Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen

Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A compelling and thoroughly researched biography of a monarch unfairly relegated to the second tier of Tudors, detailing Mary’s prodigious struggle to be recognised by both her father and brother, and the unbelievable political and social pressures she was forced to navigate: first as a disinherited and constantly-threatened teenager, and then as a Queen caught between the political grindings of two vast powers whose interests intersected with her religious and political beliefs.

Whitelock’s writing is lively and insightful, without deviating too far from verifiable fact. There are no flights of fancy or what-ifs here. Rather, the reader is presented with a plethora of written and recorded accounts, correspondences, and edicts that lay out her arguments with clarity and observable effect, tallied in a voice that makes the progression through Mary’s tumultuous life an enjoyable window into the life of a woman torn in numerous directions at every step and never allowed the luxury to be that which she most wanted to be: a married Christian woman with the love of husband and children around her. Whitelock’s summation, that by Mary’s own standards she had ‘failed as a woman but succeeded as a Queen’ emphasise the essential dichotomy of the Tudor monarchy, and where Whitelock succeeds is in showing the reader how much of that dichotomous failure is down to the Tudors themselves.

Excellent reading. Thoroughly recommended.

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