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Eclipses the recent offerings on Mary by far!
on 1 May 2012
Wow! What a book!
John Edwards has easily eclipsed the most recent books written by Porter, Whitehead and Loades by far. Being from the Yale English Monarchs series it is intensely detailed, scholarly AND incredibly readable at the same time.
What makes it stand apart is the said detail and the central theme, that Mary was not just an English queen. Edwards quite rightly sees Mary as also a Spanish princess, placing her within the Hapsburg-French rivalry that dominated European politics for most of the 16th century. Her husband Philip takes centre stage alongside Mary and is not dismissed as recent books have tended to, which take for granted his lack of official power and ignore the huge influence he had on English affairs. The return of Roman Catholicism, the purpose of Mary's reign, is also richly described and is also refreshingly seen as such. It is obvious that Edwards believes Mary and Cardinal Reginald Pole saved Roman Catholicism in England.
Edwards is very even handed to Mary. He sees Mary's marriage to a foreigner as a necessity because of the current European situation and the need for an heir to secure Roman Catholicism in England. Mary is described as a Catholic humanist and not the bigot of 'Bloody Mary' fame but Edwards doesn't shy away from seeing Mary as solely responsible for over three-hundred religious burnings but does successfully place it in context. Other Roman Catholic countries were doing very much the same thing he argues. Furthermore he sees the loss of Calais as a disaster due to English laxity and incompetence but does question Calais' worth anyway.
Noteworthy also is that while Edwards is sympathetic to Mary's familial tragedies, it is not worn on his sleeve. The facts are given. Emotional sympathy or empathy is guaranteed without romantic indulgence.
It's a wonderful read. If you are used to the more popular style of history writing, take a chance, delve deeper and have patience. It IS richly detailed but at the same time very well written. A book that Mary deserves.