Mary, Katherine, and Jane Grey–sisters whose mere existence nearly toppled a kingdom and altered a nation’s destiny–are the captivating subjects of Leanda de Lisle’s new book. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen breathes fresh life into these three young women, who were victimized in the notoriously vicious Tudor power struggle and whose heirs would otherwise probably be ruling England today.
Born into aristocracy, the Grey sisters were the great-granddaughters of Henry VII, grandnieces to Henry VIII, legitimate successors to the English throne, and rivals to Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Lady Jane, the eldest, was thrust center stage by greedy men and uncompromising religious politics when she briefly succeeded Henry’s son, the young Edward I. Dubbed “the Nine Days Queen” after her short, tragic reign from the Tower of London, Jane has over the centuries earned a special place in the affections of the English people as a “queen with a public heart.” But as de Lisle reveals, Jane was actually more rebel than victim, more leader than pawn, and Mary and Katherine Grey found that they would have to tread carefully in order to avoid sharing their elder sister’s violent fate.
Navigating the politics of the Tudor court after Jane’s death was a precarious challenge. Katherine Grey, who sought to live a stable life, earned the trust of Mary I, only to risk her future with a love marriage that threatened Queen Elizabeth’s throne. Mary Grey, considered too petite and plain to be significant, looked for her own escape from the burden of her royal blood–an impossible task after she followed her heart and also incurred the queen’s envy, fear, and wrath.
Exploding the many myths of Lady Jane Grey’s life, unearthing the details of Katherine’s and Mary’s dramatic stories, and casting new light on Elizabeth’s reign, Leanda de Lisle gives voice and resonance to the lives of the Greys and offers perspective on their place in history and on a time when a royal marriage could gain a woman a kingdom or cost her everything.
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Leanda de Lisle is the author of After Elizabeth. She was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, where she earned a master of arts degree in modern history. A successful journalist and broadcaster, she has been a columnist for The Spectator, The Guardian, Country Life, and the Daily Express, as well as writing for The Times, the Daily Mail, the New Statesman, and The Sunday Telegraph. She lives in Leicestershire with her husband and three children.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Frances, Marchioness of Dorset, prepared carefully for the birth of her child. It was an anxious time, but following the traditions of the lying-in helped allay fears of the perils of labor. The room in which she was to have her baby had windows covered and keyholes blocked. Ordinances for a royal birth decreed that only one window should be left undraped, and Frances would depend almost entirely on candles for light. The room was to be as warm, soft, and dark as possible. She bought or borrowed expensive carpets and hangings, a bed of estate, fine sheets, and a rich counterpane. Her friend the late Lady Sussex had one of ermine bordered with cloth of gold for her lying-in, and, as the King's niece, Frances would have wanted nothing less.
The nineteen-year-old mother-to-be was the daughter of Henry's younger sister, Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, the widow of Louis XII and known commonly as the French Queen. Frances was, therefore, a granddaughter of Henry VII and referred to as the Lady Frances to indicate her status as such. The child of famously handsome parents, she was, unsurprisingly, attractive. The effigy that lies on her tomb at Westminster Abbey has a slender, elegant figure and under the gilded crown she wears, her features are regular and strong. Frances, however, was a conventional Tudor woman, as submissive to her father's choice of husband for her as she would later be to her husband's decisions.
Henry-or "Harry"-Grey, Marquess of Dorset, described as "young," "lusty," "well learned and a great wit," was only six months older than his wife. But the couple had been married for almost four years already. The contractual arrangements had been made on 24 March 1533, when Frances was fifteen and Dorset sixteen. Among commoners a woman was expected to be at least twenty before she married, and a man older, but of course these were no commoners. They came from a hereditary elite and were part of a ruthless political culture. The children of the nobility were political and financial assets to their families, and Frances's marriage to Dorset reflected this. Dorset came from an ancient line with titles including the baronies of Ferrers, Grey of Groby, Astley, Boneville, and Harrington. He also had royal connections. His grandfather, the 1st Marquess, was the son of Elizabeth Woodville, and therefore the half-brother of Henry VIII's royal mother, Elizabeth of York. This marked Dorset as a suitable match for Frances in terms of rank and wealth, but there were also good political reasons for Suffolk to want him as a son-in-law.
The period immediately before the arrangement of Frances's marriage had been a difficult one for her parents. The dislike with which Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, viewed her brother's then "beloved," Anne Boleyn, was well-known. It was said that women argued more bitterly about matters of rank than anything else, and certainly Frances's royal mother had deeply resented being required to give precedence to a commoner like Anne. For years the duke and duchess had done their best to destroy the King's affection for his mistress, but in the end without success. The King, convinced that Anne would give him the son that Catherine of Aragon had failed to produce, had married her that January and she was due to be crowned in May/June. It seemed that the days when the Suffolks had basked in the King's favor could be over, but a marriage of Frances to Harry Dorset offered a possible lifeline, a way into the Boleyn camp. Harry Dorset's father, Thomas Grey of Dorset, had been a witness for the King in his efforts to achieve an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He had won his famous diamond-and-ruby badge of the Tudor rose at the jousting tournaments that had celebrated Catherine's betrothal to the King's late brother, Arthur, in 1501. In 1529, the year before Thomas Grey of Dorset died, he had offered evidence that this betrothal was consummated. It had helped support Henry's arguments that Catherine had been legally married to his brother and his own marriage to her was therefore incestuous. Anne Boleyn remained grateful to the family, and Harry Dorset was made a Knight of the Bath at her coronation.
From Harry's perspective, however, the marriage to Frances-concluded sometime between 28 July 1533 and 4 February 1534-also carried political and material advantages to his family. His grandfather, the 1st Marquess, may have been Henry VII's brother-in-law, but by marrying a princess of the blood he would be doing even better; and the fact that he had only the previous year refused the daughter of the Earl of Arundel may be an early mark of his ambition. Through Frances, any children they had would be linked by blood to all the power and spiritual mystery of the crown. It was an asset of incalculable worth-though it would carry a terrible price.
Nearly four years later, sometime before the end of May, 1537, Frances's child was to be born. Harry Grey of Dorset was in London that spring, and Frances would surely have been with him then at Dorset House, on the Strand. It was one of a number of large properties built by the nobility close to the new royal palace of Whitehall. There was a paved street behind and, in front-where the house had its grandest aspect-there was a garden down to the river with a water gate onto the Thames. Traveling by boat in London was easier than navigating the narrow streets, and foreigners often commented on the beauty of the river. Swans swam among the great barges while pennants flew from the pretty gilded cupolas of the Tower. But there were also many grim sights on the river that spring. London Bridge was festooned with the decapitated heads of the leaders of the recent rebellion in the north, the Pilgrimage of Grace: men who had fought for the faith of their ancestors and the right of the Princess Mary to inherit her father's crown. For all Henry's concerns about the decorum of female rule, the majority of his ordinary subjects had little objection to the concept. That women were inferior as a sex was regarded as indisputable, but it was possible for some to be regarded as exceptional. The English were famous in Europe for their devotion to the Virgin Mary, the second Eve, who alone among humanity was born without the taint of the first sin, and who reigned under God as Queen of Heaven. It did not seem, to them, a huge leap to accept a Queen on Earth. Just as the Princess Mary's rights were under attack, however, so were their religious beliefs and traditions.
When the Pope had refused to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the King had broken with Rome, and the Pope's right of intervention on spiritual affairs in England had been abolished by an act of Parliament on 7 April 1533. With the benefit of hindsight we understand that this was a definitive moment in the history of the English-speaking world, but at the time, most people had seen these events as no more than moves in a political game. Matters of jurisdiction between King and Pope were not things with which ordinary people concerned themselves, and the aspects of traditional belief that first came under attack were often controversial ones. Long before Henry's reformation in religion there had been debate for reform within the Catholic Church, inspired in particular by the so-called Humanists. They were fascinated by the rediscovered ancient texts of Greece and Rome, and in recent decades Western academics had, for the first time, learnt Greek as well as Latin. This allowed them to read earlier versions of the Bible than the medieval Latin translations, and to make new translations. As a change in meaning to a few words could question centuries of religious teaching, so a new importance came to be placed on historical accuracy and authenticity. Questions were raised about such traditions as the cult of relics, and the shrines to local saints whose origins may have lain with the pagan gods. It was only in 1535, when two leading Humanists, Henry's former Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, and the Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher, went to the block rather than accept the King's claimed "royal supremacy" over religious affairs, that people began to realize there was more to Henry's reformation than political argument and an attempt to reform religious abuses. And even then many did not waver in their Catholic faith. These "Henrician" Catholics included among their number the chief ideologue of the "royal supremacy," the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner. For the bishop, as for the King, papal jurisdiction, the abolished shrines, pilgrimages, and monasteries, were not intrinsic to Catholic beliefs, but the Holy Sacraments, such as the Mass, remained inviolate. Bishop and King argued that although the English Church was in schism in the sense that it had separated from Rome, it was not heretical and in opposition to it.
Those who disagreed, and opposed Henry's reformation, felt his tyranny to full effect, as the heads displayed at London Bridge and other public sites bore silent witness. One hundred and forty-four rebels from the Pilgrimage of Grace were dismembered and their body parts put on show in the north and around the capital. Even if Londoners avoided the terrible spectacle of these remains, they would not miss the other physical evidence of the King's reformation. Everywhere the great religious buildings that had played a central role in London life were being destroyed or adapted to secular use. Only that May, the monks from the London Charterhouse who had refused to sign an oath to the royal supremacy were taken to Newgate Prison, where they would starve to death in chains. Inside Frances's specially prepared chamber at Dorset House, however, the sights, sounds, and horrors of the outside world were all shut out. She was surrounded only with the women who would help deliver her baby. When the first intense ache of labor came it was a familiar one. Frances had already lost at lea...
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 124 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. The dramatic untold story of the Grey sisters, heirs to the Tudor throne. Lady Jane Grey is an iconic figure in English history. Misremembered as the Nine Days Queen , she has been mythologized as a child-woman destroyed on the altar of political expediency. Behind the legend, however, was an opinionated and often rebellious adolescent who died a passionate leader, not merely a victim. Growing up in Jane s shadow, her sisters Katherine and Mary would have to tread carefully to survive. The dramatic lives of the younger Grey sisters remain little known, but under English law they were the heirs - and rivals - to the Tudor monarchs Mary and Elizabeth I. The beautiful Katherine ignored Jane s dying request that she remain faithful to her beliefs, changing her religion to retain Queen Mary s favour only to then risk life and freedom in a secret marriage that threatened Queen Elizabeth s throne. While Elizabeth s closest adviser fought to save Katherine, her younger sister Mary remained at court as the queen s Maid of Honour. Too plain to be considered significant, it seemed that Lady Mary Grey, at least, would escape the burden of her royal blood. But then she too fell in love, and incurred the queen s fury. Exploding the many myths of Lady Jane s life and casting fresh light onto Elizabeth s reign, acclaimed historian Leanda de Lisle brings the tumultuous world of the Grey sisters to life, at a time when a royal marriage could gain you a kingdom or cost you everything. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007219063
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 124 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. The dramatic untold story of the Grey sisters, heirs to the Tudor throne. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007219063
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Book Description UK General Books. Book Condition: New. 2010. Paperback. The dramatic untold story of the Grey sisters, heirs to the Tudor throne. Num Pages: 352 pages, (16pp col pics). BIC Classification: 1DBK; 3JB; HBJD1; HBLH. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 134 x 29. Weight in Grams: 310. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780007219063
Book Description UK General Books, 2010. Book Condition: New. 2010. Paperback. The dramatic untold story of the Grey sisters, heirs to the Tudor throne. Num Pages: 352 pages, (16pp col pics). BIC Classification: 1DBK; 3JB; HBJD1; HBLH. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 134 x 29. Weight in Grams: 310. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780007219063
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers 2010-03-04, London, 2010. paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 9780007219063
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