Wednesday 3 August 2011

Mary Tudor - Anna Whitelock

Mary Tudor was the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Kathryn of Aragon. At first she was the doted daughter of Henry the next she was made illegitimate. Mary spent her life trying to clear her name and her mothers and to take her rightful place as Henry's only legitimate child. In 1553 she finally succeeds in claiming the throw as her own to become England's first Queen.

I think Mary is more well known for being the Catholic Queen. The Queen who tried to once again turn England back to Catholicism and earned the nickname Bloody Mary in the process. Actually I knew very little about her. What I did know was mainly from reading about Henry and his wives. Even then I felt a little sorry for her. How could you not? She spends her child hood being pawned off on various planned marriages only to be then told she is no longer the legitimate daughter of her beloved father. She's sent away and is forbidden to see her mother who then dies. She then has to watch her father marry again and again. When she finally feels accepted (and her hand in marriage still up for grabs) her father dies and her brother forbids her from practicing her religion. I am only surprised she didn't become more unhinged than she did.

Needless to say I learned a lot about Mary from this book and it certainly portrays her in a more sympathetic light. When she does take the throne she still doesn't have an easy time of it. My only complaint is that it didn't quite tell me enough. Her early life is glossed over a little. There were so many chapters where Mary was lucky if she was mentioned. Instead the focus was on Henry and his wives. Understandable since it had such a huge impact on Mary but it would have been nice to learn more about what her life was like estranged from her family.

There was a lot of build up to Mary gaining the throne. She was in fear for her life and then she builds up support to take her rightful place. The taking of the crown was cover in only a few pages and yet it was one of the most important things she did. It was a little disappointing.

These are the only two faults I found with the book. It was easy to read. I think anyone with little or no knowledge of history could easily pick it up and enjoy it. I would happily read another book on Mary though as I feel that there was a lot left out. It's also piqued my interest in Elizabeth whose way was paved thanks to Mary. Elizabeth's life wasn't any easier and yet she became the more successful monarch. It would be interesting to compare them.

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