I’ve enjoyed reading Philippa Gregory’s historical novels ever since her release of “The Other Boleyn Girl.” Not only are her books very well-researched and historically accurate but she really makes me sympathize with her main characters.
“The Last Tudor” was the story of the three Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine and Mary. It’s told from each one’s POV and finishes where the other sister has left off. It was exceedingly well-written and narrated.
I think Jane’s story is the most famous one! The staunchly religious young woman who’s manipulated by the men around to reluctantly accept the crown of England. The queen of only two weeks, who was later beheaded by her own cousin, bloody Mary at the age of sixteen.
I remember seeing the movie “Lady Jane” with Helena Bonham-Carter and thinking it was such a sweet romance between herself and Guilford Dudley. However, the author shows us it was anything but. In fact, she despised her weak, mother’s boy of a husband.
She was a fanatic, in love with the idea of becoming a martyr and remembered as a great scholar and a saint. Jane chose glory in death over life. A very unlikeable heroine but very interesting nonetheless.
The second part of the novel is the story of the middle sister, Katherine Grey and oh how I feel for that young woman. She was a pretty, young thing deeply in love, and deeply stupid. I’ve read about Queen Elizabeth I’s court so much that I cringed when I read Katherine’s sweet, starry-eyed optimism in those first few chapters. Even though I knew it wouldn’t end well for her, I still hoped things would turn out better for her because Gregory wrote her character so well, and I genuinely liked her with her Mr. Nozzle the monkey and pug and countless pets.
Those really were very bad times to be related to the queen of England: “Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Crown.” No truer words were spoken, and it applied to all the heirs of Queen Elizabeth I. She was a spiteful, petty and jealous queen. Katherine underestimated her and paid dearly for it, dying without her beloved husband and older son of anorexia.
The third story was of Mary Grey, and I found her completely fascinating because I’d never read anything about her before. She was a dwarf, who never let her small stature get in her way. She was politically clever and knew her heart and her mind. I had such high hopes for her happily-ever-after because she seemed quite calculating, that she knew was she was doing. I loved reading her romance with Thomas Keyes who was over 7 feet tall while she barely cleared 4!! He was a sweet, simple man…a nobody really. But that wasn’t enough to earn Elizabeth’s pardon. She struck her down as she’s done to her older sister, Katherine. Mary was put under house arrest for 6 years before finally tasting freedom. It broke my heart a bit when they informed her that her husband had died. He survived years in one of the worst prisons in England, only to die in his home waiting for her release. Now, I know this is all historically accurate, but it still pained me that she would never be with her large love again.
Defiantly she survives, because it is queen Elizabeth’s true desire to have all her cousins and heirs die conveniently under house arrest. So, this is little Mary’s way of fighting back. She lives and she honors her husband’s memory. She wears her black mourning gown with a red petticoat underneath in defiance.
I very much enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s last book about the Tudor court. It was educational and a little heartbreaking because I’m a romantic at heart and love a HEA. It’s very rich in details and description. Bianca Amato the narrator did a fantastic job with this 16 hour audiobook. A solid 4.5 stars for me and I highly recommend this historical read if you want a true flavor of what it was like to live in a Tudor court.