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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  490 ratings  ·  61 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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Start your review of The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Wylie Small
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The Woodvilles” was an excellent, thorough biography of the family which changed England’s history. Factual yet engagingly written, the book takes the reader from patriarch Richard Woodville and his aristocratic (love match?) wife Jacquetta through daughter Elizabeth (of “White Queen” fame), her siblings and children. Higginbotham sets the record straight on several fronts, including the alleged charges of witchcraft leveled against Jacquetta and Elizabeth which were exploited in Philippa Grego ...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.
Sara G
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good historical overview of the Woodville family, one of the most interesting English families of the 15th century. I already knew a lot about Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's queen, but it was interesting to read about her warrior/crusader brother Edward and her scholar/warrior brother Anthony. Those were interesting times in England and these people were absolutely in the middle of it. The author's writing style is not too dry and she comes across like a fun professor who likes her s ...more
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 (
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!
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.
Apr 04, 2014 rated it liked it
They need a proofreader on this one!
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
Claire Renee
Oct 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I borrowed this from my local library and was interested as there isn't much about the Woodville family apart from Elizabeth who was married to Edward IV of England. It seemed promising as a balanced, unbiased, "just the facts" type of book. However, the author definitely does have a bias which was quite clear throughout the book. She's bought the usual (Shakespeare, Thomas More...) line about Richard III and it spoiled it for me. To add insult to injury there were typos with regard to the year ...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
This is the best biography of the Woodville family. It's an antidote to every untrue information of previous biographers, to whom the Woodvilles are a greedy and unlikable lot. The author quotes a wealth of primary source material, and also refers to secondary sources, often dispelling the long-held beliefs. It's shocking how many myths crept into the story of this family over the centuries, and it's admirable that Susan Higginbotham decided to clear them all up and return to the contemporary so ...more
Lila Rhodes
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Presumably the sub-title is intended to sell books. It certainly doesn't describe either the family or Susan Higginbotham's book.
It is no more logical to trust the word of a fifteenth century opponent than that of a modern opponent in the heat of political battle.
In this well-researched book, Ms Higginbotham takes the case of the Woodville family and, charge by charge, defeats the arguments against them. In the process she tells their story well.
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
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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

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