Sunday, May 13, 2012
Her Highness, the Traitor
Susan Higginbotham does it again!
This is not the story of the nine-day Queen, Lady Jane Grey, but of her family, her husband Guildford Dudley’s family, and how they were affected by King Edward VI’s device for the succession. It is told from the points of view of Lady Jane Dudley and Lady Frances Grey, the mothers of the would-be ruling couple. Here the infamous Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley, becomes a devoted and attentive husband; he is a firm leader for England and peaceful about meeting his gruesome end. Lady Frances becomes not a mean, ambitious mother, but a woman who loved but could not relate to her intelligent teenage daughter, Jane.
The story begins with Henry VIII’s death and recaps all of the classic anecdotes from this time: Katherine Parr’s shocking remarriage and death, Lady Mary Tudor’s failed attempt to escape England and her imagined religious persecution, and the feud between Northumberland and Somerset, resulting in Somerset’s demise against the English population’s wishes – all leading up to Edward VI’s plans to make his Protestant cousin Jane the queen of England. But it also provides the stories behind the stories, told from the fresh perspectives of the mothers involved.
Along with historical accuracy, a swift-moving plot and little family details that any mother would remember and treasure, such as Lady Dudley’s talking parrot and Lady Grey’s dismay at her daughter’s surprising lack of common sense, the novel includes characterizations at which this author excels. She takes the infamous villains of history and presents them as relatable human characters.
This book at times made me smile and then cry with the tragedy. I very much recommend it.