The Nine Day Queen
This is much more the story of all three Grey sisters – Lady Jane, Lady Katherine and Lady Mary – than of the unfortunate Jane, who goes to the scaffold off-scene halfway through the book. Born to ambitious parents, and too close to the throne of England for comfort, the girls endure miserable lives. Though little has been heard of her sisters, the last few days of Lady Jane Grey’s life are well-known to most of the population, and so the interpretation of minor incidences and depiction of character becomes crucial. Young Mary is given a role that has far more reaching consequences than anything her sisters accomplished.
Jane is portrayed as intelligent, bookish and cool in her emotions. Interested in scholarship far more than people, she is forced to wed Northumberland’s son Guilford Dudley, just as her sister is wed to Henry Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke, without either girl knowing they are part of the plan to put Jane on the throne of England. The depiction of Mary Tudor’s relationship with the Lady Mary Grey is well done, but I found Jane’s instantaneous switch to imperiousness, once she is declared Queen, rather odd. Equally odd was the way her parents and in-laws deferred to her during the nine days of her queenship.
The author follows the habit of The Tudors in addressing the Queen as Majesty, as if it were a name rather than a title. Though written for the most part in clear modern English, the word “hostler” drove me to the dictionary to discover it is an old form of the word ostler. At one point Pembroke is said to be attacking “rebel crofters with his own sword,” which I thought as odd as the phrase “my whole world would lie in shatters around me.”
Three Maids for a Crown
415 (UK), 419 (US)