The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

Written by Leanda de Lisle
Review by Susan Higginbotham


In The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, de Lisle tells the story of Lady Jane Grey and her lesser-known sisters, Katherine and Mary, all of whom would spend time in the Tower.

In this impressively researched study, the three sisters emerge as distinct personalities: the staunchly evangelical Jane, who here is very different from the mere helpless puppet of her parents’ ambitions; the reckless Katherine, whose secret marriage and closeness to the throne ran her afoul of Elizabeth; and Mary, who also married secretly but who alone of the sisters died a free woman.

In an epilogue, De Lisle examines how, in Jane’s case, fiction has been piled on fact over the centuries to create a young woman whom Jane herself might not have recognized. In this same vein, a particularly fascinating aspect of this book is de Lisle’s rehabilitation of the sisters’ mother, Frances Brandon, who de Lisle points out became demonized over the centuries just as Jane would become idealized.

Concisely and engagingly written, yet scholarly and well documented, this book was a refreshing reminder that sound research and objectivity need not be sacrificed for the sake of popular appeal.