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The Sisters Who Would Be Queen Book Discussion
January 27, 2011
9:26 am
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Boleynfan
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Hi everyone,

 

Today starts the book discussion for The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda de Lisle. I apologize for not getting this up sooner but I hope everyone enjoyed reading the book and is looking forward to posting here!

 

Happy posting!

 

xx Alyssa

"Grumble all you like, this is how it's going to be"

January 28, 2011
6:11 am
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DuchessofBrittany
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I liked this book. Finally an author who does quality research, writes well, backs up her ideas with sources, and left me feeling I had learned something about the Grey sisters.

I knew quite a bit about Lady Jane before reading this book, but I did not know anything about Katherine and Mary, and this is the main reason for purchasing de Lisle's book.

My favourite aspect of the book is de Lisle's juxstaposition of the sisters, their personalities, and fates. Jane is often viewed as the most intelligent and rebellious of the lot, but Katherine's and Mary's own life choices show they too took on the world themselves, and were not going to follow the conventions of the day. Alas, the choices of the Grey sisters all ended in heartbreak.

Other points of the book I liked:

-Challenges the historical assumption about Frances Grey, and argues convincinly that she was not the she-devil.

-Catherine Parr's influence on Lady Jane

-Katherine and Mary choice to marry for love rather than power.

-The role the Grey sisters played in Elizabeth's life, her choices of dealing with potential heirs, and her treatment of Katherine and Mary (esp. realting to the previous point)

-High price to pay as heir to the English throne. I recommend reading Arabella: England's Lost Queen by Sarah Gristwood. Arabella Stuart married Katherine Grey's grandson, Edward Seymour.

"By daily proof you shall find me to be to you both loving and kind" Anne Boleyn

January 28, 2011
12:43 pm
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Sharon
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I enjoyed this book. Some of the events I found interesting:

Thomas Seymour was arrested at Seymour Place, not in the King's apartments. The author mentions nothing of the incident in which Thomas supposedy burst into the King's apartment, killed Edward's little dog, and was arrested there.  Later there were accusations that Thomas was considering kidnapping the King and Elizabeth.

Frances Grey was not a child beater which has been believed since the 17th century.  She has been much maligned by history. 

There was also a story made up in the 17th century that when Jane was executed, she was pregnant.  This was to malign the much hated Queen Mary I. 

  It was Northampton and his second wife Elizabeth Brooke who suggested the marriage between Jane and Guildford. Not Northumberland.  Frances argued vigorously against this marriage.  She felt Jane was too young. 

When Edward died, Jane was informed that the throne was to be hers along with her heirs, skipping over her Mother.  In defiance of her mother-in-law, Jane took a boat down the Thames to her parent's home to be comforted by her Mother.  Edward had changed his original will which had made Frances Governor until male heirs were born of the Brandon line. The Duchess of Northumberland threatened to keep Guilford with her if Jane was not returned to them.  To avoid scandal, Jane returned.

 I have read books about Queen Jane before, but this was a very comprehensive book about the Grey family. There is a thorough explanation of just how and why Elizabeth was wont to deal with these cousins as she did. 

January 29, 2011
2:54 pm
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Bella44
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I absolutely loved this book.  Leanda de Lisle did an amazing job!  I'd read books on Jane before but never knew much about her family, aside from who was related to who and Frances being a horrible mother.  And the author has taken the time to do her research and presented some very sound evidence that Frances was not the monster she's usually portrayed as but an interesting character in her own right.

Katherine and Mary's stories I knew next to nothing about and I think it's a real mark of de Lisles' writing skills that I ended up really feeling for the both of them.  Some histories/biographies can come off as being a bit dry, but this wasn't like that in the least.  It's so refreshing to read a non-fiction book that's easy to read and digest yet leaves you with a real feeling of accomplishment and a deeper understanding of the events and personalities involved.

Just about the only downside was that my estimation of Elizabeth went down slightly with her treatment of the Grey sisters (especially Katherine and having her marriage declared void even though Elizabeth knew there was a real chance of it being legitimate) but it illuminates her antagonism toward them very well and why they ended up the way they did.  

January 29, 2011
6:18 pm
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Anyanka
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Sharon said:

Frances Grey was not a child beater which has been believed since the 17th century.  She has been much maligned by history. 

There was also a story made up in the 17th century that when Jane was executed, she was pregnant.  This was to malign the much hated Queen Mary I. 

 


Frances is badly in need of revision.

 

Weren't female prisoners examined to ensure they weren't pregnant?  I remember one of the female pirates( either Anne Bonny or MAry Reed) pleaded “The Belly” to avoid execution.

 

And I loved the idea of Jane being a  ” Teen-age know-it-all”.

It's always bunnies.

January 30, 2011
6:39 pm
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Anyanka
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The Olde KP was married to 2 older husbands before H8…

It's always bunnies.

February 1, 2011
1:51 pm
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Sharon
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Both Anne Bonny and Mary Reed pleaded their bellies. That was the law in the 1700's.

  I doubt very much they would have killed someone like Jane without being sure she wasn't pregnant.  It is doubtful that Guilford and Jane were allowed to meet after July 1553.  They were executed February 12, 1554.

February 5, 2011
12:41 pm
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Boleynfan
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I agree, DuchessofBrittany, that I really liked how de Lisle did away with the myths surrounding the “villainous” Frances Grey. I have read many books about Jane Grey, but I liked this one a lot because it gave the story of the entire Grey family; sympathetic but very informative and not driven by opinions, as I have found some historical biographies. It also wasn't dry (as nonfiction can be), but novel-like in its writing. Overall, I liked this book a lot!

"Grumble all you like, this is how it's going to be"

February 9, 2011
12:50 am
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Kim
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I really enjoyed this book overall, I thought it was very well researched and de Lisle based her writing on historical facts as opposed to her own personal opinions.

I liked her interpretation of Jane – instead of being a defenceless, innocent child as she was made to be by the Victorians, she is portrayed as having a rather strong character. I think that anyone that had the nerve to stand up the Dudley's the way that jane did by refusing to have Guildford crowned shows that she was made of much stronger stuff than later historians would believe.

Frances also came off much better in this book than she had previously. Even now you still read that she was an awful, violent woman, so it was nice to see someone defend her.

Something else that I noticed…. did anyone else feel that maybe Elizabeth was shown in a pretty poor light? I think her motivations for treating Katherine and Mary were relatively well-explained, but I couldn't help but feel that she came off as a rather nasty pasty. To be completely honest, I am not overly familiar with Elizabeth, so I don't know if this is how she normally comes across. 

It was also fantastic to get a feel for Mary and Katherine, for obvious reason history tends to focus on Jane all the while ignoring the impact that Mary and Katherine's choices in life had on not just Elizabeth, but the entire court around them.

February 9, 2011
6:11 am
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DuchessofBrittany
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Kim said:

Something else that I noticed…. did anyone else feel that maybe Elizabeth was shown in a pretty poor light? I think her motivations for treating Katherine and Mary were relatively well-explained, but I couldn't help but feel that she came off as a rather nasty pasty. To be completely honest, I am not overly familiar with Elizabeth, so I don't know if this is how she normally comes across. 


Kim, I never noticed this before, so I went back and reread some sections on Elizabeth. I am sure people will not agree with my interpretation, but here's what I think.

I found De Lisle's analysis of Elizabeth a little more critical than other historians. However, I am not sure if this was an intentional rebuking of Elizabeth's actions, or to allow the reader to see the high price there was to pay for being a potential heir to the English Throne.

Having said that, Elizabeth's fear of her own mortality and the consequences of naming an heir comes across nicely in De Lisle's writings. Elizabeth's treatment of Katherine and Mary are in response to Elizabeth's own interpretation of their behaviours, and how they are her subjects to her laws.

Elizabeth had many good points, but her cruelity is well documented. Her father's temper comes across in her treatment of those who betrayed her. According to this, Katherine and Mary marrying without royal consent (and being potentially in line for the throne) did not bode well with Elizabeth.

Frankly, the Grey sisters are not the only ones to face Elizabeth's wrath. Like Henry, Elizabeth wanted to be in full control of her kingdom. Regardless, she is one of the best monarchs, even if her behaviour was sometimes ostentatious.

I guess Shakespeare had it right: “I swear, 'tis better to be lowly born.” I am not sure if I answered your question in the best fashion.

"By daily proof you shall find me to be to you both loving and kind" Anne Boleyn

February 9, 2011
11:59 am
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Sharon
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I agree Duchess.

This is my personal take on why Elizabeth acted as she did. 

Elizabeth was an absolute ruler.  Her subjects (and her family were her subjects) lived by her rules.  Their lives were not their own. When they broke her rules, they were punished.  I can well imagine her anger. What I take from Elizabeth's treatment of the girls is that Elizabeth was very concerned about her position as queen.  Jane had been married to Dudley and had been named queen instead of Mary. Elizabeth surely thought Mary should have been queen due to her father's wishes. If Jane had stayed on the throne, the Tudor Dynasty would have ended. She had believed that the Grey sisters (Katherine and Mary)were “two sole and silly ladies, destitute of parents, marriage, and endowment.”* So it seems she didn't think much of these girls to begin with.

Elizabeth must have thought it was dejavu when told that Katherine had married a Seymour. Plus she had produced a child who could be considered a legitimate male heir.  While in prison, Katherine becomes pregnant a second time. Give me a break.  It must have been a slap in the face to Elizabeth. These girls should not have married anyone without permission from Elizabeth. Elizabeth had to have been furious.  As for Mary…after all that happened to both of her sisters, she defies Elizabeth and marries without her queen's permisssion. Elizabeth would have none of it.  By this time she must have been exasperated with all of them. They just didn't seem to understand, or else they didn't care, that they were defying their sovereign. While all of this was going on, Elizabeth is also dealing with Mary Stewart who is in France claiming England as her own rightful inheritance.

No one was going to take her throne, and no one was going to force her hand when it came to succession.  Elizabeth did what she did in order to preserve her throne.  I think Ms. de Lisle did a wonderful job of portraying both sides.

 

* this is a quote from the book in Chapter XVIII.

March 5, 2011
3:05 pm
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Boleynfan
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I really did like this book. At first I was a little skeptical because I hadn't heard much about Leanda de Lisle, but I did enjoy the book immensely. I especially liked how it diffused the rumors about Frances and gave a good picture of the whole Grey family and the Tudor court over a long span of time.

"Grumble all you like, this is how it's going to be"

March 5, 2011
6:13 pm
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Anyanka
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Sharon said:

I agree Duchess.

This is my personal take on why Elizabeth acted as she did. 

Elizabeth was an absolute ruler.  Her subjects (and her family were her subjects) lived by her rules.  Their lives were not their own. When they broke her rules, they were punished.  I can well imagine her anger. What I take from Elizabeth's treatment of the girls is that Elizabeth was very concerned about her position as queen.  Jane had been married to Dudley and had been named queen instead of Mary. Elizabeth surely thought Mary should have been queen due to her father's wishes. If Jane had stayed on the throne, the Tudor Dynasty would have ended. She had believed that the Grey sisters (Katherine and Mary)were “two sole and silly ladies, destitute of parents, marriage, and endowment.”* So it seems she didn't think much of these girls to begin with.

Elizabeth must have thought it was dejavu when told that Katherine had married a Seymour. Plus she had produced a child who could be considered a legitimate male heir.  While in prison, Katherine becomes pregnant a second time. Give me a break.  It must have been a slap in the face to Elizabeth. These girls should not have married anyone without permission from Elizabeth. Elizabeth had to have been furious.  As for Mary…after all that happened to both of her sisters, she defies Elizabeth and marries without her queen's permisssion. Elizabeth would have none of it.  By this time she must have been exasperated with all of them. They just didn't seem to understand, or else they didn't care, that they were defying their sovereign. While all of this was going on, Elizabeth is also dealing with Mary Stewart who is in France claiming England as her own rightful inheritance.

No one was going to take her throne, and no one was going to force her hand when it came to succession.  Elizabeth did what she did in order to preserve her throne.  I think Ms. de Lisle did a wonderful job of portraying both sides.

 

* this is a quote from the book in Chapter XVIII.

 


Elizabeth was against marriages that weren't sanctioned by her.

Not only did the Grey sisters suffer her displeasure so did Walter Raleigh and his wife Elizabeth Throckmorton.

 

But you can just imagine how she felt when Katherine became pregnant

for a second time.Her express wish that KG and ES were to be kept apart

was flouted in a very public manner and that must have under-minded her

authority in respect to Mary Grey.

 

Mary must have thought that marrying such a lowly man like her mother

marrying Adrian Stokes would have kept her safe by not displaying any

pretensions to the throne.

 

eta fix quote

It's always bunnies.

April 20, 2011
9:30 pm
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Bill1978
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I have just ordered this book in my 2nd bundle of Tudor biographies. I will be upfront and say I have no idea when I will get around to reading it as I have many other books to get through, but all of your comments have definitely peaked my interest in a book I purchased on a whim based upon the curiosity aroused in me from reading about the sisters on Wikipedia. I hope to post my thoughts on the book when I've read it.

April 22, 2011
3:51 am
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Neil Kemp
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Just a note to everybody, on the same theme, that is the Grey sisters, a book called “Three Maids For A Crown” by Ella March Chase comes out in August. So another book to look out for, all we need now is the time to read them all. Happy Easter everyone.

April 22, 2011
10:21 am
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Sharon
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Happy Easter to you Neil and to everyone else.

April 22, 2011
7:46 pm
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Bella44
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Neil Kemp said:

Just a note to everybody, on the same theme, that is the Grey sisters, a book called “Three Maids For A Crown” by Ella March Chase comes out in August. So another book to look out for, all we need now is the time to read them all. Happy Easter everyone.


Yes, I've seen that, can't wait for it!

Happy Easter  Laugh

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