The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory
This was an interesting read about a young Spanish Jewish girl called Hannah who has fled from across Europe for fear of prosecution for her faith. When we meet her she has just arrived in London with her father who is a bookseller and they are setting up a shop. She has worn boy’s clothes for years to protect her and because of their practicality.
On one particular day the infamous Robert Dudley comes into the shop accompanied by his tutor and a man wearing white who shines so brightly that Hannah cannot see his face. When she confesses this to her father and the two gentlemen they believe she has been an angel and Dudley proceeds to beg her for a holy fool in the court of King Edward – a king of just fourteen years of age and very ill.
The tale follows Hannah’s life at the most dangerous and thrilling court in England – she watches Catholic Queen Mary come to the throne determined to turn the country back to ‘The True Faith’ and comes to love her but she cannot help but admire her jet-eyed protestant sister who continuously borders on treason. Hannah struggles to not get involved with the many plots of the court but finds herself quite entangled due to her loyalty to Mary, Elizabeth and Dudley – as a result she is constantly in fear of being accused of treason and is haunted by memories of her mother who was burnt at the stake for her faith. Hannah also has a power struggled with her betrothed, Daniel, who wants an obedient wife who will raise his children – instead, he finds a girl too afraid to become a woman, strong in her independence, dressed in boys clothes and unwilling to be ruled.
This book was interesting as it exposed many things I hadn’t known about the reign of Mary and the fierce battle Elizabeth fought for the throne. Both women suffered often from illness – something I had never realised, Mary burnt thousands of heretics – thus breaking the worst sin she could have committed for her faith and many other things. However, this was comparatively not as good as her other Tudor novels for many reasons – at some points Hannah was mildly irritating – she makes some very dangerous mistakes and makes decisions I wouldn’t have chosen myself but overall it was still quite a good book. It was by no means her best but still an interesting and intriguing read because of the history it involved.