequences of Elizabeth’s descendants.

NetGalley, Helen Skinner

Featured in

The Bookseller, October 2019

This book is fascinating!

Watch the full video review here

Lil's Vintage World

Article: 'John Ashdown-Hill's biography on the 'White Queen' is released a year on from his death'

Halstead Gazette & Braintree and Witham Times, Harwich and Manningtree Standard – words by Rebecca Jones

"Elizabeth Widville, Lady Grey: Edward IV's Chief Mistress and the 'Pink Queen'" is a simply fascinating and deftly crafted biography of an extraordinary life lived out in extraordinary times. Enhanced with the inclusion of a seven page Bibliography, twenty-two pages of Notes, and a six page Index, this outstanding work of original and meticulous scholarship is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

Article: 'Historian's last book on White Queen is published' as featured by

Daily Gazette, Colchester and Harwich and Manningtree Standard – words by Rebecca Jones

A well researched and interesting read
This book is very well written and informative.
A good read.

NetGalley, Tracey Shults

It is a book that leaves you satisfied because I think that may have been written, thanks to a great historical research work by the late Ashdown-Hill, some definitive pages on the biography of this woman of very strong character and on which there have always been so many misunderstandings.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

Overall, this is not a typical biography but a summary of this author's views on Elizabeth, with biographical details interspersed in the narrative. The end-notes reveal that Ashdown Hill finished this book shortly before his death, and I can't think of a better parting gift than a biography of Edward IV's wife and queen.

Read the full review here

GoodReads, ConstantReader

It is meticulously researched and I found it a unique experience to read a different perspective from my own.

Read the full review here

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

This is a well researched and illustrated biography of Elizabeth Widville, wife of Edward IV. She is someone I knew very little about prior to this book so it was really interesting to learn of her life, which was certainly not a boring or inconsequential one.

As someone who loves language, particularly the etymology of words, I was fascinated by the portion of this book which looks at the ways in which the spelling and pronunciation of names and places relevant to Elizabeth's story changed so much over the years.

Something else that stands out for me is the copious amount of illustrations and genealogical charts which really bring all the facts and lineages to life. It is also full of fascinating nuggets, such as that her mother's line, the House of Luxembourg, was said to be descended from a water fay!

"Melusine and her sisters, Melior, and Palatyne, were said to be the daughters of a fairy called Pressyne. However, their father had been a mere human . What is more, reportedly the three girls had later attacked their human father. As a result they had then all been punished by their mother. In the case of Melusine the punishment in question condemned her to take every Saturday either the form of a serpent from the waist down, or the form of a mermaid."

Including side stories and myths like this really adds something special to this book, and ensures it is not just another staid historical biography.

The enigmatic Elizabeth went on to have no less than 12 children, two of whom are probably more well known than their mother, as they were "the princes in the tower". One of her daughters, was Elizabeth of York, and her marriage to Henry Tudor effectively ended The War of the Roses. One of her sons became Edward V.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the opportunity to learn more about someone who, prior to this, was just a name on a royal family tree. It has left me wanting to learn more about the politically astute Elizabeth, who was much more influential than she has previously been given credit for.

NetGalley, Carolyn Farrell

This is an incredibly detailed book which debunks many myths about Elizabeth Widville. I have read numerous books about this period but they usually gloss over Elizabeth, focusing more on Edward IV, his brothers and the line of succession which followed. Dr Ashdown-Hill admits that there is a lack of definitive evidence regarding Elizabeth's life but uses what is available to create a picture of a strong, determined woman who tried to ensure her children retained their royal inheritance.

NetGalley, Jen Lynch

I did enjoy it and am pleased to have learnt more about Elizabeth Widville and her relationship with the York sons.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

History is my ' thing ' and the Tudors in particular. This being very early leading into the Tudor age gives background information that I found very useful and contributes to the knowledge I already hold.

However, although knowing about the Princes in the Tower and the Wars of the Roses, I had scant knowledge of Elizabeth Widville.

This is a well researched, fascinating read. Dr John Ashdown-Hill brings this vividly to life. The pictures added to put 'faces' to names and events vastly enriches the book. Beautifully put together by publisher and author - this is a real treat - I am longing to reread this and will do so at a slower pace to take in the amazing details brought to live by the author.

One of the things I love about the book is that attention is being given to a strong female character. History traditionally assigns more importance to the males in these times, sometimes missing out on the strong female influences that shaped character.

This would be a great book to discuss at book clubs but for me it is also a fabulous summer read

If you are interested in any way in the history of this country, this really is a must-read

Can't rate or recommend highly enough.

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Elizabeth Widville, Lady Gray by Dr John Ashdown-Hill is a well-researched and interesting read that sheds a spotlight on the wife of Edward IV and mother of (amongst many other children) Edward V and eventual Queen Elizabeth of York.

A lot is known about “The Wars of the Roses” and the kings and usurpers that were involved, but not much has been written about some of the pivotal females that were present during that time.

The author clearly has done his research, and of course it is hard to be able to say with certainty all of the details and events of her life, as they were not as thoroughly documented as her male counterparts, however the author used what information he could unearth to create this interesting biography of, whom I feel, was a witty, resourceful, and strong woman who influenced a wide array of important people during this time. Through all of her adversities (and I mean come on, she had a rough go of it), she seemed to come out on top.

Elizabeth Widville was a force to be reckoned with, and Dr. Ashdown-Hill did a fabulous job in recognizing this polarizing woman.

I also enjoyed the images that were provided as well. They most definitely added to the book.

NetGalley, Rachel Fox

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the topic. I knew very little about Elizabeth Widville before picking this up, but feel I now have a much better understanding of what a fascinating character she truly was, as well as the key role she played in some very important historical moments.

The book also provides a good amount of information and background on some other key events of the time - her sons (the princes in the tower), and later the War of the Roses, for instance - all of which is fascinating.

Overall, a well informed and well written exploration of one of history's lesser known characters.

NetGalley, Amelia Louise

About Dr John Ashdown-Hill

Dr John Ashdown-Hill was a well-known medieval historian, having published extensively on a variety of topics within that period but focussing mainly on the Yorkist era. He is best-known for his pivotal role in uncovering the burial place of King Richard III for and for tracing collateral female-line descendants of Richard’s elder sister to establish his mtDNA haplogroup, which matched the mtDNA of the bones found in the Leicester car park. In 2015 he was awarded an MBE ‘for services to historical research and the exhumation and identification of Richard III’.

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