I should preface this review with the disclosure that I have always been fascinated by Jane Grey. I saw 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 and Queen Elizabeth I) could be queen. And that somehow his very well-educated cousin Jane Grey would be the ideal replacement (skipping the right of her mother Francis to become queen, which I also never understood).  This book tracks the circumstances and tragic decisions that forced the tragic ends of all three of the Grey sisters.

Leanda de Lisle is clearly an excellent researcher and writes with enough detail to captivate you through the entire story. She focuses in turn on each sister. The portrayal of Jane was different than the previous portrayals I had read or seen.  De Lisle really focuses on Jane’s education and deliberate upbringing in the new protestant faith. She seems resolute but not at all in a puppeted way. I didn’t see any hesitation or have a feeling that she ever questioned why she should be queen. Very fascinating reading.

I had never paid much attention to the second Grey sister who Elizabeth I and Catherine saw as a threat. So virtually all of the information I read related to her and later Mary, the last of the sisters was new to me. The author did a great job reviewing journals letters and the like. I never realized just how much fortune depended on becoming and remaining in the queen’s good favor–the grey family struggled with making ends meet after Jane’s death off and on as Catherine and Elizabeth in turn felt threatened. The queens each held a strangle hold over the future of both of the remaining Grey sisters–even trying to control if they ever married (creating the next male heir rendered either Grey sister extremely dangerous with the preference for male rulers at the time).

If you’re at all interested in the Tudor era, I would recommend this highly.

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