Murder Most Royal

Written by Jean Plaidy
Review by Fiona Lowe

I first read Murder Most Royal as a teenager. On re-reading this spending looking reprint I found the writing still fresh and sharp, and was gripped by Plaidy’s portrait of an ambitious, brilliant but reckless Anne Boleyn. The scope of the novel is vast and complex, the characterization rich and fascinating.

It begins with a young Anne leaving her home at Hever and journeying to France, where she is quickly enthralled by the sparkle and wit of the French court. She comes under the sway of the French king’s sister, the clever Marguerite. Anne’s sister Mary, also at the French court, soon captures King Henry’s roving eye.

When Anne returns to England it is towards her the king’s attention wanders. Even so, the fate of each sister could not be more different. Mary accepts the status of royal mistress and is cast aside when Henry grows bored; Anne, eager for the crown, gains it, only to lose her life after three short years as Henry’s second queen.

The novel ends with Henry contemplating his legacy after he has had another wife done to death: young Catherine Howard. A classic novel, enjoyable for its in-depth insight into the motivations and actions of key players during a bloody period of English history.