Three Maids for a Crown
Set during the turbulent era of Tudor England, the dramatic story of Lady Jane Grey and her sisters, Katherine and Mary, is vibrantly told in their own voices. With Edward VI’s health failing, he decrees his cousin Jane as his heir, displacing his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Shy and studious, the extremely Protestant Jane is browbeaten by her ambitious parents and her father-in-law, the power-obsessed Duke of Northumberland, into accepting the crown upon the king’s death. She unwillingly becomes queen, rebellion ensues in England, and within nine days, Jane’s reign is history. Catholic Mary Tudor takes the throne, with Jane imprisoned in the Tower to await her tragic fate. Queen Mary keeps Jane’s sisters close to her as ladies-in-waiting, but their romantic entanglements and other political schemes make trouble for their lives as well.
During Elizabeth I’s reign, both girls suffer mightily at the monarch’s orders. Lovely Katherine is harshly punished for her secret marriage with young Edward Seymour, which produced children and enraged Elizabeth, while malformed Mary finds brief happiness with a palace sergeant porter before they are forced apart.
Chase, with her smooth narrative and elegant descriptions, keeps the story moving and makes these unfortunate women into real human beings facing terrible odds. A couple of bothersome errors, though: Jane and her sisters discuss Catherine de Medici’s alleged poisoning of Jeanne of Navarre even though it wouldn’t occur until 20 years later, and it was the Countess of Salisbury (not Shrewsbury) who was hacked to death at her execution during Henry VIII’s reign. Nevertheless, this is an absorbing and entertaining chronicle of three privileged but cursed young women who were not only forced into difficult situations but who also made unwise choices when given the chance.