The fourth book in Philippa Gregory’s “Tudor” series
The year is 1553 in tumultuous Great Britain. King Henry VIII is dead and his young, very sickly son Edward VI is now king. The main character in this story is 14-year-old Hannah Green, a determined Jewish girl with the gift of clairvoyance, who has fled the Spanish Inquisition with her father. The dashing Lord Robert Dudley sees her gift as an opportunity to gain insider information by planting her in King Edward’s court as a court fool and a spy. Not only is Hannah required to report to Dudley all that happens around the sickly king, but is also sent to spy on Princess Mary (the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon), with whom she strikes up a loyal and lasting friendship.
Hannah’s life is in ever-increasing danger when Edward dies, Mary becomes Queen and subsequently marries Prince Phillip of Spain. Not only does she become directly involved in the plots and schemes that abound at court, but Queen Mary sends her to spy on her clever and manipulative half-sister, Princess Elizabeth (the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn). With her gift of foresight she is constantly manipulated by the powerful men around her for their own political gains while torn between her loyalties for Queen Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Lord Robert Dudley. Hannah lives in constant fear of her Jewish background being discovered, which is grounds for burning at the stake.
Through the eyes of Hannah Green, we witness the political and religious turmoil of that period in English history. The reader gets an up-close and personal view of the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth for the throne. Philippa Gregory interestingly puts a different spin on the portrayal of Queen Mary, otherwise known as “Bloody Mary,” as the weak and sympathetic Tudor, and Princess Elizabeth as the mean and nasty one. Lord Robert Dudley is portrayed as a bad-boy rock star type, rather than the calculatingly ambitious courtier that he was. Once again, Gregory uses her considerable talent to give us a fast-paced and fascinating historical novel about one of the most powerful political families in history.