A review of Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, by Anna Whitelock

This is a book about kings, queens and popes. Between the royal pregnancy in the United Kingdom and the Pope’s resignation, social pressure around issues of these ongoing institution tests one’s belief in a possible new social organisation based on a fairer, more rational basis. It may sound a bit sad, but I think in reading this, I tried to take refuge from current affairs and turn to queens and popes I can understand: the long dead ones who will never return.

Obviously, I was also attracted by its focus on strong women characters, mainly Catherine of Aragon and, obviously, Mary herself, who reigned despite her tendency to just menstruate all over the country. Whitelock actually writes

“It is likely that Mary’s illness was the onset of menstruation, with recurrent pains and melancholy exarcebated by distress and anxiety. It was a condition from which she would suffer repeatedly.”

I will not make any of the compulsory joke about her nickname of Bloody Mary here, out of deference for the excellent cocktail of that name.

It is quite an interesting bit of the history of Europe, going through all of Henry VIII’s wives and the unrest caused by his death. The incorporation of original letters makes the political intrigue all the more captivating. Maybe I am more sympathetic to the character of Lady Jane Grey myself, and her being brushed aside to make marry the first queen makes me a bit sad, but it is quite an enjoyable read. Just do not think of the fact that the monarchy incomprehensibly still exists today. It made me give a try to the TV series about The Tudors, we’ll see how that goes.

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