Although I’m familiar with the Tudors, having studied them for A-level and at the start of my degree, Lady Jane Grey, Queen for 9 days in between the death of (Protestant) Edward VI and (Catholic) Mary I, didn’t feature much; but I didn’t even know that she had two younger sisters – Katherine and Mary.
Philippa Gregory’s last Tudor novel tells their fascinating stories, Mary Grey’s particularly so.
With Edward VI’s death, the Tudor line could only continue with a female. The royal status of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, had been thrown into doubt by his father, Henry VIII. The Grey girls’ claim to the throne through their mother, the daughter of Henry VII youngest daughter, Mary, with Mary, Queen of Scots’, claim coming through Henry VII’s eldest daughter, Margaret. Throw religion into the mix, and a bunch of powerful-but-not-royal nobles, and you’ve potential for plots galore.
The Three Sisters are Henry VII‘s daughters (and Henry VIII’s elder and younger sister respectively), Margaret and Mary Tudor, and their sister in law (Henry VIII’s first wife), Katherine of Aragon.
These three women are also Queens – Margaret, married young to James IV of Scotland with the hope of establishing peace between the two nations, is the main voice of the novel. She moves from envy to pity for Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England by virtue of her marriage to Henry VIII, and is eternally irritated by her prettier, younger sister, Mary, Queen of France for three brief months following her marriage to Louis XII of France.
Excellent telling of the transition from The Wars of the Roses to The Tudors – and how rocky this first reign of the new dynasty was.
As with The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory’s versions of history reveal realities that had previously passed me by. In The Constant Princess it was just how long Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon were married (24 of his 38 years on the throne), and in The White Princess it was how long and strong was the threat posed by Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower and Elizabeth of York’s brother.
Philippa Gregory’ The Cousins’ War Series transitions from the Wars of the Roses into Tudor times, using the long and eventful life of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. Born Margaret of York, she was the niece of Plantagenet Kings Edward IV and Richard III, and executed on the orders of King Henry VIII, aged 67.
A long but fascinating read – Henry VIII through a powerful-yet-powerless noble woman’s eyes.