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The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  438 ratings  ·  55 reviews
From an acclaimed historical fiction author comes the first nonfiction book on the notorious and perennially popular Woodville family, investigating such controversial issues as the fate of the Princes in the Tower and witchcraft allegations against Elizabeth and her mother

In 1464, the most eligible bachelor in England, Edward IV, stunned the nation by revealing his secre
224 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by The History Press Ltd
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3.94  · 
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 ·  438 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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The influence, power, and dominance of large families have been a prevalent concept in both history and modern times. One of these families, who played a key role in England during the Wars of the Roses, was the Woodvilles: the family of Elizabeth, Queen Consort to Edward IV. Susan Higginbotham explores the role of this notorious family in, “The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family”.

Higginbotham is well-known for her historical fiction novels focusing more on the
Rio (Lynne)
4.5 stars. I couldn't wait for the US release, so I ordered this from England. I'm so glad I did. I love that Susan Higginbotham takes subjects (whether fiction or non-fiction) and studies her subjects immensely and doesn't assume popular myths or so called facts. Some have said this book is pro-Woodville, but I believe Higginbotham simply states facts she has uncovered and never states her opinions as truth. She lays what she has found on the page and then we can discuss the whys and actions? T ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-english
In this slim volume (appox 170 pgs) historical novelist Susan Higginbotham takes issue with the commonly accepted portrait of the family of Edward IV’s wife – the Woodvilles. In this meticulously researched, book the author tells the reader of the rise a fall of the Queens family – starting with the fortuitous marriage of her father to the widow of Henry V’s brother - the Duke of Bedford, Jacquetta of Luxembourg and ending with the death of Elizabeth, the Queen Dowager in 1492. This is so well r ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wavered a lot between three and four stars and finally decided on four. Here are some basic pros and cons of this read.


The research that went into this book is substantial and you can tell while reading it- if you've read a lot on the time period, you're still not going to feel as if you are reading all the same stuff over again. Even where information overlaps, the opposing perspective is pretty refreshing. At the same time it is very readable. I doubt people without an interest in the t
Carolina Casas
For a family that has been the on the mouths of everyone lately because of recent popular fiction and TV shows, they have been either portrayed as supernatural beings aided by the mysterious force known as Mesluina, the "river goddess" that Jacquetta refers to in Philipa Gregory's White Queen and the mini series by the same name. However as Higginbotham stresses, *EVERY* noble family, it was common to have a mythological being attached to their ancestry. She noted the Nevilles through the Earl o ...more
Oct 25, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-nonfiction

Really excited about this book. Can't wait!
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I happen to be a supporter of Richard III and, of course, the Woodville family is quite important in the War of the Roses and the time leading up to the beginnings of the Tudor dynasty.

For years, probably since they were alive, there have been questions about the role the family played in the reign of Edward IV, Richard's older brother, and why Edward would have married a woman of lesser rank, let alone an Englishwoman rather than a foreign princess for alliance purposes. Lots and lots of specul
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: richard-iii, history
This is not a work of fiction, so you don't have to expect the author telling you what was in the mind of the various characters. Instead you will find plenty of informations, and what is most important, almost every statement is supported by a reference to the corresponding source. And at the end of the book eleven pages of bibliography, with primary sources separated from secondary sources.

At the end of this reading, apart from the subject matter which is certainly very interesting for a lover
Carole P. Roman
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent accounting of the Rivers family. Susan Higginbotham has written a precise and unbiased book about the Elizabeth Woodville's' large family. She describes each one of them, giving both depth and substance to a family long maligned by their detractors. Stripping away gossip and legends, she is able to paint an authentic picture of a group coping with political dynamics in the fifteenth century. She addresses the family myths, describes the customs, and gives a very good idea of life durin ...more
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Susan Higginbotham had experience writing about the fifteenth century's The Wars of the Roses period in English history prior to authoring THE WOODVILLES; THE WARS OF THE ROSES AND ENGLAND'S MOST INFAMOUS FAMILY. In fact, Higginbotham penned a novel whose heroine was a member of the Woodville family: Katherine, later to be the Duchess of Buckingham and Bedford. It's clear from reading both that novel and this book (which serves as an historical study of the famous family who changed the destiny ...more
Small Review
Ok. Not my favorite type of non-fiction. "Themed" chapters with lots of references to other authors instead of a straight narrative of events.

Originally posted on Small Review

I've been dipping my toes into historical non-fiction lately, and I'm quickly learning to group these books into two personal categories: Narrative (more or less straight historical recounting) and Academic (themes and lots of quotes from other people). I very much like the first group, but I'm rapidly learning I could do
Jan 06, 2014 marked it as to-read
From the description: In 1464, the most eligible bachelor in England, Edward IV, stunned the nation by revealing his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, a beautiful, impoverished widow whose father and brother Edward himself had once ridiculed as upstarts. Edward's controversial match brought his queen's large family to court and into the thick of the Wars of the Roses. This is the story of the family whose fates would be inextricably intertwined with the fall of the Plantagenets and the ris ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's nice to read a book on Ricardian history written by someone without an axe to grind.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Don't let the slimness of this volume fool you, it's packed full of information of the most infamous family in the history of England. On closer inspection however, we find that in truth, the Woodvilles were no more ambitious than any other family of the day. Perhaps they just set their sights higher, which made for a harder fall wished upon them by their enemies.

The author does a fantastic job of countering claims put forth by so-called Ricardians, attempting to rehabilitate the much-maligned (
Jul 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Very intense look into both the assorted recorded perceptions and documented research for the Woodville influence upon the English monarchy.

IMHO, it is rather biased but interesting. Regardless, the numbers of infusion to the upper nobility and hubris of influence! It's not at all beyond understanding that as a group they were both differential and obnoxious to the prevailing class system and alliances toward international power.

Present era affinity for Richard III's role or motives or not; dysf
Heidi Murphy
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although obviously written with a Woodville bias, this is a meticulously researched, well-written account of one of the most fascinating families ever to marry into the English royal family. The author manages to dispell myths and shatter our preconceptions about the family that allegedly tried to destroy 'the old royal blood of this realm' and who polarize opinion to this day. The perfect antidote to the White Queen. This Ricardian loved it!
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Clearly did copious research. However, as much as I've liked Ms. Higginbotham's fiction, the writing on this is too disjointed to be enjoyable. The other quibble I have is the bias she shows against Richard III throughout the book.
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very good. I liked the part where it talked about how long a mother in the Middle Ages had to stay in her chamber after she had her baby and the details of her churching.
Susan Abernethy
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Link to my review of this book:
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
At the end, Higginbotham states that in popular imagination the Woodvilles have become one mass entity, all melting into one another. We're all guilty of it; how 'the Woodvilles' were everywhere, how 'they' would almost certainly have dominated the government of Edward V. What Higginbotham does is give them a sense of individuality. Personally I'm fascinated by the marriage of Katherine Woodville and Buckingham (and I didn't know that after 1485 she went on to marry Jasper Tudor!).

Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: historians
I rated this a 2 because if you really want to read an interesting book about the Woodvilles and/or the War of the Roses, find another one. This particularl book is scholarly and would be of great interest to other scholars, particularly those with a keen about what appears to be an argument among about historians about who did what to whom and why; taking sides, as it were. It is not in chronological order. In fact, one of my problems was that Higginbotham continually bounces around the decades ...more
Sherry Sharpnack
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Woodvilles were a large, remarkable family in 15th-century England. Their most famous family member was Elizabeth Grey. A young widow w/ two sons, who captivated a young, newly crowned Yorkist King, Edward IV, Elizabeth has been a subject of pity and horror for 500 years. I did enjoy this quick history of the entire family, but feel that you should already have a good familiarity w/ the Wars of the Roses and its key players before you read this book, as the author seems to assume this prior ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I absolutely love reading Tudor history and really was looking forward to a non-fiction book about the Woodvilles. However, on the first two pages, there were FOUR errors with dates (stating things happened in the 1500s that were in the 1400s) and then on the next page a "Jacqueline" that should have been "Jacquetta." Sadly, the author thanked her proofreader, who obviously needs to find another line of work. This was awful! I quit by the fifth page.
Emma Harris
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book, I enjoyed each chapter and understood it as I read. With historical books it can at times become confusing with different family members and marriages, I didn get that from this book.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good history written well. Comprehensive research on the subject and is written in a very appealing style. However the first two chapters are hard to follow and the lack of a family tree diagram in the cover is a oversight.
Kirsten Tancred
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a fascinating look at one of the most prominent families in the wars of the roses. The author provided balance argument and justified points. An ideal read to build up your knowledge on one of England’s most infamous families
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
A well-researched book on the Woodville family, whose most famous member (Elizabeth Woodville) married King Edward VI, and who has garnered a lot of enmity since. Unlike some of the other books I've read that focus mainly on Elizabeth Woodville, Susan Higginbotham's book examines the entire family, with the most focus being on Richard and Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth's parents, Elizabeth Woodville herself, and her brother Anthony Woodville, with a decent amount on Edward Woodville and Elizabet ...more
Marty Seaney
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Susan Higginbotham's "The Woodvilles" addresses a family that often has been regarded as nothing short of notorious and even imbued with hints of sorcery in its ascent into the royal circles of medieval England.

She aptly and convincingly dispels many of those claims and attacks with a preponderance of evidence that counters earlier accounts of the fractious times and events that came to be known as "The War of Roses".

Furthermore, she dismisses claims by earlier historians like Paul Murray Kendal
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent book that details not only the history of the Woodville family but also shows how their reputation has been tarnished throughout the years. The author factually supports her reasoning with primary sources, plus clearly shows the "who, when, why and where" aspect of certain negative remarks that have been captured and held onto by historians ever since.
I feel as though this book was very much needed, as the current readers of historical fiction are bombarded by negative and inaccura
Victoria Johnston
I loved this book. Most books mentioning the Woodvilles either fictional or otherwise paint them as grasping commoners intent upon bringing down the English nobility. It is nice to read a more balanced view of the family.

In many ways the fmaily were not so much grasping as victims of circumstance. It just so happened that at the time Elizabeth Woodville became Queen - the country was in turmoil and one of the most powerful men in the country had planned for the King to marry a foreign princess t
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Welcome! I write historical fiction and nonfiction set in medieval and Tudor England and, most recently, nineteenth-century America. My latest novel, The First Lady and the Rebel, will be published in October 2019. It tells the story of Mary Lincoln and her Confederate half-sister, Emily Todd Helm.

As a writer of biographical fiction, one of my main goals is to avoid the stereotypes, myths, and mis