In the Shadow of the Crown
It’s nice to have books by the late lamented queen of women in history (she covered everyone who was anyone from William the Conqueror to Lucrezia Borgia) available anew with discussion group guides for book clubs. In the Shadow of the Crown gives the well-known saga of Henry VIII and his many wives new perspective by telling it from the point of view of his first child to live, Princess Mary, who later gained the epithet “Bloody.” As the daughter of his first wife, she sees the others come and go, sometimes as heir, sometimes awaiting the axe at any moment. So often Mary is seen only as the unfortunately Catholic bridge to her more glorious and longer-lived half sister, Elizabeth. It’s nice to get the perspective of Mary’s deep calling to return England to Rome. Clearly no deep religious feeling led her father, but debauchery and self-delusion, pure and simple. There is little time taken for Hollywood effects of setting and romance with so much ground to cover, but one certainly gets the feeling, and is grateful for it, that in this master’s hands, not a line of dialogue could not truly have happened. And yet the smoke of Protestant martyrs wafting to the queenly nostrils from Smithfield has a modern warning: resist me, make me strong and cause your own undoing.