Bookshelf: The Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of the Rivers

Philippa Gregory

Published 2011

Historical Fiction, 512 pages

A first person account of the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg; she was the young widow of the Duke of Bedford, choosing a second marriage for love to her first husband’s squire, Richard Woodville. Spanning the course of her lifetime from early teens to late forties, the dowager duchess narrates her experience as the most trusted confidant of Queen Margaret D’Anjou as she spearheads her zealous, revenge-driven campaign later known as the War of the Roses. A descendant of the river goddess, Melusina, Jacquetta wars against her natural gift for foresight, fearful of accusations of witchcraft, but drawn by the calling of her divine ancestor’s gift. A snapshot of Lancaster England, under rule of Henry VI.

Review  “I devoured this book.”

I have a weak mind for history. It goes in one ear and out of the other. I am especially defeated by historical text that predates what I would consider to be the modern age. I read, but seldom absorb. That being said, even with this hurdle, I greatly enjoyed this book. Jacquetta is such a genuine narrator; she recites events as they transpire, reserving her emotional prejudice only for moments between herself and those whom she loves. Though she only rarely uses flowery language to describe the romance between herself and Richard Woodville, I found myself revisiting sentences just to stand beside them a moment longer before moving on to the next bit of action. I cannot attest to historical accuracy, because I’m a dolt, but it didn’t feel inflated or exaggerated to me. I was also drawn to Gregory’s ongoing theme of the sign of the times where a woman’s rights were concerned, and Jacquetta’s enlightened but carefully guarded critique of those circumstances. I would recommend this book, and others like it, to anyone who wants to experience historical fiction without drowning in dry recital of facts and figures. I’m already on another book in the Cousins’ War series, this book’s predecessor, The Red Queen.


Limited to words I either did not know yet, or that I never really think about when I encounter them. Definitions found on

propitious presenting favorable conditions; favorable

approbation approval; commendation; official approval or sanction; Obsolete: conclusive proof

eyas a nestling, usually a hawk; Falconry: a young falcon or hawk taken from the nest for training

vanguard the foremost division or the front part of an army; advance guard; van; the forefront in any movement, field, activity, or the like; the leaders of any intellectual or political movement

monstrance Roman Catholic Church: a receptacle in which the consecrated Host is exposed for adoration

livery a distinctive uniform, badge, or device formerly provided by someone of rank or title for his retainers, as in time of war; a uniform worn by servants; distinctive attire worn by an official, a member of a company or guild, etc.

tisane French: aromatic or herb-flavored tea

mountebank a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc.; any charlatan or quack

troubadour one of a class of medieval lyric poets who flourished principally in southern France from the 11th to 13th centuries, and wrote songs and poems of a complex metrical form in langue d’oc, chiefly on themes of courtly love; any wandering singer or minstrel

sinecure an office or position requiring little or no work, especially one yielding profitable returns; an ecclesiastical benefice without cure of souls

duchy the territory ruled by a duke or duchess

seneschal an officer having full charge of domestic arrangements, ceremonies, the administration of justice, etc., in the household of a medieval prince or dignitary; steward

intercessory having the function of interceding

spendthrift a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; prodigal; wastefully extravagant; prodigal

chevalier a member of certain orders of honor or merit; French History: the lowest title of rank in the old nobility; a chivalrous man; cavalier; Archaic: a knight

courtier a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage; a person who seeks favor by flattery, charm, etc.

vassal (in the feudal system) a person granted the use of land, in return for rendering homage, fealty, and usually military service or its equivalent to a lord or other superior; feudal tenant; a persona holding some similar relation to a superior; a subject, subordinate, follower, or retainer

travail painfully difficult or burdensome work; toil; pain, anguish or suffering resulting from mental or physical hardship; the pain of childbirth

curios any unusual article, object of art, etc., valued as a curiosity

stanchion an upright bar, beam, post, or support, as in a window, stall, ship, etc.; to furnish with stanchions, to secure by or to a stanchion or stanchions

virago a loud-voiced, ill-tempered, scolding woman; shrew; Archaic: a woman of strength or spirit

fallow (of land) plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated; not in use; inactive; land that has undergone plowing and harrowing and has been left unseeded for one or more growing seasons; to make (land) fallow for agricultural purposes

limpid clear, transparent, or pellucid, as water, crystal, or air; free from obscurity; lucid; clear; completely calm; without distress or worry

retinue a body of retainers in attendance upon an important personage; suite

enmity a feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity; antagonism

traduce to speak maliciously and falsely of; slander; defame

profligate utterly and shamelessly immoral or dissipated; thoroughly dissolute; recklessly prodigal or extravagant

leveret a young hare

chantry an endowment for the singing or saying of Mass for the souls of the founders or of persons named by them; a chapel or the like so endowed; the priests of a chantry endowment; a chapel attached to a church, used for minor services

byword a word or phrase associated with some person or thing; a characteristic expression, typical greeting, or the like; a word or phrase used proverbially; common saying; proverb; an object of general reproach, derision, scorn, etc.; an epithet, often of scorn

gainsay to deny, dispute, or contradict; to speak or act against; oppose

carillon a set of stationery bells hung in a tower and sounded by manual or pedal action, or by machinery; a set of horizontal metal plates, struck by hammers, used in the modern orchestra

exchequer a treasury, as of a state or nation; (often initial capital letter) the governmental department in charge of the public revenues; (formerly) an office administering the royal revenues and determining all cases affecting them; (initial capital letter) also called Court of Exchequer: an ancient common-law court of civil jurisdiction in which cases affecting the revenues of the crown were tried, now merged in the King’s Bench Division of the High Court

inveterate settled or confirmed in a habit, practice, feeling, or the like; firmly established by long continuance, as a disease, habit, practice, feeling, etc.; chronic

demesne possession of land as one’s own; an estate or part of an estate occupied and controlled by, and worked for the exclusive use of, the owner; land belonging to and adjoining a manor house; estate; the dominion or territory of a sovereign or state; domain; a district; region

belfry a bell tower, either attached to a church or other building or standing apart; the part of a steeple or other structure in which a bell is hung; a frame of timberwork that holds or encloses a bell; Slang: head; mind

rout a defeat with disorderly flight; dispersal of a defeated force in complete disorder; any overwhelming defeat; a tumultuous or disorderly crowd of persons; the rabble or mod; Law: a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a manner that suggests an intention to riot although they do not actually carry out the intention; a large, formal evening party or social gathering; Archaic: a company or band of people; to disperse in defeat and disorderly flight; to defeat decisively

fustian a stout fabric of cotton and flax; a fabric of stout twilled cotton or of cotton and low-quality wool, with a short nap or pile; inflated or turgid language in writing or speaking

chapbook a small book or pamphlet of popular tales, ballads, etc., formerly hawked about by chapmen; a small book or pamphlet, often of poetry

chapmen British: a peddler; Archaic: a merchant

outrider a mounted attendant riding before or beside a carriage

rood a crucifix, especially a large one at the entrance to the choir or chancel of a medieval church, often supported on a rood beam or rood screen; a cross as used in crucifixion; a unit of length varying locally from 5 ½ to 8 yards; a unit of land measure equal to 40 square rods or ¼ acre

tocsin a signal, especially of alarm, sounded on a bell or bells; a bell used to sound an alarm

jerkin a close-fitting jacket or short coat, usually sleeveless, as one of leather worn in the 16th and 17th centuries

trestle a frame typically composed of a horizontal bar or beam rigidly joined or fitted at each end to the top of a transverse A-frame, used as a barrier, a transverse support for planking, etc.; horse


peddler a person who sells from door to door or in the street; a person who tries to promote some cause, candidate, viewpoint, etc.


shrive to impose penance on (a sinner); to grant absolution to (a penitent); to hear the confession of (a person)

alderman a member of a municipal legislative body, especially of a municipal council; (in England) one of the members, chosen by the elected councilors, in as borough or county council; Early English History: a chief; (later) the chief magistrate of a county or group of counties

tableau a picture, as of a scene; a picturesque grouping of persons or objects; a striking scene; a representation of a picture, statue, scene, etc., by one or more persons suitably costumed and posed

charnel a repository for dead bodies; of, like, or fit for a charnel; deathlike; sepulchural

plover any of various shorebirds of the family Charadriidae; any of various similar shorebirds, as the upland plover and other sandpipers


About RicoChey

I'm just an unmarried, childless, thirty-something high school dropout with big ideas and a small attention span. Weave drunkenly behind me as I meander through my own life: a winding path of musings on life, relationships, food, the few politics I can stomach discussing, and probably really dumb stuff like the ratio of Sex and the City episodes wherein Carrie does and does not appear to be wearing extensions.
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