Three Sisters, Three Queens

Written by Philippa Gregory
Review by Arleigh Johnson

One of the less documented Tudor women is explored in Gregory’s latest 16th-century read. Margaret, elder sister of Henry VIII, was a girl of thirteen when she was sent to marry James IV of Scotland and seal the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. Though the title gives the impression of a multiple narration, as in The Boleyn Inheritance and The Other Queen, this isn’t quite the case.

Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England, and Mary Tudor, Queen of France, are prominent figures in the story, though mostly through correspondence with Margaret. The “sister” queens share a rivalry that ebbs and flows with the changing political situations of the three countries. While they each have unmoving opinions of themselves and each other, the birth and loss of children binds them together – yet they each have a desire to be the Tudor princess who produces a son. The story follows Margaret from her wedding and new life in the wilds of Scotland to her role as Queen Mother, culminating at the peak of Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings, where the sisters, each in her own fashion, must graciously step out of the glittering Tudor court.

Margaret’s personality portrays her as proud and stubborn, and one who does not seem to learn from experience and mistakes. This, along with the constantly changing political alliances, will leave the reader’s head spinning. Likewise, those who enjoyed Katherine of Aragon’s characterization in The Constant Princess will find a different person altogether, though this can be attributed to Margaret’s skewed view of her, as well as Katherine’s understandable desperation in her later reign. Without a likeable protagonist, this story may fall short of expectations for some Gregory fans, although there are a few charming characters who add appeal to the detailed storyline.