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

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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  2,362 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Mary, Katherine, and Jane Grey–sisters whose mere existence nearly toppled a kingdom and altered a nation’s destiny–are the captivating subjects of Leanda de Lisle’s new book. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen breathes fresh life into these three young women, who were victimized in the notoriously vicious Tudor power struggle and whose heirs would otherwise probably be ruling...more
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published September 1st 2008)
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Misfit
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
Claire
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...more
Pete daPixie
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...more
Amy
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...more
Lesley
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
 ~Geektastic~
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
Caroline
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
Starling
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...more
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...more
Nikki
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
Connie
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...more
Rio (Lynne)
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
Deanne
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.
Bookworm1858
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...more
Syrdarya
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
Charli
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...more
Rebecca
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...more
Jen
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...more
Jan
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
Louise
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...more
Meaghan
An EXCELLENT book, one of the best Tudor histories I've ever read. I thought I knew quite a lot about Lady Jane Grey, but this book taught me many things and totally changed my perspective on Jane. I like my new perspective better -- Jane seems more real, more human now, than she did when she was just a poor innocent martyr with no control over her life. The stories of her sisters, Katherine and Mary (both extraordinary women in their own right) are tragedies of a most Shakespearean kind.

I read...more
Jodi
It is common for Lady Jane Grey to be the subject of a book but to include her two sisters was intriguing. The book was well-written, informative and as balanced as it could be between the three sisters (the youngest sister was pretty neutralized by the politics of the day so there aren’t many primary sources available on her). No huge surprises for me about the facts but I did enjoy the ‘separate’ coverage of each sister instead of the usual works which discuss Katherine, at least, in the conte...more
Mullgirl
I should preface this review with the disclosure that I have always been fascinated by Jane Grey. I saw the movie Lady Jane when I was about 12 and fell in love with the tragic love story of lovers dying over their principles (or at least her husband loving her enough to die for her principles). I couldn’t help but wish for most of the story that Edward Tudor had somehow lived. Of course, he didn’t and he was persuaded in his last days that neither of his half sisters (to become Queen Catherine...more
Joni
Listened on CD
The first two to three disks were so information heavy it was sometimes difficult to follow as there are so many Janes, Marys, Elizabeths, Catherines, etc.. But once it got through all that background information and exposition type writing the biography of the Grey sisters; Lady Jane, Catherine, and Mary, became quite interesting.

The Catholic-Evangelicalists (Protestants) battles were defined. Very well discussed.

Glad I stuck with it.
Redfox5
This is the best history book I've ever read. It reads like a novel. A while ago I read a couple of historical fiction books about Lady Jane Grey, I really enjoyed them and wanted to know more. This book fills in all the gaps and we even find out what happens to Mary and Katherine. This is not a happy tale and Elizabeth I is shown in a harsher light. I also goes to show just how cloudly history can get. A recommened read for anyone interested in the Tudors.
Scarlet Tartlet
An excellent history that reads like fiction. Very good narrator, and I can't wait to read more of de Lisle's Tudor histories. She even discovered unknown facts and documents concerning the Greys during her research. Catherine is a new favorite Tudor of mine, and I can't believe there isn't more written of her.
Audrey
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.
V.E. Lynne
Having read a number of novels lately that centre around Jane Grey and her siblings I was eager to finally read "The Sisters who would be Queen", Leanda de Lisle's non-fiction account of their lives. It is, quite simply, the best and most comprehensive book on Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey I have ever come across. Leanda de Lisle has clearly done a huge amount of research and, as a consequence, the three young women emerge as fully realised human beings and not mere ciphers, pawns or victims of...more
Deni Loubert
I was fascinated by all the research that went into this book. I thought I knew the story of Lady Jane Grey, the Queen for a week. Seems that there is so much more to this era than I knew. Leanda de Lisle gets you into the thick of it pretty quickly, showing you the enormous amount of backstabbing there was at the royal court. But what really is fascinating is how all three sisters dealt with their position as inheritors to a throne it was increasingly obvious was dangerous to own. Intrigue, rom...more
Caidyn
Jun 28, 2014 Caidyn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rachel
Actual rating: 3.5

After having read Lisle's Tudor: The Family Story, I wanted to read more by her. She's a great modern writer of times past that can seem so boring. She handled this book as well, making it engaging for me as a reader -- though I didn't need much since I am absolutely fascinated with this time in history. That's the reason why it got the rating it did.

At some points, it was a bit boring for me, mainly because I already knew quite a bit about Katherine and her struggles with her...more
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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
More about Leanda de Lisle...
After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England Tudor: The Family Story The Catholics and Their Houses

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“If my faults deserve punishment, my youth at least, and my imprudence were worthy of excuse” 3 likes
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