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Excellent biography of Jane Grey
on 18 April 2017
Firstly, I must agree with another reviewer who commented that it is hard to believe this is the author's debut work: it is an accomplished piece of writing based on really intensive research and the result is an extremely balanced interpretation of the life of Jane Grey, Queen of England for less than a fortnight after the death of young Edward, heir to Henry the Eighth.
Jane's life, her family background, the political upheavals triggered by the early death of the young King, and the role of religion in the politics of the day, are all carefully examined and explained. Edward was a fanatical religious reformer, and in his devise for the succession, written as his health worsened, it is clear that his Catholic half sister Mary Tudor was absolutely a non-starter to take the Crown, and his other half sibling, Elizabeth, was still tainted by her mother's alleged adultery and subsequent execution: both girls had also been declared illegitimate. Young Jane, with her impeccable Protestantism, her clear line of descent from Henry's sister Mary, the late Duchess of Suffolk, seemed perfect and the husband chosen for her would wear the crown matrimonial: Guildford Dudley being the designated groom. Jane does not seem to have wanted or expected to be Queen, or to enter this arranged marriage.
Nicola Tallis has presented us with a clever girl whose sharp intelligence and disinclination to be manipulated, could in the long term have given England a queen to be reckoned with. Mary Tudor's Catholic faction, however, would not accept this fait accompli, and once Mary decided to marry Philip of Spain, poor Jane's fate was sealed, and the lives of her sisters made miserable. Once more, as with Arbella Stuart a generation later, to be born with royal blood, but not in direct line of succession, was more of a curse than a blessing.
Tallis is much more sympathetic than usual in her treatment of Jane's parents, particularly her mother Frances, who is generally portrayed as cruel and pushy, and the picture of family life is one of relative freedom for the daughters who were educated and cherished. Powerful men and powerful forces were instrumental in placing Jane in a situation to which she did not aspire and inevitably she became the sacrificial lamb, too risky to let live, too likely to be a focus for dissatisfaction in the new reign of Queen Mary Tudor.
Very, very good biography.