She-Wolf or Feminist Heroine? Representations of Margaret of Anjou in Modern History and Literature

  • Imogene Dudley
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


This chapter explores the posthumous reputation of Margaret of Anjou (1430–1482), queen consort to Henry VI of England, in modern historiography and fiction. Henry VI’s mental incapacity enabled Margaret to fill the resulting political vacuum as the figurehead of the Lancastrian monarchy during the Wars of the Roses. She was immortalized by Shakespeare as a “she-wolf,” thus cementing her reputation, but the advent of women’s history ushered in a more sympathetic, revisionist perspective. This chapter considers recent representations of Margaret in historical fiction; explores their treatment of her personality, her sexuality, and her desire for power; and analyzes whether they perpetuate two opposing reincarnations of Margaret as either a “she-wolf” or a proto-feminist heroine, or whether a more nuanced representation is emerging.


Primary Sources

  1. Davies, John Silvester, ed. An English Chronicle of the Reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI written before the year 1471. New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968.Google Scholar
  2. Dockray, Keith, ed. Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses: From Contemporary Chronicles, Letters and Records. Stroud: Fonthill Media, 2016.Google Scholar
  3. Fabyan, Robert and Henry Ellis, ed. The New Chronicles of England and France in Two Parts. London: F.C. and J. Rivington, 1811.Google Scholar
  4. Gairdner, James, ed. The Paston Letters I: Henry VI, 1422–1461 A.D. London: Edward Arber, 1872.Google Scholar
  5. Kekevich, Margaret Lucille, Colin Richmond et al. The Politics of Fifteenth-Century England: John Vale’s Book. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1995.Google Scholar
  6. Monro, Cecil, ed. Letters of Margaret of Anjou and Bishop Beckington and Others Written in the Reigns of Henry V and Henry VI. London: The Camden Society, 1863.Google Scholar
  7. Shakespeare, William. “The Third Part of Henry the Sixth, with the Death of the Duke of York.” In The RSC Shakespeare: William Shakespeare’s Complete Works, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. Basingstoke: Macmillan Publishers Ltd, 2007.Google Scholar
  8. Vergil, Polydore and Henry Ellis, ed. Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History, comprising the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III. London: Camden Society.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Bordo, Susan. The Creation of Anne Boleyn: In Search of the Tudors’ Most Notorious Queen. London: OneWorld Publications, 2014.Google Scholar
  2. Castor, Helen. She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2010.Google Scholar
  3. Chamberlayne, Joanna L. “Crowns and Virgins: Queenmaking During the Wars of the Roses.” In Young Medieval Women ed. by Katherine J. Lewis, Noël James Menuge and Kim M. Phillips. Stroud: Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1999.Google Scholar
  4. Crawford, Anne. “The Kings Burden?: The Consequences of Royal Marriage in Fifteenth-Century England.” In Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England, edited by Ralph A. Griffiths, 33–57. Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1981.Google Scholar
  5. Dunn, Diana. “Margaret of Anjou: Monster-Queen or Dutiful Wife?” Medieval History, 4 (1994): 199–212.Google Scholar
  6. ———. “Margaret of Anjou, Queen Consort of Henry VI: A Reassessment of her Role, 1445–53.” In Crown, Government and People in the Fifteenth Century, edited by Rowena E. Archer, 107–143. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1995.Google Scholar
  7. Gillingham, John. The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth Century England. London: Phoenix Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  8. Gregory, Philippa. The Lady of the Rivers. London: Simon and Schuster, 2012.Google Scholar
  9. ———. The Kingmaker’s Daughter. London: Simon and Schuster, 2013.Google Scholar
  10. Griffiths, R. A. The Reign of King Henry VI (Second Edition). Stroud: Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2004.Google Scholar
  11. Haswell, Jock. The Ardent Queen: Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrian Heritage. London: Peter Davies Ltd, 1976.Google Scholar
  12. Hicks, Michael. The Wars of the Roses. London: Yale University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  13. Hickson, Joanna. First of the Tudors. London: Harper, 2016.Google Scholar
  14. Higginbotham, Susan. The Queen of Last Hopes. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2011.Google Scholar
  15. Iggulden, Conn. Wars of the Roses: Bloodline. London: Penguin, 2016.Google Scholar
  16. ———. Wars of the Roses: Ravenspur, Rise of the Tudors. London: Penguin, 2017.Google Scholar
  17. ———. Wars of the Roses: Stormbird. London: Penguin, 2014.Google Scholar
  18. ———. Wars of the Roses: Trinity. London: Penguin, 2015.Google Scholar
  19. King, Betty. Margaret of Anjou. London: Robert Hale Limited, 2000.Google Scholar
  20. Laynesmith, J. L. The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445–1503. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  21. Lee, Patricia-Ann. “Reflections of Power: Margaret of Anjou and the Dark Side of Queenship.” Renaissance Quarterly, 39.2 (1986): 183–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Maurer, Helen E. Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  23. ———. “Delegitimizing Lancaster: The Yorkist Use of Gendered Propaganda During the Wars of the Roses.” In Reputation and Representation in Fifteenth-Century Europe, edited by Douglas L. Biggs, Sharon D. Michalove and A. Compton Reeves, 169–187. Leiden: Brill, 2004.Google Scholar
  24. Penman, Sharon. The Sunne in Splendour. London: Penguin, 1984.Google Scholar
  25. Plaidy, Jean. The Red Rose of Anjou. London: Arrow Books, 2009.Google Scholar
  26. Savage, Alan. Queen of Lions. London: Warner Books, 1994.Google Scholar
  27. Storey, R. L. The End of the House of Lancaster. London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1966.Google Scholar
  28. Strickland, Agnes. Lives of the Queens of England, Volume III. London: Lea and Blanchard, 1852.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Imogene Dudley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

Personalised recommendations