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The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary,…

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A… (2008)

by Leanda De Lisle

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I should preface this review with the disclosure that I have always been fascinated by Jane Grey. I saw the movie 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 early and 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. ( )
  mullgirl | Jun 8, 2015 |
Just couldn't get into this book. I did not find The characters fascinating enough to really grab my attention. It could be just me and my weariness of the Tudors. For those who are intrigued by all the nuances of the Tudor age, this probably would be a good book. ( )
  mdelcid25 | Oct 7, 2013 |
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 rhetoric surrounding her of how childlike she looked, etc.

I learnt a lot about women of the period that I didn't already know -- Jane's mother, Queen Mary, the connections between noble women of the time. It was a bit dry at times, and confusing with everyone's switching of names and so on, but I could more or less keep up and overall I liked the version of Jane it presented -- human, headstrong, and not quite as innocent and unknowing as history might have us believe. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
This is a non-fiction account of the story of Lady Jane Grey and her lesser known sisters, Katherine and Mary. All I can say is that I can't believe that I finished the book. I found parts of this book boring, confusing and too many characters were introduced without explanation or any real comment. Unless you are a real Tudor history nerd I wouldn't recommend this book. 1 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Jan 12, 2012 |
I hadn't known what a threat Katherine was or how she and her sister had been kept apart from their respective husbands by Elizabeth. And after the awful Lady Jane Grey fiction by the otherwise amazing Alison Weir, this was sucha relief, and pleasure to read about Frances Brandon, their mother, in a light which explains her burial in Westminster Abbey! ( )
  emmakendon | Oct 8, 2011 |
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Such as ruled and were queens were for the most part wicked, ungodly, superstitious, and given to idolatry and to all filthy abominations as we may see in the histories of Queen Jezebel.
Thomas Becon, 1554
For George MacRae Gimbel
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God, the prime mover, brought peace and order to the darkness of the void as the cosmos was born.
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Evaluates the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey while offering insight into the parallel experiences of her sisters and the broader Grey family, detailing Jane's short reign and the royal bloodline that exposed all three to the enmity of Elizabeth I.

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