This was perhaps my favourite of the Tudor Plantagenet series by Philippa Gregory. It tells the story of the three Grey sisters. Jane who is otherwise known as the 9 day queen and the only one I’d actually heard of, and her sisters Katherine and Mary who were equally persecuted by a bitter and attention seeking brat, I.e Elizabeth I.
The Last Tudor is not as we would initially think about Elizabeth I herself which is what I expected, but instead about the other remaining Tudor’s Jane, Katherine and Mary.
The novel is split into three parts with each sister narrating each section in order of age. Jane of course was well known (so hopefully no spoilers) as the young queen forced onto the throne after King Edward’s untimely death and 9 days later is thrown into the tower under arrest as Queen Mary takes her throne back. Jane was of course beheaded for treason.
The story then takes up with Jane’s younger sister Katherine, a seemingly frivolous girl who loves animals especially her little monkey Mr Nozzle. Always cheerful she marries for love, seeing herself as doing no wrong and yet encountering Elizabeth’s wrath. The same goes for Mary the youngest of the sisters and a little person. She too marries for love only to be imprisoned herself and pushed far from court, but it is she who is bravest and endures the most at the hands of the spiteful ruler who expects attention only for herself.
I really enjoyed this novel because I think that as people we often idolise the Tudors. They were the first monarchs I learnt about in school and of course Mary and Elizabeth were the first queens to rule as a female monarch and not the wife of a king. It was interesting therefore to see another take on it where Elizabeth is shown as actually rather a B*tch! Her obsessive behaviour, her refusal to stand up for anything and to Convict people who she saw as a threat not only to her throne but to her own life as the ‘virgin’ queen. All she really wanted was to be the most beautiful and most admired.
I really felt passionately like I hated Elizabeth! While I felt unsympathic towards the pious (and slightly annoying) Jane Grey, I felt the true passions, loved, hopes and dreams of Katherine and Mary and felt like writing to William Cecil for their release myself!
As always with Philippa’s books she educates, mixing fact with a little fiction to make the characters come to life, while reminding us that these events are ones which truly happened in England’s past. A book which truly makes you think.