Amber's Reviews > The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
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's review
May 17, 2012

it was amazing
Recommended for: Anyone who loves Tudor history and wants to learn more about the Grey sisters.
Read from May 25 to June 01, 2010 , read count: 1

I really enjoyed reading and learning more about the Grey sisters - in fact, before this book, I barely knew of the existence of the younger two Grey sisters. I know a good deal of information about the big players in the Tudor era, but not the less prominent ones. I’m quickly trying to remedy that by now actively seeking out books about all of the “side characters” of this time period.

Lady Jane Grey’s story is well-known, but that is what a lot of it is…story. The facts have been twisted and manipulated to fit particular time periods and particular ideas of women as a type of propaganda. Lady Jane was not the beautiful, obedient, malleable young woman with uncaring, cruel parents who thought nothing of her safety. Jane was plain, highly intelligent, and devout in her Protestant faith. She never sought the throne, but once it was offered to her through Edward VI’s will and the Privy Council, she took it as God’s will and vowed to her best. Her mother, Frances Brandon, was not intentionally cruel to Jane or her other daughters but is immortalized as such throughout history since she pleaded her case with Queen Mary and removed herself from overt Protestant faith, and that of her daughter’s cause, in order to appear conservative and to protect her other young daughters from a similar fate.

Lady Mary Grey was the youngest of the sisters. She served Queen Elizabeth and eventually fell in love with a man of lesser rank than her. They married without the queen’s consent and were imprisoned and separated from each other for the rest of their lives.

It was the middle sister’s, Katherine Grey’s, story which resonated with me the most. Hers was the most romantic and heartbreaking. She, too, served Queen Elizabeth, her cousin. She was kept close to ensure she wasn’t after the throne. Eventually, she fell in love with Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford (who was the elder son of Edward Seymour, Lord Protector). Both had links to the blood royal and both of their father’s has been executed for treason. They were well-matched in age and heart. Queen Elizabeth, as well as others, warned them to stay away from each other. Yet, they could not and decided to marry secretly. The queen was unaware until Katherine was almost at the end of her pregnancy with her first son. The queen looked for danger everywhere, and the joining of the Seymour and Grey lines, especially with a male heir, greatly threatened her throne, even though Katherine and Hertford did not desire it. The Council, Cecil in particular, approved of Katherine as heir to Elizabeth and constantly pushed the issue and it was always possible that others would rise in rebellion to place Katherine and Hertford on the throne because female rule was an unnatural thing and Elizabeth was cleverly sidestepping every suitor presented to her. Katherine and her husband ended up in the Tower but lived. They were eventually placed on house arrest separately from each other and were never allowed to see each other again.

I’ll now leave you with the last paragraph of the book proper which remains etched in my mind:

Bradgate remains one of the most romantic places in Leicestershire and deeply evocative of its Tudor past. If the house still stood it would surely be thick with the history of later times: eighteenth-century portraits of bewigged grandees, mementos of men who died in the Great War, fading photographs of children who have grown. Instead, there is little more than the crumbling brick the sisters would have known and the deer picking through the trees in the park, as quiet as ghosts (page 280).

You can see the original review here.

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05/27/2010 page 34
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