The Queen’s Fool–Philippa Gregory


I’ve read a couple of these books, but it’s been a long time. Fortunately, this isn’t a series in that there are continuing characters so I can pick up where I left off.

If you aren’t aware of Philippa Gregory, she does historical fiction set in the Tudor courts. Her most famous book (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) was made into a movie a few years ago.

This book centers on a young Jewish girl whose mother was killed by the Spanish Inquisition. Hannah inadvertently attracts the attention of a member of the powerful Dudley family and is recruited to court to act as a “holy fool” for the very sick Edward VI. This is because she occasionally has flashes of foreknowledge that the royal family finds useful.

Edward, of course, dies. The Dudleys send her to the future Queen Mary I, with instructions to spy on her. Hannah does, but develops an affection for the queen regardless. When she ascends the throne, Mary uses her much the same way, sending her periodically over to Princess Elizabeth as a spy.

Of course, the entire time Hannah is concerned that she and her family could be outed as Jews and condemned, and as the height of the religious cleansing under Mary I approaches, she and her family escape to Calais, where she marries her betrothed and settles into an uneasy existence as a wife. It’s not easy to be a housewife when you’re used to the Tudor court.

Eventually she leaves her husband when she discovers he has a lover and a child. Even his promises not to see them any more do not move her. But when the Spanish and French attack Calais and his lover is killed, she uses her previous connection with the Dudleys to get herself and her husband’s child back to England. She survives until the end of Mary’s reign and with the relative freedom of Elizabeth’s reign, brings her husband back to England where they will presumably live happily ever after.

The Tudor period is one of my favorites, because it’s so full of drama and intrigue. Of course, it was a highly dangerous time to be alive. At almost any point during the Tudor period you could find yourself executed or imprisoned for little or no reason. These books are frivolous–beach reading, if you will–but well done and solidly researched. If you like lightweight historical fiction, these are good choices for you.



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