Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 528
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Touchstone
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books in Tudor Series: The Constant Princess
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.   Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days, dying on the scaffold for her faith. But few people know about her two sisters, cousins to Elizabeth I who also faced imprisonment and death sentences for treason.   Katherine Grey was the beauty of the family who earned the lifelong hatred of her cousin Elizabeth I when she married for love. Mary Grey was an extraordinary little person known as a dwarf in Tudor times, who defied convention to marry the tallest man at court in her own secret love match.   The fascinating story of three idiosyncratic Tudor girls and their challenges to the most powerful Tudor woman of all is the subject of the next novel from the author who defines what it means to be a writer of historical fiction."

Lady Jane Grey and her sisters, Katherine and Mary, are all grandnieces of Henry VIII.  That means they are in line for the throne and during this time period that is a dangerous place to be.  Henry's son and heir, Edward, dies and he writes in his will that he wants Jane to take the throne, not Princess Mary.  I'm sure most readers are familiar with the Nine Days Queen's story as Jane's ascension to the throne doesn't last long and is very controversial.  Then there's Jane's sister, Katherine, who marries Ned Seymour without Queen Elizabeth's permission and this sparks some major drama that ends up being very dangerous for Katherine.  Lastly, there's the youngest of the Grey sisters, Mary, who thinks that she is too unworthy to even garner any political attention. When she makes the same mistake that Katherine made by marrying someone without the Queen's permission, this also creates a problem.  The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory is an interesting look at the three Grey sisters. While I was familiar with Lady Jane's story, I was delighted to learn more about Katherine and Mary's heartbreaking trials and tribulations.

Lady Jane Grey's story is a sad one in The Last Tudor.  I always felt like her ascension to the throne was simply due to being a political pawn.  It's a shame that her parents used her this way. I'm sure she'd rather be reading and studying as that seemed more her speed. While I was aware of Jane's fate, it was still upsetting to read about.

Katherine's story was especially interesting to me in The Last Tudor. I really knew nothing of Katherine going into it and was especially horrified to find out what happened to her.  She married Ned Seymour for love and without the Queen's permission. This, apparently, was very offensive to Queen Elizabeth and I felt she made Katherine suffer greatly and unjustly.  Obviously, since this part of the story is from Katherine's point of view, it definitely painted Queen Elizabeth in an unflattering light.  What Katherine had to deal with and the separation from Ned as well as her children was just heartbreaking. It definitely brought a tear to my eye to think about it.

Lastly, Mary's story is the final section of The Last Tudor. I found her story to be the least intriguing of the three.  Shockingly, Mary makes the same mistake as Katherine in that she married for love and without the Queen's permission. Why on Earth would she do that after witnessing what her sister went through? But nonetheless, she does it and must suffer the consequences.

The Last Tudor really demonstrated the fact that this time period was so dangerous and politics is a dangerous game essentially.  If you are close in line to the throne, you must watch your back.  I felt badly for all three Grey women even though I didn't always agree with their choices. It just seems so simple to be able to marry who you want and live the life they way you want, but that was not the case for the Grey women.

Although this wasn't my favorite of Gregory's novels, I still enjoyed it.  So, if you are a fan of historical fiction and want to learn more about these compelling sisters, definitely give The Last Tudor a try. Philippa Gregory's novels always make for excellent "historical beach reads."

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