The Last Tudor, by Philippa Gregory
Series: The Plantagenet & Tudor Novels #14
Published by Simon & Schuster, 8th February 2018
Genres: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased (second-hand)
Upon the death of young King Edward VI in 1553, the succession was very insecure. King Henry VIII having renounced his heirs and declared them bastards several times, it was uncertain who should reign next. Taking advantage of her position as the king’s cousin, Jane Grey’s father and family contrived to have her declared as Edward’s heir. Jane was queen for nine days until Princess Mary declared herself heir and threatened to take London by force. Jane’s supporters fled, leaving her to face the executioner’s block alone.
“Learn you to die” was the message Jane left behind for her sisters Katherine and Mary. As Elizabeth became queen, both young women were in precarious positions as Elizabeth refused to name an heir. This created a situation of extraordinary tension both in the English court and the rest of Europe. Life for the few remaining Tudor women was to become increasingly dangerous.
Philippa Gregory is one of my all-time favourite authors and I will read anything she writes. I really admire her determination to show that history is not only about men. Her Plantagenet and Tudor series focuses on the lives of the women which are so often overlooked. As usual, this is another meticulously researched and beautifully told work of historical fiction.
I loved that she focuses here on the three Grey sisters and their difficult lives within the Tudor court. Although each sister is very different, they have a strong bond and rely on one another greatly. There are also similarities between them and their experiences. Katherine, in particular, is keen to avoid the dangers that her sister Jane faced by being coerced into becoming queen. All Katherine wants is a quiet life with her family and the man she loves.
This book is split into three parts, each centred around one sister. I really enjoyed this structure as it allowed for the individual perspectives of the three women in the telling of their stories. It also illustrated the relationship between the sisters and how they felt about one another.
Although Philippa Gregory works to bring the women to the fore, one woman is not shown in a particularly positive light in this book: Queen Elizabeth. For want of a better word, she is really the villain in this tale. She imprisons and sentences those closest to her, simply out of pettiness or to assure her own position. She is portrayed much like the Tudor kings before her, who sought to protect their own standing at any cost.
My rating: 4/5