If only her uncles and others had waited to install Jane Grey AFTER Queen Mary and before Elizabeth, the line of ascension would be with the Grey family. But the populace would hear of no heir other than Mary, born of a true king and queen. The Sisters Who Would be Queen recounts in great detail the lives of the Grey sisters. Jane was the oldest, but Katherine and Mary were also considered such threats to Queen Elizabeth that she imprisoned them for almost all of their adult lives.
The subtitle of the book "A Tudor Tragedy" captures their lives completely. Katherine, the most unfortunate, fell in love with another royal and planned a secret marriage with him. Considered not as intelligent as Jane but the best looking of the sisters, Katherine who had no designs on the throne, still posed a threat because there were people who held her as the true heir.
For this, Elizabeth threw her and her husband and their new baby in the Tower. They were able to bribe a guard and spend a few nights together creating another child. This enraged Elizabeth and she separated them from their children and each other once the second child was born. Katherine never again saw her children or her husband.
Mary Grey, hoping to avoid the same fate, married a man not of royal birth, a man considered well-below her. Because of this marriage she would be prohibited from ever taking the throne. Still, Elizabeth separated them and kept them imprisoned in far locations from each other. They, too, never saw each other again.
Its a different Queen Elizabeth that we get to see in de Lisle's account of the lives of the sisters. This Elizabeth is frightened and vengeful and never sure of her place on the throne even though she serves for over 40 years. She never names an heir because she fears that the heir will be preferred over her.
This very detailed book notes all of the behind-the-scene machinations that occurred throughout Edward VI's (Henry VIII's sickly son) reign and beyond into the time of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. While it is good to be queen, it is never good to be almost queen.