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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.
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on 22 August 2013
While 'Bloody Mary' has had her fair share of revisionism in recent years, this book felt new. Mary was portrayed as a ruler in Europe as much as purely of England. Her later years were treated with sympathy, but her burnings and persecutions were not glossed over. You do get a sense some of her achievements were re-appropriated for Elizabeth, but the book doesn't feel like an apology for Mary either. It simply comes across as a balanced review of her life and times, which was exactly what I was looking for.
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on 20 March 2012
I thoroughly recommend this biography of Mary Tudor for anyone interested in sixteenth century England. Its focus is very much on the personalities of Mary, Philip II and Cardinal Pole and also on international diplomacy, rather than on purely insular politics and religious controversy. Within its target area it is very fully researched and the argument is presented in a highly readable, lucid style. The issues it addresses are still very current: attitudes towards women in power, towards national sovereignty or international human rights and political frameworks, towards religous belief within society. The villain of the book is Pope Paul IV, whose almost psychotic mood swings and arrogance leave Mary and Pole in a position not far different from that of her father. Edwards uses subtle irony to puncture some national cliches about Mary and her sister, which I think is cleverly done. It is both original and skilful in tackling its subject for readers who have some knowledge of the period but it is also very accessible and enjoyable for those fresh to Tudor history. My only quibble was a little too much attention was devoted to ceremonial details, particularly with Mary's marriage, and again in the diplomatic correspondence prior to the fall of Calais. This is purely a matter of personal taste. I would unhesitatingly recommend it to the general reader and the student of history.
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on 13 March 2012
This was the fifth biography of Mary that I have read in the last two years and the best by a very long way; nor is this opinion driven by the fact that this book is unquestionably the most sympathetic to Mary, the most Catholic, albeit written by a high Anglican, and the most successful at making some dent, however minor, in almost 500 years of bad press. The work is a highly valuable and fascinating look into Mary's life whatever position you come at it from.

In Eamon Duffy's "Fires of Faith" he tells us that the evidence against Mary should not be examined in the context of current day laws or morals. He's right of course but I was disappointed that his work singularly failed, despite its otherwise good qualities, to really explain some of Mary's actions, and the burnings in particular, in the context of 16th century laws, mores and, especially, religious thinking.

Edwards, in this book, gets further down this path than any other and, for this alone, the book should be compulsory reading even if only, for those Elizabeth sycophants, for some balance.

My only criticism is that the first three quarters of Mary's life are covered in less than one-fifth of the book's pages and, as an inevitable consequence, the minutiae into which the latter stages of the book delves, when dealing with her reign in particular, became somewhat tedious and distinctly heavy going. Perhaps this is inevitable, given her early life, largely out of the limelight, but there were some events up to 1547, and during Edward's reign as well, that might have had equally detailed, or at least more, coverage.

On the whole I consider this book to be one of the most learned and valuable in my extensive Tudor collection and I would recommend it highly.
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on 24 March 2015
minor aspects of the queens life like education finely detailed 30/40 pages long ,religious upbringing 100 pages long , ridiculous makes the book very heavy reading and the book is one of the worst books i have read ,
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on 8 December 2012
John Edwards is to be congratulated on an excellent biography of Queen Mary I. His real success is in placing her reign as queen firmly in the context of European international politics, rather than considering her queenship solely from an English perspective. This is conveyed, for instance, through Edwards' focus on her marriage to Philip of Spain, how she later became Queen consort of Spain, and how her policies, for instance her persecution of English heretics, reflected the intolerance of the Spanish Inquisition. While some of Edwards' points must be doubted (not least the surprising fact that he very dubiously refers to Alison Weir's fictional book "Innocent Traitor" as a biography of Lady Jane Grey!), this is a richly written, thoroughly convincing portrayal of Queen Mary. All scholars, and indeed those interested in Tudor history, European history in the sixteenth century, or queenship and female power should read this book.
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on 20 April 2012
Unfortunately the book contains quite big number of minor mistakes. For example it is claimed that Mary Queen of Scots was daughter of Margaret Tudor, when in reality she was her grand daughter. Another example is that the author writes that the wife of Henry Fitzroy Duke of Richmond and Somerset was Elizabeth Howard, whereas his wife was Mary Howard, daughter of Duke of Norfolk. Although there were quite many Elizabeths in Howard family, but probably the most know Elizabeth Howard was the mother of Anne Boleyn. The other example is duchess of Norfolk, Elizabeth. Too many such small mistakes in the book to write here about them
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on 2 February 2015
Very good
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