Thursday, August 11, 2011
Book Review-Three Maids For a Crown
I just finished the most wonderful book, "Three Maids For a Crown" by Ella March Chase. The book chronicles the lives of the Grey Sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary. As we all know Jane Grey was beheaded after her family tried to deny Queen Mary Tudor of her right to the throne and crown Jane in her place. The book covers this, but since there are many books on this topic I found the portrayals of the other two sisters, Katherine (Kat) and Mary much more interesting. The characters were so well developed that I grieved at every heart-wrenching turn in their lives right along with them. Their tragedies of their lives are not as famous as their sister's bloody end but I think Jane may have been the lucky one. Her end was quick and her pain short lived. Kat and Mary had a lifetime of heartache to endure.
Being born royalty is not all it's cracked up to be, especially if you are a threat to the current ruler. The general rule of thumb in Tudor times was to eradicate all possible rivals to the throne like the Duke of Buckingham, the de la Pole family, the Plantagenet pretenders, Mary Queen of Scots, all of them were executed simply because they had a claim to the English throne and the Tudors were not about to lose their hold on it. Jane Grey, being the next Tudor heir after Mary and Elisabeth was executed after the failed coup planned by her parents and the Duke of Northumberland. Her sisters however, were spared.
Jane and Katherine had been married in a double wedding to Gilbert Dudley, a son of the Duke of Northumberland and Henry Herbert, the son of another nobleman. Kat is thrilled to be married and is totally in love with her husband, as much as any twelve year-old girl can be. Her sister is not so happy about being married to Guilford Dudley so the girl's wedding day is bittersweet, one sister delighted to become a wife, the other beaten into submission. Katherine's happiness does not last long however, when the plot to grab the crown fails Katherine's marriage is annulled. She is devastated. She is forced to serve as lady in waiting to Queen Mary, the cousin who had her older sister executed and daily sees her former husband. All of his devotion and professions of love for Kat stopped the minute her sister lost the crown. She grieves for him as any adolescent will do for a lost love. Her shame and sadness color the next several years of her life.
Mary Grey, the youngest of the three was born a hunchback, her spine curved and her shoulders uneven. This on top of the fact that she was born a girl made her utterly useless in the eyes of her parents. But this child, who spent her days staying out of sight so that no one would remark on her ugliness, she grew adept at eavesdropping. During her life she overhears plots of poison, treason, regicide, and the personal agonies of many at court. She hides in the shadows, seeing and hearing everything, but saying nothing. When the poor girl finally finds love during the reign of her cousin Elisabeth it is short lived. She and her husband Thomas Keyes are imprisoned because they did not get the queen's permission to marry. Her sister Kat and her second husband are similarly imprisoned and separated with their two sons. Her second husband, who was the nephew to the former queen Jane Seymour, makes Kat's claim to the English throne even stronger. She also already had two sons, something Elisabeth would never have. With these two boys as heir England would not have fallen under Stuart rule. Elisabeth could stand for no one to be happy in love if she was not to be, especially those who could claim her crown. In spite of all of the wonderful things that Elisabeth I did, she did some very ugly and cruel things as well. It was a trait she held in common with both of her parents. All three had the capability to do great good, or great harm, as we all do. But in a world where your every whim is a command the power for great good or great harm is all too real. Elisabeth locked her cousins away leaving them no chance for a happy life. I wish that her mother Anne Boleyn, who I believe learned from her mistakes at the end, could have been there to give her daughter some sound advice about the way you should treat your family and those others around you. If she had lived, maybe the Grey sisters could have lived too.