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The Queen's Fool: A Novel (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 514 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
The narrator is a girl named Hannah Green, a young teenager who has fled Spain and its Inquisition with her father, following the death of her mother. She had been burned alive at the stake as a heretic, when it was discovered that she was a "Marrano", a false Christian, that is, a Jew who has converted to Christianity but who follows the Jewish faith in secret.
Landing in London, where her father opens a book store, Hannah makes the acquaintance of a handsome rake, Sir Robert Dudley, who discovers that Hannah has the gift of sight. She develops a personal relationship with him that eventually sees her enter into Queen Mary's service as her fool. Hannah serves Queen Mary, but at the same time, is sent by the Queen to serve her half-sister the Princess Elizabeth and spy upon her.
Meanwhile, Sir Robert Dudley also uses Hannah in his treasonous plot to see the Princess Elizabeth on the throne of England. So, Hannah finds herself walking a dangerous tightrope and is fearful of discovery of her role in the political intrigues that are welling around her, as well as discovery of her own background, which would be grounds for death. Her worst fears are nearly realized when the Queen marries Prince Phillip of Spain.
In the midst of all this political intriguing that appears to be going on all around her, Hannah has her own immediate future to think about, as she becomes betrothed to another Marrano such as herself. Infatuated with Lord Dudley, loyal to both Queen Mary and the clever and manipulative Princess Elizabeth, Hannah finds herself putting her own future happiness at risk amidst the political and religious turmoil of the time.
This is a fast paced, breezy read about an independent, young woman who finds herself at a crossroad in her life and begins a voyage of self-discovery that will ultimately change her life. The story takes place in sixteenth century England, amidst all the political strife and religious upheaval of the time. The author weaves an intriguing tapestry of historical events and personages together with the intrigues that were rife in the Tudor court of the Queen who would become known as Bloody Mary.
I found the indiscriminately sympathetic portrayal of Mary (known to history as Bloody Mary) troubling. The author seemed to think that because Mary was a wronged wife, her excesses were excusable. Even more disturbing, and harder to swallow, is that the main character, Hannah, a secret Jew who lives in fear of being burned as heretic, remains loyal and uncritical of Mary until the end.
Either Hannah is an insensitive hypocrite, indifferent to the suffering of others because of her own safety as a royal favorite, or she is a poorly drawn character. It is hard to believe someone whose own mother was burned at the stake could remain loyal to a woman who sent so many to be burned alive.
Gregory blames Mary's ministers, pretending Mary was largely unaware of what was being done. A ruler with Mary's absolute power "unaware"? That makes her either a disconnected, incompetent ruler (not Gregory's view), or one so weak she was completely dominated by her ministers, which there is no reason to believe.
Gregory did succeed in showing how sad Mary's life was in many ways: Early separation from her mother due to her father's selfish whims, loss of her position, a youth spent in a kind of exile, an unfaithful husband.
However, I also saw her parents' flaws in her: obsessive attachment to a indifferent man, fanaticism and sense of absolute truth which both parents possessed, and worse, a ruthlessness and cruelty in enforcing her will inherited from her father.
"Bloody Mary" traumatized her country and was, ironically, probably one of the reasons England turned staunchly Protestant. If you happened to catch the recent cable movie "Charles II, The Last King" you can see how strongly the hatred/fear of Catholics persisted over a century later.
The other strange thing about "The Queen's Fool" is the unsympathetic portrayal of Elizabeth, the ruler who would prove the most tolerant of religous practices. What is worse is that Gregory's and Hannah's condemnation of Elizabeth is largely based on qualities, actions or feelings that Hannah also exhibits.
For example, Hannah's (and our) first view of Elizabeth is of a 14 year old girl flirting and kissing a married man (Thomas Seymour, a notorious womanizer). Yet, for much of the novel, Hannah is in love with a married man. She even spies on and betrays a trusting mistress (Mary) for love of him. Still, Elizabeth is considered a "whore" by Hannah (a word greatly overused by Gregory, used for any sexually active woman, though there were kinder words in use at the time).
Hannah also condemns Elizabeth for her secret Protestantism, stange considering she herself is a secret Jew. Why does she feel such loyalty to Catholicism anyway? It is the Catholics of Spain who have particularly persecuted her people, and Mary's husband is the Spanish King. English Protestants were benign by contrast.
The historical information about 16th century European Jews was interesting, and the most worthwhile part of "The Queen's Fool." Otherwise, not recommended.
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