Julie's Reviews > Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen

Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock
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's review
Sep 23, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, tudor, vine, own
Read in September, 2010 — I own a copy

This book succeeds in vindicating Mary Tudor’s reputation as “Bloody Mary,” and the author’s portrayal of her is much more sympathetic than any other I’ve read. It explores four phases in her life: the daughter of a king, the sister of a king, the queen, and the wife of a king. In order to understand the woman she becomes, the first third of the book is devoted to her young life during her father’s reign. It examines Henry VIII’s tumultuous latter years and his six wives, but it makes an assumption that the reader already has a general knowledge of Tudor history. It does effectively illustrate the extreme fear Mary felt and her desperation in the face of danger from her adversary and step-mother, Anne Boleyn. Mary’s paranoia is justified as Henry and Anne’s suspicions lead to deplorable treatment of Mary and her mother, Katherine.

The second part under her brother, Edward VI’s reign is a redundant tug-of-war between faiths. Mary is immovably stubborn in her staunch Catholicism and her abhorrence of religious reform is at odds with Edward’s Protestantism. The constant exchange of reprimands and between the siblings becomes tiring.

Part three deals with Mary’s courageous ascent to the throne despite major opposition. By suppressing her opponents and invalidating the conspiracy to raise Jane Grey as queen, Mary herself becomes a beloved figure to her people. This idyllic period during her reign quickly becomes controversial in the last part of the book when she defiantly marries Philip of Spain. Her unpopularity increases as the public fears Spain’s authority and she fails to produce an heir. Her religious fervor continues as she zealously condemns “heretics” to burn. However, her strength and resolve allow her to survive numerous insurgencies. One aspect I felt the author didn’t emphasize enough was the conditions her subjects suffer when dealing with epidemics and famine, which also contributed to her diminishing popularity.

Overall, it was a very comprehensive examination of the first queen of England’s life. I found that the short chapters made this biography manageable and the progression was good. There was some redundancy, but it did achieve the author’s goal of portraying Mary as a devout and courageous leader.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program.
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