Lady Jane Grey lived a tragic life of manipulation and cruelty, and is marked down in history as the young woman who was queen for nine days during the turbulent Tudor period. Jane is briefly remembered as the sovereign whose short reign fitted into our history between the ailing King Edward VI and the formidable figure of Mary I who wanted to lead England back to the old faith, with her life ending cruelly in execution.
Pauline Francis has introduced a fictitious character, Ned, a Catholic, who Jane rescues from the noose and befriends, as her destiny is determined by her power-hungry father and the ruthlessly ambitious John Dudley who becomes her father-in-law.
Jane’s story is told in dual narrative with Ned’s. This skilfully weaves the two opposing religious views into the one story, showing just how intolerant and hated one was to the other. It also brings out a very sensitive nature of a spirited and intelligent girl whose life was abused by her closest relatives in the name of power. Jane is a victim: she is trapped, freedom cannot be hers on earth, and her plight is pitiful and predictable, but the book is not.
We know how Jane’s life must end, but the novel gives a graphic illustration of life in Tudor times which will be valuable to those children who may study this at school. It is easy to read, yet the style builds reader empathy for Jane’s plight in keeping with the era whilst showing the blood and gore of the period, religious intolerance and the danger in the unstable politics of the time.
If Lady Jane Grey has been diminished to a line in our history books, I think this book will give her life poignancy in the minds of the reader. It is a story not easy to forget: informative, rewarding and sensitively handled, and a memorable read.