REVIEW: Margaret Tudor, Melanie Clegg

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

When the thirteen year old Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, married King James IV of Scotland in a magnificent proxy ceremony held at Richmond Palace in January 1503, no one could have guessed that this pretty, redheaded princess would go on to have a marital career as dramatic and chequered as that of her younger brother Henry VIII. Left widowed at the age of just twenty three after her husband was killed by her brother's army at the battle of Flodden, Margaret was made Regent for her young son and was temporarily the most powerful woman in Scotland - until she fell in love with the wrong man, lost everything and was forced to flee the country. In a life that foreshadowed that of her tragic, fascinating granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret hurtled from one disaster to the next and ended her life abandoned by virtually everyone: a victim both of her own poor life choices and of the simmering hostility between her son, James V and her brother, Henry VIII.

Margaret Tudor did not change the world, lead armies, or push against the gender norms that have kept women bound for centuries. But does that mean her life is not worth knowing about? I spent all last year reading books about women who had flung off their skirts and picked up a sword, and yes, I loved each and every one of them for the path that they help me walk but sometimes, it would have been welcome for me to stumble upon a woman who had been born, lived and died without leading a revolution. Because yes, the women who changed the world are important, but so are the ones who didn’t. Margaret Tudor was frivolous, with no mind for politics or the machinations of diplomacy; she was prone to fits of temper, the accumulation of pretty dresses and falling for exactly the wrong men. But they were pretty, so who could blame her?
By focussing on these aspects of her personality, Melanie Clegg has managed to paint a vivid picture of a very real woman. One who lived through hardships, both of her own making and because of the patriarchal political system that continuously worked against her, as well as moments of great joy. And one who shows that, no matter what time a person lived and how different they first might appear, there are ties that bind us all together.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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