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The Sisters Who Would be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  3,825 Ratings  ·  212 Reviews
Born into aristocracy, the Grey sisters were the great-granddaughters of Henry VII, grandnieces to Henry VIII, legitimate successors to the English throne, and rivals to Henry VIII's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Lady Jane, the eldest, was thrust center stage by uncompromising religious politics when she briefly succeeded Henry's son, the young Edward VI. Dubbed "the Nine ...more
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Published October 13th 2009 by Tantor Media
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The Sisters Who Would Be Queen is one of the best nonfiction books that I have had the pleasure to read. Taking complicated circumstances and unraveling them for the greater understanding of the reader, Lisle also injects plenty of personality into her writing. At times, this highly informative book read as easily, and was as interesting, as a fast paced novel.

I enjoyed learning more about the famous Grey sisters. If you are a Tudor-phile, you have likely heard of them - or at least a fictional
Dec 05, 2009 Misfit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book covers an extremely complex bit of history, so I will try to keep this as short and sweet as possible. We all know about Henry VIII and out of six wives he had one son, Edward, and two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Henry's favorite sister Mary had a daughter Frances who in turn had three daughters - Jane, Katherine and Mary. Upon the death of Edward, well that is when things get complicated as those three sisters (or more specifically any sons they might bear) were potential heirs to ...more
Sherwood Smith
In May of 1553, Durham House in London witnessed a triple wedding. The eldest of the couples were barely past their mid teens; the other two brides were age twelve, their husbands not much older. One of these boys was severely ill, dragged out of bed to stand by his new wife's side.

No one objected to what we now would howl down as child abuse, to say nothing of illegality. The average marriage age for ordinary English folk was twenty, but these were all noble children, and the entire purpose beh
Dec 09, 2010 C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant. This is without a doubt, the most informative, entertaining and enthralling history book I have ever read. Leanda De Lisle's incredible history of the Grey family starts with a bit of background on Frances Grey and the family's connections to the Tudors.

She goes on to describe in pure, sweeping detail, the life and times of each Grey sister. Beginning with Jane, De Lisle smashes the stereotypes and shows impressive evidence for a different view of Lady Jane Grey, explainin
Amy Bruno
Author Leanda de Lisle has written an utterly captivating account of the lives of, Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Seriously, this is how non-fiction is done!

The fate of the Grey sisters exemplifies the danger of being born perilously close to the throne of England. All three would eventually fall victim to the English crown, though in different ways.

Lady Jane, the most notable of the Grey sisters, was born the eldest and as such was the one the family ves
Pete daPixie
Apr 13, 2010 Pete daPixie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-tudor
I have always held that truth is stranger than fiction. The truth here is that Leanda de Lisle has written a history of Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey, that is a most compelling, frightening and tragic biography. The work stands amongst the finest historical writing I have ever come across.
'The Sisters who would be Queen', as the front cover proclaims, really does read like a best selling novel. The detail is meticulous. Here is a history book that contains a sixteenth century thriller, a most he
According to the title of this book, there were three Grey sisters- Jane, Katherine and Mary- all of whom played an important role in Tudor history. According to the bulk of the narrative, there was Lady Jane Grey and two sisters who served as an epilogue to their elder sister’s tragedy. I don’t think this is the fault of de Lisle so much as it is the fault of history; few people recorded their thoughts on the two younger Greys, even though they were possibly more important than Jane in the gran ...more
Lígia Bellini
I have mixed feelings about this book! I just couldn't agree with De Lisle about her views of Jane Grey. I understand that Jane Grey was very faithful to her religion, but i can't believe she was ambitious to wants to keep the throne. To Mary Tudor, it was a very difficult task to decide Jane Grey's fate. For me, she was a victim of her ambitious parents and not a Protestant's Leader. But i agree with the De Lisle about Katherine and Mary Grey! And no matter how much i read about Queen Elizabeth ...more
Most Tudor-philes are familiar with Lady Jane Grey, the tragic "9 Days Queen" bullied by her parents and in-laws into usurping the crown from Mary Tudor. The story is far more complicated however; Jane and her 2 younger sisters were considered the true heirs by a significant portion of the British population, and Jane's accession was the honest intent of the young King Edward. The Grey sisters had three advantages over Henry VIII's daughter Mary: they were unquestionably legitimate, they were Pr ...more
Everyone knows the story of Lady Jane Grey, the 'Nine Days Queen', the innocent who was maneuvered into claiming the throne by her husband and family and executed by a vengeful Mary Tudor. In this book de Lisle argues that Jane was no innocent and no victim, that she was raised from birth fully conscious of her royal blood, her position as heir to the throne under Henry VIII's will and her role at the forefront of the struggle between Protestantism and Catholicism. Jane was an exceptionally educ ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Fairly easy to read and enjoyable, The Sisters Who Would Be Queen is a biography of the Grey sisters: mostly Jane, for the first section of the book, but providing glimpses of the rest of the Grey family, and how the girls were raised. Leanda de Lisle attempts to dispel the idea of Lady Jane Grey as an innocent martyr, pointing out her deep commitment to her faith and her deliberate stage-managing of how people saw her. Like other writers, she sees Jane's death with pity, and uses the same rheto ...more
I'm not assigning stars to this book. When I stop reading a book without finishing it, and I know it is me and not the book, I don't think it is fair to assign stars.

If you are into Tudor history, this is a good readable book about a part of the Tudor story that doesn't get mentioned much. The author doesn't buy into the myth of Lady Jane Grey as being an innocent victim. She recognizes that by the standards of the day, as a royal, Jane was of age both when she accepted the crown and when she wa
June Louise
If all history books were written like this, I would not have ditched the subject after O'Grade at school! Wow, is all I can say!

The book traces the lives, its zeniths and nadirs of the Grey sisters: Lady Jane, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary. It is a book of avarice, greed, conspiracies, injustices and executions, as well as it demonstrating determination in two female heirs to the throne, in the days when females were very much looked down on as being the weaker sex.

The historical figures in the
Lady Studland
I liked the little details added by the author, things like: Princess Elizabeth was “disgusted at Catherin Parr’s sudden remarriage” and the fact that Thomas Seymour as a result, had control of Elizabeth’s lands and income (pp. 31-32); the fact that one of Suffolk’s creditors made his way to the block as Suffolk was about to die to ask how he would get is money (p. 146); the remark that during a plague outbreak in the summer of 1563, Queen Elizabeth moved the court to Windsor. “…anyone suspected ...more
Sep 29, 2009 Connie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was well researched and brought a fresh look at many familiar people. Frances Brandon Grey emerged as a more reasonable woman, misrepresented by many in the past. Jane was a more multidimensional character than usually portrayed. I was drawn to poor Katherine Grey, who found true love and suffered because of it. I must admit that my opinion of Elizabeth I has probably taken a hit though

I do recommend a strong knowledge of the period and the people before diving in
Rio (Lynne)
Oct 31, 2011 Rio (Lynne) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, but this one held my interest. The author's 8 years of research sheds new light or a new way of thinking on many historical figures during this time. I won't say much for spoiler reasons, but I thought I knew why many decisions were made during these years. The author makes for new reason, even debunks prior myths. Some reviewers feel de Lisle made Jane out to be greedy. I did not get that impression. I felt Katherine and Mary were both naive. They simply didn't ...more
Sep 21, 2013 Deanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
One of my favourite places is Bradgate park in Leicestershire, it has a river, a reservoir, an old tower on a hill and the ruins of Bradgate manor, childhood home of the Grey sisters. I'm pretty certain I've got a photo of the ruins here under photos.
I knew about Lady Jane Grey, queen for nine days, but I didn't know what had happened to her two sisters. Gave me a whole new impression of Elizabeth the first.
May have to see if there are any more books by de Lisle worth a look.
I liked this book, but I found the author to be very biased. I just think that a historian has to be as objective and 'un-opinionated' as possible. However, it did add a lot to the story of the Grey sisters' lives, and I like how the author exonerated their mother Frances from charges of heartlessness.
Susan Abernethy
Jan 20, 2016 Susan Abernethy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Link to my review of this book:
Sep 09, 2016 Nate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
There was nothing inherently wrong with this book. It was well-researched and had a good idea, but some things were... bothersome. The book was not what it was marketed as. It was more of a book on the question of Elizabethan/Edwardian succession with a slight emphasis on the Grey sisters. The book focused too much on Jane Grey, compared with the others. She had half the book to herself with only the occasional mention of the other two. Additionally, she was mentioned only half of her time. The ...more
Athena Ninlil
"While I live yours" "She began to beat her fists on her breast ... 'Oh Jesus receive my spirit' Katherine said abruptly ...'" ~Sisters who would be Queen. On Katherine Grey's death. A very sad, tragic story that to this day is one of the saddest in English history. There are no wars, brave knights, or fair maidens, there are only victims and political players and very often these two get blurred because we think victims were nothing more than tools of their ambitious and evil parents but truth ...more
I picked this up at the library because I have been interested in Tudor history but did not know much about the Grey sisters beyond Jane's usurpation of the throne (I believe that Edward was too young to change his father's will and Mary was the rightful successor).

Summary: These women were to be the heirs to the English throne but the vicious power struggles of Tudor politics led to untimely deaths and largely unhappy existences. De Lisle uncovers new information regarding Jane's life and illum
The first third of this book was rather rough for me because of all the information packed into it, but right around the point when Jane is about to become queen the writing relaxes and is easier to read. Unfortunately I was left without a real picture of Lady Jane Grey as a person. Instead I got a better understanding of all the people around Jane and their motives. The stories of Katherine and Mary Grey perhaps make them easier to understand as human beings, because both of their tales revolve ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Charli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was very pleasantly surprised by this book - I was expecting the lion's share of the material to be about Jane, her 9 day reign, and the subsequent fall-out after her execution.

However, what I really enjoyed about this was the stories that are usually completely ignored by authors - that of Katherine and Mary Grey, and what their sister's death meant for them. As potential heirs to the English throne, Elizabethan England was often a dangerous place for them, whether it be the Queen herself cas
Feb 26, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book over a weekend, I found it very fascinating. I've read quite a bit about Tudor history, Lady Jane Grey has always come across as somewhat of a doormat. Reading this book has definitely changed my view of the Grey sisters and their family.
For all of us who have viewed the movie, "Lady Jane', we knew Frances Brandon as being quite the enforcer and very power hungry woman. Frances and her husband, Suffolk, are treated as being good parents who actually loved their children. Not th
Hmmm, I almost feel as if I read a different book than the other reviews because I must certainly disagree with some of the strong points discussed. As opposed to the other reviews, I thought that the majority of this books focused on Jane Grey versus her less controversial sisters. Granted, there is obviously more historical remnants available regarding the Nine Days Queen but when a book's title contains the term"sisters", then you expect more. Yes, the book DID delve into some background rega ...more
Feb 16, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Grey has always been almost a mythical creature for me. She certainly wasn't three-dimensional. The common view of her is this maligned child, forced on to the throne, forced to wed, and then brutally sacrificed to preserve Mary's throne. She is seen as the tool of everyone around her.

However, the real story is far more interesting. Jane was less the innocent victim, and more self-aware than portrayed. She was far more involved, more angry, and more the spokeswoman for her religion than the
I selected this book because I was thoroughly impressed with "After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England" by the same author. I expected a very good book and Leanda De Lisle delivered. I did not expect this totally new dimension on Elizabeth and her succession.

This book adds to the previous documentation of Elizabeth's aversion to naming a successor. It tells how far, even early in her reign, and against great pressure Elizabeth would go not to name
Feb 18, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is rare to find a book about the Tudor era that covers substantial new ground, but Leanda de Lisle achieves it quote notably in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Beyond the myth of Lady Jane Grey, you have three sisters who were at times pawns and at times role models. Although much has been written about Jane, her sisters Katherine and Mary are even more fascinating with clandestine marriages, imprisonment, redemption and in one case survival.

The Stuart vs. Tudor/Brandon claims to the throne
Oct 03, 2010 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey were grandaughters of Mary, younger sister of Henry VIII. Henry's will stated that after his own children and their heirs, the next in line to the throne were Mary's heirs.

The story of Lady Jane Grey is as famous as it is tragic. But what happened to her younger sisters, also heirs to the throne? This very readable biography details Jane's short but significant life which is so well known, and then moves on to Katherine and Mary, revealing their own sets of secrets
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Leanda de Lisle graduated from Somerville College Oxford having read history and in 1990 she completed an MBA – her thesis was on political marketing.

Leanda has written columns for Country Life, the Sunday and Daily Express, The Spectator, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Telegraph, the New Statesman.

Leanda’s AFTER ELIZABETH which focuses on the period between March 1603, when Elizabeth I
More about Leanda de Lisle...

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