... a book firmly rooted in reality ... Tallis is a zealous destroyer of myths ... Uncrowned Queen is successful in this aim; it demolishes the dark legend of Margaret Beaufort. Balance is achieved through information recorded by Margaret’s staff, including the erudite 10th Lord Morley and her confessor, John Fisher, who was later ushered into the Catholic confraternity of saints by the pudgy, blood-soaked fingers of Margaret’s grandson Henry VIII ... Tallis’s Margaret is generous, ferociously intelligent, pious, ruthless, driven and untrusting ... Tallis deploys an extraordinary eye for detail in telling this story. She notes the arthritis that crippled Margaret in later life is faithfully rendered in the prayer-clasped hands of her effigy at Westminster Abbey. She discusses concerts in the gardens of Margaret’s palace and the annotations Margaret made in her prayer books. She explains throughout her use of the sources, while maintaining an elegant prose. Through this superb revisionist biography, Margaret Beaufort emerges as a fascinating and often surprisingly sympathetic matriarch.
Ms. Tallis has researched Margaret’s life assiduously, delving deep into her account books, which record lavish expenditure on clothes and jewels ... Ms. Tallis draws on the admiring memoir left by Margaret’s chaplain and confessor, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester—much later a cardinal sent to the executioner’s block by her grandson Henry VIII for his loyalty to Rome and refusal to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church in England. Yet Fisher didn’t meet Margaret until 1494, when she was 50. He knew her only when her position was secure as Henry VII’s influential mother, so his portrait, though offering evidence of her piety, intelligence and good nature, leaves out a good deal. Inevitably Ms. Tallis is reduced to offering 'must haves' and 'may haves.' Sometimes her eagerness to bring Margaret to life as a wife and fond mother lurches into domesticity at the expense of her role in the politics of the era.
Tallis’s study of Margaret sets out 'to dispel the many myths surrounding Margaret’s life, and in their place offer a rounder, richer picture”. The result is well-evidenced analysis of a fascinating woman ... Tallis’s analysis of Margaret forms part of an important and growing area of scholarship on the significant involvement of women in fifteenth- century politics ... Tallis effectively combines this archival material with narrative sources to draw convincing inferences about her character and motivations. Margaret emerges from this compelling study as admirable and relatable, accommodating astutely to the volatile political climate and emerging from it as 'a woman of extraordinary determination and self-possession'.