The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda De Lisle
Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy

76%

11 Critic Reviews

Like the women of Ms. de Lisle's fascinating story, English kings later found themselves bridled by the pressure of men on the privy council and in Parliament. The challenge to royal power would assert itself ever more forcibly in the next century, until war and revolution transformed the monarchy itself.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Mary, Katherine, and Jane Grey–sisters whose mere existence nearly toppled a kingdom and altered a nation’s destiny–are the captivating subjects of Leanda de Lisle’s new book. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen breathes fresh life into these three young women, who were victimized in the notoriously vicious Tudor power struggle and whose heirs would otherwise probably be ruling England today.

Born into aristocracy, the Grey sisters were the great-granddaughters of Henry VII, grandnieces to Henry VIII, legitimate successors to the English throne, and rivals to Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Lady Jane, the eldest, was thrust center stage by greedy men and uncompromising religious politics when she briefly succeeded Henry’s son, the young Edward I. Dubbed “the Nine Days Queen” after her short, tragic reign from the Tower of London, Jane has over the centuries earned a special place in the affections of the English people as a “queen with a public heart.” But as de Lisle reveals, Jane was actually more rebel than victim, more leader than pawn, and Mary and Katherine Grey found that they would have to tread carefully in order to avoid sharing their elder sister’s violent fate.

Navigating the politics of the Tudor court after Jane’ s death was a precarious challenge. Katherine Grey, who sought to live a stable life, earned the trust of Mary I, only to risk her future with a love marriage that threatened Queen Elizabeth’s throne. Mary Grey, considered too petite and plain to be significant, looked for her own escape from the burden of her royal blood–an impossible task after she followed her heart and also incurred the queen’s envy, fear, and wrath.

Exploding the many myths of Lady Jane Grey’s life, unearthing the details of Katherine’s and Mary’s dramatic stories, and casting new light on Elizabeth’s reign, Leanda de Lisle gives voice and resonance to the lives of the Greys and offers perspective on their place in history and on a time when a royal marriage could gain a woman a kingdom or cost her everything.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Leanda De Lisle

See more books from this Author
Leanda de Lisle is the author of After Elizabeth. She was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, where she earned a master of arts degree in modern history. A successful journalist and broadcaster, she has been a columnist for The Spectator, The Guardian, Country Life, and the Daily Express, as well as writing for The Times, the Daily Mail, the New Statesman, and The Sunday Telegraph. She lives in Leicestershire with her husband and three children.
 
Published October 5, 2009 by Ballantine Books. 384 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jul 13 2014
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Critic reviews for The Sisters Who Would Be Queen
All: 11 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

De Lisle is to be commended for skillfully drawing out the stories of these undervalued personages, especially the one who stood in line to inherit the throne before the Grey sisters—their poor overlooked mother, Frances.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jan 25 2010

Despite a tendency to trill with too much excitement, she renders the three sisters and their era with polish and panache.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 15 2009

De Lisle has produced an excellent, assiduously researched account of dynastic politics at its worst, focusing on three fascinating and often overlooked women.

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by William Anthony Hay on Dec 26 2009

Like the women of Ms. de Lisle's fascinating story, English kings later found themselves bridled by the pressure of men on the privy council and in Parliament. The challenge to royal power would assert itself ever more forcibly in the next century, until war and revolution transformed the monarchy itself.

Read Full Review of The Sisters Who Would Be Quee... | See more reviews from WSJ online

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by William Anthony Hay on Dec 26 2009

Although Jane Grey's story is generally regarded as a tragic chapter in the pageant of Tudor England, Leanda de Lisle wants us to rethink what happened to Jane and to her two sisters, Mary and Katherine.

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Frances Wilson on Jan 09 2009

Leanda de Lisle gives us the brief life and grim times of Lady Jane Grey and her family in merciless clarity and dazzling detail. This is a marvellously told and quite terrifying biography.

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Suite 101

Above average
Reviewed by Carolyn M Cash on Jul 16 2014

De Lisle debunks the many myths surrounding Jane’s life, and throws new light on Elizabeth I’s reign. Jane was certainly not the victim portrayed in history, but she was a rebellious teenager determined to rule in her own right as a leading evangelical.

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Express

Above average
Reviewed by Viginia Blackburn on Feb 13 2009

Mary was released after Thomas’s death and ended her days in poverty, finally dying of the plague at the age of 33. What a life. It makes our own Windsors look positively demure.

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Historical Novel Society

Excellent
Reviewed by Susan Higginbotham on Nov 01 2009

Concisely and engagingly written, yet scholarly and well documented, this book was a refreshing reminder that sound research and objectivity need not be sacrificed for the sake of popular appeal.

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History Today

Good
Reviewed by Mary S. Lovell on Dec 14 2014

De Lisle’s conscientious research has unearthed previously unknown facts about Mary which brings this overlooked personality to life. She also convincingly argues that the claim to the throne of Katherine’s son was superior to that of James VI of Scotland. What a difference that would have made! Fans of Tudor history will enjoy this book.

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Tudor Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Claire on Dec 09 2009

This is a comprehensive book on the lives of the Grey sisters and is not a work of “popular” history, but rather a textbook. I don’t mean that it is boring, far from it, but it is not light reading...

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