As in her first book in the series, The White Queen, Gregory transports the reader back into the past and replays the battle involved in the Cousins War through the figure of Margaret Beaufort. Margaret, from the House of Lancaster, holds the firm belief that she will be mother of the next King of England and thus able proudly to sign her name as ‘Margaret Regina: Margaret R’. The only thing standing in her way is the usurper from the House of York, Richard III, but Margaret refuses to be denied the position that she believes God has rightly ordained for her. This view is reinforced by the fact that after a life-threatening childbirth at the age of thirteen, Margaret, who has been a devout Christian all her life – and who has the ‘saint’s knee’ to show for it, if disputed – believes that God had saved her to fulfil a sacred mission: to see that her son, Henry VII is made King. After all, who can go against God’s will? For this very purpose, she is willing to go against all odds, even to arrange a marriage between her exiled son and the York Princess – daughter of her sworn enemy Elizabeth Woodville – and finally to mastermind one of the greatest rebellions in history.
Furthermore, readers may note a subtle form of satire in the novel. Gregory explores the drive behind Margaret’s sense of mission: her religion. This appears in the way that Margaret has since childhood perceived herself as England’s very own Joan of Arc. Indeed Gregory suggests that religion may be the cause behind many conflicts in history, noting how people have used it as a cover for their own selfish desires and ambitions. Margaret is portrayed as a prime example of this, as Gregory skilfully dramatises the ways in which her heroine exploits religious beliefs as a means to influence the other characters and raise support for her cause.