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The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey

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‘Leanda de Lisle brings the story of nine days’ queen, Lady Jane Grey and her forgotten sisters, the rivals of Elizabeth I, to vivid life in her fascinating biography’ Philippa Gregory

The dramatic untold story of the three tragic Grey sisters, all heirs to the Tudor throne, all victims to their royal blood.

Lady Jane Grey is an iconic figure in English history. Misremembered as the ‘Nine Days Queen’, she has been mythologized as a child-woman destroyed on the altar of political expediency. Behind the legend, however, was an opinionated and often rebellious adolescent who died a passionate leader, not merely a victim. Growing up in Jane’s shadow, her sisters Katherine and Mary would have to tread carefully to survive.

The dramatic lives of the younger Grey sisters remain little known, but under English law they were the heirs – and rivals – to the Tudor monarchs Mary and Elizabeth I. The beautiful Katherine ignored Jane’s dying request that she remain faithful to her beliefs, changing her religion to retain Queen Mary’s favour only to then risk life and freedom in a secret marriage that threatened Queen Elizabeth’s throne.

While Elizabeth’s closest adviser fought to save Katherine, her younger sister Mary remained at court as the queen’s Maid of Honour. Too plain to be considered significant, it seemed that Lady Mary Grey, at least, would escape the burden of her royal blood. But then she too fell in love, and incurred the queen’s fury.

Exploding the many myths of Lady Jane’s life and casting fresh light onto Elizabeth’s reign, acclaimed historian Leanda de Lisle brings the tumultuous world of the Grey sisters to life, at a time when a royal marriage could gain you a kingdom or cost you everything.

This is the true story behind Philippa Gregory’s The Last Tudor and the only authoritative history book about the Grey sisters.


‘In her utterly gripping life of Lady Jane Grey and her two sisters…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.’ Frances Wilson, Telegraph

‘Beside exploding the myths [about Lady Jane Grey], Leanda de Lisle breaks new ground by linking Jane’s story to those of her siblings, Katherine and Mary… an unrivalled account of the struggle for the Tudor succession… de Lisle is able to bring her characters vividly to life’ John Guy, Sunday Times

‘Leanda de Lisle’s ably executed biography of the unlucky Grey sisters illuminates the perils of being a princess in sixteenth-century England.…The story of this tragic trio makes compelling reading, whether they ended up as casualties of the state or doomed lovers. Confidently guiding us through the complexities of the period, Leanda de Lisle recounts the poignant tale with sensitivity, shrewd insight and skill.’ Anne Somerset, Literary Review

‘“The Sisters Who Would Be Queen” brings the Tudor world to life in a story about siblings Katherine, Mary and Lady Jane Grey.… The author rehabilitates [Lady Jane Grey] as less a victim of history than a headstrong individual with a sense of her own destiny.…this fascinating tale relates how her plucky sisters adapted to life at court in an atmosphere of distrust and paranoia.…It was a miracle they lasted as long as they did.’ Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

From Publishers Weekly

15 June 2009 – Although the Tudor era has inspired a flood of literature, de Lisle (After Elizabeth), in her second book, illuminates three remarkable characters of the time, the Grey sisters, who were named by both Henry VIII and his son, Edward, as heirs to the throne. But, says de Lisle, Dynastic politics, religious propaganda, and sexual prejudice have since buried in legend and obscurity. ' De Lisle demonstrates that while Jane, long viewed as helpless, was indeed young and pressed to accept the crown, she was exceptionally intelligent, educated and confident as England's first queen regnant and a passionate Protestant evangelical leader. Under Elizabeth I, Jane's sister Katherine married secretly without the queen's consent and was imprisoned because her pregnancy threatened Elizabeth with the possibility of a legitimate royal heir; after seven years in prison, Katherine died, likely of self-starvation. Mary also married without Elizabeth's consent and was imprisoned for seven years, but was eventually rehabilitated at court only to die of plague at age 33. De Lisle has produced an excellent, assiduously researched account of dynastic politics at its worst, focusing on three fascinating and often overlooked women. Photos.
The Sisters Who Would Be Queen
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  • £6.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Europe
  • Published: 19 January 2009
  • Publisher: HarperPress
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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