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Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (Tudor Mysteries) Hardcover – 2 Oct 2009
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"Written in a scholarly fashion, with an abundance of family trees, maps and a list of titles and offices, this book is a factual, yet compelling, take on a much covered story. A fascinating tale, this will appeal to both scholars and general readers alike." (Family History Monthly, 1 April 2012)
"This is a thoroughly absorbing and ingenious book which will appeal to scholars and general readers alike." (History Today, June 2010)"This alone would make Ives′ book an important piece of scholarship; that he wields an extensive array of archival evidence and provides the most detailed account to date of the succession crisis of 1553 makes this a book that no Tudor historian can ignore." (Journal of the Northern Renaissance, May 2010)
"Jane′s claim had a good case behind it. Eric Ives ... adroitly makes it. Ives′s skillful and enjoyable narrative stretches beyond the court into the regions, where the willingness or unwillingness of tenants or small freeholders to follow landlords into battle could help determine the occupant of the throne." (New York Review of Books, April 2010)
"Ives did a splendid job of showing that Anne Boleyn was not a pretty face but a serious political player. The chapter on Jane′s imprisonment is particularly moving. The book is ... worth reading, [and] raises[s] important questions... .Ives′ brave ... reading might help achieve a via media. Mary was not evil and Jane not a pawn. [Ives] successfully draw[s] our attention to the amazing fact that the protagonists here are women, both trying to do what no women had ever done before; become a monarch in her own right." (Times Literary Supplement, February 2010)
"This book is written for a reader steeped in English history, particularly the politics of Tudor England, and one who is interested in the fine details of historical truth. For an English History scholar, this book is ... a treasure. The research is meticulous." (Sacramento Book Review, November 2009)
"Ives re–assesses everything. He reconstructs the course of events with meticulous care, combining the conflicting narrative accounts with nuggets from the archives. He analyses the actions and character of each major participant and he comes to some surprising conclusions. His Mary is complex, brittle enough for her enemies to underestimate her, but stubborn enough to cling to her rights and let her dedicated entourage plan her counter–coup. Jane has inspired books, paintings, plays and films, but the mystery and the tragedy of 1553 have never before been so well captured." (BBC History Magazine, October 2009)
"Dr. Eric Ives, in this scholarly and page–turning account of the coup that brought Lady Jane Grey to the throne for a brief reign of nine days, provides the who, what, where, and why of a coup that on paper should have had every chance of succeeding but which ultimately failed. Refusing to rely on long accepted accounts of Lady Jane′s story, Dr. Ives offers a reassessment of this episode in Tudor history to the extent that the reader realizes ′Jane, we hardly knew ye.′" (Right Book Blog, October 2009)
"Ives is not primarily concerned with Lady Jane s personal tragedy. Instead he focuses on the events that led to her being placed on the throne in July 1553, and the collapse of the regime 13 days later. The result is a major reinterpretation of this brief but exciting episode. Ives′ ... mastery of his sources is unquestionable. Even if some of his conclusions are open to dispute ... the way Ives marshals his evidence is dazzling, and his bold and innovative treatment of a supposedly familiar story is both authoritative and exhilarating." (Spectator, October 2009)
"Turning traditional scholarship on its ear, Ives′s radical reinterpretation is [a] masterfully researched, authoritative and ... seductive read." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ives works to present Lady Jane Grey as a learned, respected, and highly intelligent woman, providing in–depth analysis as he moves through the narrative and ending by summarizing the aftermath of the brief and tragic reign of one of Britain′s least–known sovereigns. This thoroughly researched and engrossing historical analysis will appeal both to biography enthusiasts and to those interested specifically in Tudor history or the history of the monarchy. It is a masterly interpretation of the ′mystery′ of Lady Jane Grey′s ascent to the throne." (Library Journal)
"A Tudor mystery is brilliantly solved, and the story of one of England′s most dangerous crises is thrillingly told This book, which takes us as close to the truth of these events as is possible, will convince scholars who thought that they knew the story already, and delight general readers."
Susan Brigden, Lincoln College, Oxford
"A highly ingenious solution to the mystery of Jane Grey′s thirteen–day usurpation of the throne. Ives′s research skills are formidable and will make this book essential, if provocative reading."
"Eric Ives has provided the first full–scale account of one of the most surprising sequences of events in the politics of Tudor England. It is an engrossing tale, here presented in incisive style by a scholar who has an instinctive grasp of how to bring the surprises back to life."
Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of Reformation, Europe′s House Divided, and A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
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The reasons for catapulting a young, shy, sixteen year old granddaughter of Mary Tudor in favour of her formidable cousin, Mary, have over the centuries been explained away by the deviousness or ambitions of her parents, and in particular, John Dudley, the then Duke of Northumberland, who has gone down in history as the prerogarator of the whole affair.
Ives' work however very interestingly challenges this theory (which has been conventionally accepted by even some of the most senior and respected historians of our time) whilst not discrediting Jane in the process.
Ives reveals that Dudley was an accomplished soldier (more suited to the military than career politics) who had to contend very early on in life with the ramifications of his father's execution for treason shortly after the accession of Henry VIII, and uses a series of contemporary letters and accounts written by Dudley to support his assertion, that far from courting controversy (and ambition), Dudley was actually an insecure individual, constantly fearing that he would become victim to court gossip or the disfavour of the monarch as his father and some of his contemporaries had.
Ives also contests that far from actively encouraging the downfall of his rival, Edward Seymour, Dudley supported and sustained Seymour during his tenure as Protector insofar as was possible and that it was he, rather than the popular Seymour, who encountered public dissatisfaction as a result of recession, levies and poor management conducted by Seymour which led to higher public taxation.
Ives makes a convincing argument for the case that Dudley, far from being the scrupulous and conniving individual depicted of late, was a man committed to his government, work, religion (only converting to Catholicsm before his execution in exchange for a vain promise of life) and touchingly dedicated to his wife, family and even his various sons and daughters-in-law.
Indeed, so impressed was I with this depiction of Dudley's character and the conviction with Ives' arguments, that I also found myself questioning why this man had gone down in history for his notorious role in these events, although as Ives also admits, his protagonists' claims have not entirely been without foundation, especially with regard to why Dudley married his son, Guildford, off to Jane and contracted almost last-minute alliances with the Earl of Pembroke before Edward's demise in May 1553. Such actions could surely indicate that Dudley was clearly aware of the state of Edward VI's health at this crucial time.
Yet, Ives convincingly argues that Edward's devise for the succession was entirely his own invention and not that of Dudley.
One example he cites to support this argument is Dudley's apparent recognition of Mary as heir in February 1553, and furthermore, no contemporary courtier or ambassadorial account seems to indicate that anything was seriously afoot (this was not the case in relation to the downfall of Anne Boleyn in 1536).
Dudley's role in these events only comes into prominence when Edward's health takes a serious turn for the worse, leading to Edward's "devise" as it would be called, which essentially consisted of supplanting his sisters as heirs in favour of the legitimate, Jane Grey and her "heirs male".
As we can see from the vivid description of the devise, it was incredibly idealistic, unpractical and ultimately, unworkable. The contents of the devise meant appointing the succession to any of the male heirs of Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor (who were all female) and leaving the female parent to rule as regent until that male heir had reached the age of majority.
As Ives points out, such a devise was unrealistic, as it could clearly have benefitted the heirs of Eleanor Brandon, or the remaining two Grey sisters and very possibly led to rival factions and conflict between the various heiresses.
As suggested by Ives, one analysing the plot in great depth, would hardly conclude that this was the work of John Dudley.
Nevertheless the "devise" is divulged here in fascinating detail and surely reveals as much about the idealistic but deluded Edward at this time as it does about the other two main characters in the plot, Dudley and Jane.
Ives' focus on Jane is also equally as fascinating and lucid, revealing this girl to have been a formidable intellect as well as a devoted reformer, who, like her cousin Elizabeth, may similarly have harboured some attachment towards Thomas Seymour and was certainly in her element when brought up under the guardianship of the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr.
All in all, I was very impressed with this work, although I have to agree that the title is slightly misleading, choosing not to focus on Jane's life as a whole but on the events which precipitated and succeeded her nine day rule in 1553. However, Ives does delve into some depth on Jane's early life, her rigorous and scholarly upbringing for example, and the religious life with which she was exposed to at her home in Bradgate, which became a sort of meeting-place for the trendy, up and coming reformist circles of the 1550s.
One aspect of Ives' assertion which I do not agree with is his conclusion that Jane was the legitimate heir to the throne. As he himself attests, the devise so avidly postulated by Edward VI, was practically unworkable anyway and was also based on Edward's manipulation of Henry VIII's 1536 Act of Succession and subsequent Will (which meant that conjointedly, despite Mary and Elizabeth having been declared "illegitimate" by the same Act, Henry was able to appoint a successor of his own choosing, which is what he then did when nominating Mary and Elizabeth as heirs in 1547, should Edward fail to produce any issue).
As Ives states, this reasoning might well have been lost on the majority of the lay population of the day, but the "natural" rules of succession based on hereditary right (which would become a sore point for Elizabeth on the point of Mary, Queen of Scots) was a popular concept known to both the lay people and the nobility alike, and would have settled the matter, coupled with the argument that Henry's first two marriages were contracted in "good faith", thus arguing Mary & Elizabeth's technical legitimacy.
However, disagreements on the conclusion aside - this is nevertheless a truly magnificent piece of work on the demise of a remarkable and talented young girl. This work illuminates on the events which lead to this dramatic tragedy and Ives also introduces a new dimension to the argument, particularly on the role of John Dudley, which leads to some sympathy towards Dudley as a potential victim of Tudor politics as well as Jane.
I would thoroughly recommend this book for anyone wishing to study this event in greater depth.
The author has an uncanny ability to take historical facts and analyse them to a detail which then lays the results bare to the reader from a new and intriguing viewpoint. In this book, he has taken the year 1553 and dissected the events, the people, the actions, and the consequences of all that happened in that year. The `mystery' of the title of the book devolves largely around how and why the events of 1553 occurred. Crucial to the succession following Edward VI was, of course, Edward's paper entitled `My Deuise for the Succession', its amendments and edits, the adoption of same, and the arguments around the legality of same. This is treated in very clear detail in the book, which I appreciated. Also very clearly treated is the likely relationship between Edward and his advisors, particularly Somerset and Northumberland. This details are crucial to conclusion around the succession, both during and after Edward's lifetime.
It struck me forcefully from this book that Jane Grey, during her lifetime, was used in a political sense; her importance was political to those who manipulated her. However, as soon as she was dead, her importance became that of religion; she was seen as a Protestant martyr against the Catholicism of Mary. And it really is her political importance that we need to understand, from the perspective of 1553, not afterwards, if we are to get a clear idea of who Jane was and what she stood for in her own lifetime. Getting beyond the people who used her, both in life and in death, and finding the `real' Jane, and ultimately what happened in 1553, is what this book is all about. In Part I, the scene is set. In Part II, there are subsections on each of the protagonists - Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, John Dudley and Edward VI. Part III covers in detail the fateful thirteen days of Jane's queenship and overthrow, and Part IV covers the consequences to those involved. The success of the build-up to the final ending, even though we know it is coming, is evidenced by the fact that when you read of Jane's final tragic days, and her sad trip to the scaffold, you feel a fresh horror at what the poor girl had to go through in her short life.
Ives has used his sources well, both primary and secondary, and the clarifications on the adoption or otherwise of previous historians' viewpoints is very clearly set out. In all, although this book is not overly long, it is very full and clearly laid out, and offers all the relevant information to be a fairly definitive view of the year 1553, and the transition between Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I. Absorbing, informative, and very readable - highly recommended, as are all of Ives' books.
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