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

Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock
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Jun 16, 2011

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bookshelves: history, tudor-england, queens, mary-tudor, own
Read from June 16 to 20, 2011

I know what you may be thinking: that you love Elizabeth I and that Mary is just, well, her depressed older-half sister who as a staunch Catholic had 300 heretics burned. What you must realize is that Mary was a trailblazer as the first Queen of England, she paved the way for Elizabeth. There would be no Elizabeth without Mary. Mary was a fighter and fought for her throne: literally. Her coup was the most succesful revolt against central government in 16th-century England.

If you are interested in discovering the world of Mary which goes far beyond the confines of popular propaganda via John Knox and John Foxe depicting her a conservative, "bloody", and evil leader; then settle down with a copy of this book. Whitelock provides a overview of Mary's entire life from the moment of birth to her death (that would be 42 years). Sadly, this novel is less annotated than would be preferable and there are no facts or revealing information which you haven't heard before so you won't be left astounded. Simply put, Whitelock's offering is better as a refresher course on Mary Tudor's life or as an introduction to someone who may have never read about her before.

One of the stronger highlights was the explanation regarding the loss of Calais to the French. Mary is always blamed for this loss (and she has revealed that it was her biggest heartbreak) but most books never go beyond the accusation of her loss. Whitelock dives deeper and explains how although against popular sentiment, Mary had to enter war against the French because of rebellions against her person backed by the French. Garrisons weren't properly protected and the council and parliment refused to supply the men in Calais so basically the loss resulted in fingers pointing in every direction on who was to blame. Like any war where the victory is attributed to the leader, conversely the loss was blamed on Mary. This is the first book to make these actions clear.

Unfortunately, I do have some complaints. The book has some sequencing issues and would jump from explaining events in one year and then back track and go ahead once more. It can get confusing if you are the type of reader who liked to keep track of dates. Additionally, the cause of reversing Mary's poor reputation was somewhat lost. If you are writing a book to change popular opinions, you have to be argumentative, vindicative, and strong. The epiloque was more moving and against the propaganda than the actual text. Basically, the book doesn't sway you until the end.

Again, not a bad choice as a refresher or an introduction to Mary and certainly (despite my complaints) a interesting and smooth-paced read.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Penny Younce Actually Mary I was not the first queen of England. Technically, Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen before Mary.


Orsolya She was the first Queen regnant as my review states. Jane never had a coronation. So you are incorrect.


Penny Younce The Monarchy website (royal.gov.uk) marks her as a Queen in the Tudor House. That's my source.


Orsolya She was a queen for 9 days. I agree. However, she wasn't crowned so she wasn't a regnant.


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