Saturday, January 16, 2010

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Lady Jane Grey was a great-niece of Henry VIII, and the cousin of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, and grew up knowing she could never throw off the chains of her destiny. Her intelligence and strength of character carry the reader through the vicious twists of Tudor power politics, to her devastating nine-day reign as Queen of England and its unbearably poignant conclusion.

I was nervous about reading this book as having read, Bess of Hardwick I had already been given an insight into Jane Grey’s miserable childhood and neglectful parents. It was almost too much to have to do it all again. However, Alison Weir gives Jane’s mother, Frances Brandon, an vivid, if cruel character in her disappointment at not having provided a living son with a claim to the throne through Mary Tudor. Poor Jane becomes the brunt of her anger and when Frances produces another two daughters, they fare little better.

As is well known, Jane’s fate is a forced marriage and the executioner's block at sixteen. Her childhood and her short, tragic marriage is vividly, and horribly portrayed in this story, mainly told by Jane herself, takes us up to her death through those who shaped her fate, including the Duke of Northumberland, Queen Mary Tudor and the cruel, neglectful parents who should have protected her and instead, used her horribly and then let her die.

In fact all three Grey girls, Jane’s sisters Katherine and Mary had unhappy lives, due to their closeness to the throne and the reigning monarch’s determination that they didn’t get any closer.

The storytelling is so colourful, I couldn’t help wondering if all the anecdotes were true. Then I found the "historial note" chapter which explains which parts were historically accurate in those included to keep the story fast moving. Which I shall not reveal here, you will have to read it yourself.

Ms Weir's prose is easy to read and I found myself grateful for Jane's nurse, as being the only person in her life who showed her unconditional love. Or in fact any love at all.