In the Shadow of Lady Jane
This novel covers the well-known story of Lady Jane Grey, queen for nine days and executed at the age of sixteen in 1553. It is narrated by Richard Stocker, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Jane’s father’s household, from Deputy Warden in a small manor house in Devon to the Duke of Suffolk’s personal secretary and, later, companion to Jane during her incarceration in the Tower of London after Mary’s accession to the throne.
It is a fairly faithful narration of historical events, utilising some historic documents and letters to bolster the story and show how Jane was used as a pawn by the Suffolks and the Northumberlands to take the throne. Richard is a youth of absorbing charisma and multifarious talents who seems to have the convenient gift of forging confidence with whomever he meets, including the young King Edward VI. This provides him with a privileged position with which to observe and comment on the events of the time.
The dialogue is an odd mixture of attempted 16th century idiom and 21st century slang – I cannot imagine anyone using the verb ‘to party’ or indeed taking the opportunity to ‘do some last-minute Christmas shopping’ in 1553. Jane and her two younger sisters display an incredible maturity of emotional thought and eloquence of expression in their conversation. The intimacy that Richard easily develops with the three sisters beggars belief. But the historical context is very good, and this is a racy, absorbing tale even if one knows that all will end in tears for poor Jane.