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The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  5,411 ratings  ·  259 reviews
#NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER: Inspiration for Philippa Gregory's 2017 novel The Last Tudor and for Elizabeth Fremantle's 2014 novel Sisters of Treason

Leanda de Lisle brings the story of nine days’ queen, Lady Jane Grey and her forgotten sisters, the rivals of Elizabeth I, to vivid life in her fascinating biography’ Philippa Gregory

Lady Jane Grey is an iconic figure in Englis
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published 2009 by HarperPress
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Dawn Prignano I say it would help drastically, as there are so many characters and it would help to know background to keep everyone straight.

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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
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
Nov 05, 2009 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
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
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
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
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Pete daPixie
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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 rated it liked it
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 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. ...more
Vicki Willis
Jul 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-2017, non-fiction
2.5 months to read this book.
'Nuff said.
Oct 30, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 25, 2011 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
May 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This book, unfortunately, seemed to take me forever to get through. I've read a good amount of history books on the Tudors (and just history in general) and this book just seemed lackluster. Rarely do we get to see letters referring to, from, or to the gray sisters though these letters are often talked about. Mary Grey is barely covered. It seems like Katherine Grey's sons are covered more than Mary Grey. Lots of info is repeated multiple times. You just don't get a good feel for the type of wom ...more
Sep 14, 2013 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.
Caidyn (he/him/his)
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
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
Jan 24, 2015 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
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 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2011 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
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
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Convincing revisionist view of the three Grey sisters Jane, Katherine and Mary, who, far from being pious Victorian victims, were calculating players in Tudor politics, taking calculated chances, which, given the recent events of the War of the Roses, might have paid off with a crown. However, they did not know, as we do (with crystal clear hindsight) that Elizabeth I and William Cecil were people with whom you should not trifle.
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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Leanda de Lisle is the author of bestselling Tudor and Stuart history praised for meticulous research as well as strong narratives. She has a Masters degree in history from Oxford University. TUDOR, her biography of the Tudor family 1437-1603, was a top ten Sunday Times best seller, BBC History book of the year, Daily Telegraph book of the year, and History Today book of the year. THE SISTERS WHO ...more

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