Queen of Martyrs

Written by Samantha Wilcoxson
Review by Viviane Crystal

Uncertainty is the byword of Mary Tudor’s tumultuous life. Kept away from her father, King Henry VIII, until shortly before he died, she is always afraid that the wrong sentence will enrage him. Her sister, Elizabeth, seems friendly one minute and then cold and distant in the next moment. Mary has suffered immensely following the losses of her mother, her faith, her good friends Katherine Parr and Margaret Pole, her counselor the Spanish Ambassador and her brother King Edward VI.

The Reformation has taken root throughout England, and initially Mary wants the Catholic faith restored as the central religion after she becomes Queen in 1553. Mary’s devout character begins to undergo a considerable transformation when she believes she is responsible for the souls of her subjects. One minute she is washing the feet of her enemies in a moving service on Maundy Thursday and a few weeks later she is ordering the beheading or burning of those who refuse to renounce their Protestant faith.

Readers initially will find it hard to fault Mary for her religious zeal, but by the end of this novel, both they and England’s citizens will have had enough of killing in the name of religion. Still, this is a fascinating read which shows us the true nature of Mary, whose reign was marked by extraordinary uneasiness and a lack of strength to set a standard of stability and acceptance for both friend and foe. Samantha Wilcoxson has done a fine job of revealing the motives behind Queen Mary Tudor’s rocky youth and just as stormy reign.