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Blood Sisters: The Women Behind The Wars Of The Roses

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,890 ratings  ·  219 reviews
From best-selling historian, Sarah Gristwood comes the true story behind Philippa Gregory’s recent novels – the women who gave birth to the Tudor dynasty. It is a fiery history of Queens, the perils of power and of how the Wars of the Roses were ended – not by knights in battle, but the sinewy political skills of women.

The events of the Wars of the Roses are usually descri
434 pages
Published September 13th 2012
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When you watched "The White Queen", did you think:

"Hmm, it seems kind of weird that a devout Christian woman would be practicing witchcraft. It also seems weird that this witchcraft defines several historical events."

"Wow, Elizabeth Woodville's French manicure is better than mine!"

"Is that a zipper????"

If so, you were in good company. Luckily, Sarah Gristwood has released "Blood Sisters", a wonderful book that combats all things Gregory and should be required reading if you're interested in the
Although the bickering between the Houses of York and Lancaster (now known as the Wars of the Roses) was heavily a “man’s world”; there were strong female players lurking in the shadows and controlling some strings. Sarah Gristwood explores the links between Margaret of Anjou, Cecily Neville, Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, Anne Neville, and Margaret of Burgundy (Margaret of York) in “Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses”.

“Blood Sisters” is not merely
Read ARC via netgalley.

I’m not sure when the current popular fascination with the Tudors began. Was it simply the Showtime series with the glorious Jonathan Rhys-Myers? Or was it Phillippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl? I’m not sure. But it does seem like this book, at least in its release, is an answer to Gregory’s fiction surrounding the Tudor and Pre-Tudor women.
Blood Sisters takes an in-depth look at the royal women who were involved in the Cousin’s War (aka The War of the Roses), a dif
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2017
I was really excited about the approach to this book. It's a look at the royal women during the War of the Roses and the impact they made on the war. While I was interested enough in the subject to keep going, I thought the book fell a little flat. At times it lacked a solid narrative direction which made the reading confusing. This mostly happened in the beginning when there were a lot more people to address and introduce. Unfortunately, the book bounced from woman to woman without a lot of cla ...more
So the women of the Wars of the Roses -- more specifically, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville (Wydville) have always held great interest for me. A couple of thoughts:

1) This book is clearly meant as a popular history, not an academic one. It's meant for audiences who have some, but not necessarily in-depth, knowledge of late medieval England. I had an easier time keeping the names straight in Gristwood's work than I did in the first Wars of the Roses book I read (another popular history,
Sarah u
‘Blood Sisters’ by author Sarah Gristwood aims to tell readers the true story of the Cousin’s Wars- the Wars of the Roses- from the point of view of the women involved. Her seven case studies are Marguerite of Anjou, the Lancastrian queen; Elizabeth Woodville, the Yorkist queen; Cecily Nevill, the would-be Yorkist queen and Elizabeth Woodville’s mother in law; Margaret of Burgundy, Cecily’s youngest daughter who made an illustrious marriage to a duke; Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother; Anne ...more
Deborah Pickstone
Not as good as Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe but am so familiar with the characters and why did she have to say that Cicely Neville had had to get her head round Edward IV murdering George of Clarence and Richard III probably murdering his nephews? The first is well documented and the second not at all. In fact, if it hadn't happened she'd have had no need to 'get her head around it' as it's in our time we suspect him, she probably had no thought of it at all. There ...more
K.J. Charles
Oct 02, 2017 marked it as pass
A book supposedly focused on the women of the Cousins' War (Wars of the Roses if you're old school) which is meant to take away the focus from men and battles into the domestic-political sphere and show us the more human face, not the clash-of-kings. Only, it basically doesn't, at least so far. Evidently there isn't the source material, so in fact it is a procession of the various twists and turns and stuff the main players did (ie mostly men and Margaret of Anjou), with added descriptions of cl ...more
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I highly and enthusiastically recommend "Blood Sisters" by Sarah Gristwood. A fascinating and compelling account of the War of the Roses from the vantage point of the mothers, sisters, daughters and wives who also played central and catalytic roles. The life of the medieval woman was hard and terribly often, terribly short. Womanhood began early...Margaret Beaufort gave birth to the future Henry VII when she was just 14. She never bore a child or was known to be pregnant again. Elizabeth Woodvil ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a very good overview of the women in the Cousins' War. These biographies are becoming increasingly popular, I think, since the release of "The White Queen" TV series. This particular book follows a chronological narrative (rather than laying out each individual biography) of the time period. The women's lives are shown as being interwoven and closely knit, as they were, and the reality of this time period having actual blood kin fighting one another is clearly laid out.

Carolina Casas
This book provides enormous detail into a period that has become as the period that followed, a sensationalist one. The author brilliantly deconstructs in the first sections the myths that every woman was out to out-do the other and they were all natural rivals pit against a medieval cat-fight. By their sorrows, by their experiences, they were all brought together at one point.

The only thing that I had a problem were these words that were associated when speaking of Margaret Beaufort and her onl
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Whilst this book charts the rise and fall of the usual suspects over the years of conflict at the end of the fifteenth century (i.e Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Anne Neville and Elizabeth of York), it also includes the other women who are just as vital to the story and yet are often omitted from the narrative: Cecily Neville, duchess of York, Margaret of Burgundy and Elizabeth, duchess of Suffolk, among others. It highlights that though war may have been the domain ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Women such as Marguerite of Anjou,, Margaret of Burgundy and Margaret of Beaufort recruited armies, arranged marriages and supported political factions. They also gave alms to charity and even played a large role in supporting universities and scholarship. These important women of the Middle Ages certainly didn't let any grass grow under their feet! The women of the Wars of the Roses have often been regarded as unimportant, but Blood Sisters does them justice.

This book also evokes the splendid p
Such a good read!!! It is definitely a must read or anyone looking to know about the women behind the War of the Roses.
Abigail Hartman
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Confession: I read this book in the strangest order possible. Oh, I started at the beginning and read to the end; I just somehow missed about four chapters out of the middle on the first go-round. Somehow my bookmark was moved from early in Part IV to the start of Part V, which meant I skipped 60 pages of Richard III's rule and went straight to the aftermath of Bosworth. I'm not even sure how I managed to not realize that, but I guess it's what I get for reading on an airplane. (In my defense, I ...more
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Wow; what a fantastic book! I've read quite a bit about the "Wars of the Roses", but as is typical of the times, the story was centered around the men in the story. It's too bad; because there were some incredibly complex, strong, independent women supporting these men. These women schemed, manipulated, sacrificed, protected their children, triumphed and failed. All seven of the women profiled in this book deserve our respect; they lived in a time when men controlled politics, but these women di ...more
Ambrosia Sullivan
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another one of my War of the Roses read I enjoyed Blood Sisters because it dealt with the women of the family. Most historians focus on the obvious part of the War of the Roses the men of the York and Lancaster families. However women like Marguerite of Anjou, Margaret of Burgundy and Margaret Beaufort were strong and powerful women who rose Armies!

You can tell that this book has been well researched and the history is all correct, while bringing to mind the pomp and pageants of the time period.
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The War of the Roses shook the very foundations of England, when cousin armed against cousin, fought for power in a domestic drama on a grand scale. The ruling Plantagenets had two warring factions; the House of Lancaster and the House of York, both had equal and valid claims to the English throne as descendants of Edward III. Taking their symbols as red and white roses, the royal houses of Lancaster and York not only divided their family, but also alienated England.

Generally overlooked by their
I enjoyed that the women finally got some respect. Much of what is written about these women centers around their husbands and/or children, but in this book, the men take a back seat. In those times, these women might have been reliant on their husbands (and fathers) for their standing, but most appeared to make their own path in life, aside from their spouse. Margaret Beaufort maneuvered (and possibly risked) the most to put her sole child on the throne. Marguerite of Anjou also fought for her ...more
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must admit that I never ever wanted to explore the period dubbed "war of the roses" and I really don't know why but I suppose it was because I just loved the Tudor era from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. However, now that I have read a few historical fiction pieces on the "war of the roses" era, I am becoming more and more informed on the characters that shaped this time and beginning to want to know more on each of them. This book by Sarah Gristwood was wonderful. It gave you a real appreciation ...more
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading The Kingmakers Daughter and before The White Princess comes out from Phillipa Gregory I came across this book at my library. This book is from the women's prospective during the Wars of the Roses as it is known and less known as the Cousins War. As we all know in the 1400s women's opinion did not matter as much as mans and their lives were rarely documented. Sarah Gristwood took what she could find and tried to give us, readers, what it would be like to live in that era. She follow ...more
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: woman-author, history
If your major source of knowledge about the Wars of the Roses was either Shakespeare's plays, Philippa Gregory novels, or modern TV shows like The Tudors, you will gain a much richer and more nuanced background by reading Sarah Gristwood's Blood Sisters.

Gristwood's book weaves together the stories of the key women players in the events before, during and after the wars. It's a fascinating challenge to our conventional understandings of women being largely disempowered at the time.

At the same t
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
What's not to like about English history! This book is very well written, keeps to the facts without the needless speculation some histories contain. Gristwood profiles the women of the War of The Roses to perfection. This was a time when women were usually relegated to the background, especially when there were so many very strong men in the picture. However those strong men had equally strong women supporting them as wives, mothers, and other kinship connections. This book follows their storie ...more
Karen Floyd
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
A thorough and well-balanced attempt at re-creating the lives of the Yorkist and Lancastrian royal women. Gristwood has done an admirable job of piecing their stories together from state papers, private correspondence, and unreliable historians. Many of these "historians" were writing after the fact and for the winning side, and promoting their patrons' version of events. We will probably never know, for example, whether or not Anne Neville wanted to marry Richard III or what really happened to ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Gristwood aims to tell us the story of the women who played a role in the Wars of the Roses, but produces no new material with which to do this. Inevitably therefore, the reader is left with a familiar story of the male protagonists, peppered with minute-and usually inconsequential-detail about the female characters. It is the nature of the source material that limits Gristwood, and she admirably tries to make some intelligent observations. The difficulty with this book is that for a reade ...more
Finally, the Lancaster, York, and Tudor women get their time in the spotlight.

Get past the cringe-worthy title, and I promise the book gets better from there. Gristwood seems to do a fine job of presenting the lives and loyalties of these women without succumbing to conjecture to fill in the blanks where historical evidence is all too often lacking. (It's a shame we don't have more to go on when it comes to Cecily or Anne Neville)

I learned more about the female royals from this book than I have
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it

Gristwood manages to cover the War of the Roses in manner that makes it actually possible to track the events and people of the insanely complicated English civil war. She digs up some new material, paying close attention to invoices and receipts, which, as any snooping spouse knows, can be very revealing.

However, despite her theme of This-Time-Its-All-About-The-Women, the men of the time period still dominate the text, and she doesn’t bring some of her focal characters forward as much as she s
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very good book about the women involved in the "War of the Roses". History comes alive when seen not in terms of battles, dates and such. These are women who were wives, mothers, daughters, pawns many times, but many times also controlling the game. History, written by men, mostly discounts the involvement of the women. It is refreshing to read a book that brings their role to the forefront. ...more
Mike Clarke
Sarah Gristwood's book is a bumper biography that will doubtless appeal to the value-conscious history reader. Its seven women figured in English history around the end of the middle ages, during the Wars of the Roses. Cecily Neville, the Yorkist matriarch; Marguerite of Anjou, 'Captain Margaret', the fearless but ultimately doomed fighting wife of Henry VI; Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the Tudor dynasty; Anne Neville, luckless wife of a despised king; Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter El ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This took a surprising amount of time for me to get through. I mean, I wasn't expecting to blaze through it, but I ended up putting it down for long periods of time in between chapters and having to be reminded it existed, which doesn't really bode well for its compelling nature? But it is interesting.

I've always been interested in the Wars of the Roses. Blood Sisters goes through the history from Henry VI to Henry VIII via the women involved in the wars: Marguerite of Anjou, Cecily Neville, Mar
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Tudor History Lovers: December 2019 - Blood Sisters, by Sarah Gristwood 4 51 Jan 01, 2020 03:47PM  

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Sarah Gristwood attended Oxford and then worked as a journalist specializing in the arts and women's issues. She has contributed to The Times, Guardian, Independent, and Evening Standard. ...more

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