The term "political pawn" could have been created to describe the short life of Lady Jane Grey. The eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, Jane was groomed from infancy to marry a prince or king. Her parents had great ambitions for their daughter, their greatest dream being to marry her to Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII. This dream died at his demise at age 15, leaving the way open for a bid to seize the throne. Any male child of Jane’s stood third in line to the throne - if Mary and Elizabeth died without male progeny - under the terms of 1543 Act of Succession.
Her parents conspired with John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland to marry his son Guildford to young Jane and place them on the throne, an act designed to prevent Mary, Edward’s half-sister, from returning the country to Catholic rule. Jane’s short rule, as the “nine day queen,” led ultimately to her imprisonment in the Tower of London and death by beheading when Mary claimed her throne.
Alison Weir is a noted writer of popular history of the British monarchy and Innocent Traitor is her first historical novel. In the author’s note she describes the freedom that fiction allowed, providing an opportunity to delve into the emotions and motives of historical figures. Readers may assume that some of the most far-fetched events described here are fiction; however as Weir states: "they are the parts most likely to be based on fact."
Beginning with Jane’s infancy, Weir combines historical fact with educated guesses to create a compelling tale. Alternating between key players, she creates convincing and unique voices for each. Jane endured a brutal childhood at the hands of a domineering and abusive mother. Weir has portrayed their relationship realistically and shown the consequences this distance had in the events which followed. Innocent Traitor brings to Tudor period vividly to life.
Lady Jane Grey was an unusual woman for her time. As Weir explains: "Precocious, highly gifted, and intelligent, she was educated to an unusually advanced standard for a girl and realized that there was more to a woman’s life than just marrying, having children, and running a household." Her determination to remain true to her faith, and face her death with dignity, together with having the shortest reign in British history, have made her a figure of fascination for many.
Read the review at Armchair Interviews.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 27, 2007
Author Website: www.alisonweir.org.uk
tags: books book reviews historical fiction Lady Jane Grey Alison Weir