Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

Another intriguing tale from the Queen of historical romance. When reading the novels of Philippa Gregory it is very easy to forget that they are works of fiction as her extensive research brings history alive on the printed page.

This time it is the story of Mary Queen of Scots, during her years of imprisonment as the so called ‘guest’ of the Shrewsbury’s. This tale of suspense, passion and political intrigue is related to the reader by the three protagonists, Mary herself, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his determined wife Bess of Hardwick.

George, Lord High Steward of England for Queen Elizabeth I and only fairly recently wed to Bess finds himself commanded to guard Queen Mary as a guest in his household.
Bess a self made woman who has used three previous marriages as a stepping stone to her fourth, The Earl, at first sees this arrangement as beneficial to her household. It is only after seeing her husband with Queen Mary that Bess realises that at forty one she is already an old woman. Past child bearing age she is a woman who has risen as high as she is likely and can now only face decline. It seems she is now competing with a Queen for her husband’s heart.
George takes his task very seriously as a loyal servant to Queen Elizabeth I, however he still finds himself becoming emotionally attached to this young woman who has become part of his household. It his gullibility that is the cause of him squandering his wife’s inheritance that she bought to the marriage on a young woman who will continue her fight for her throne no matter what.
Mary a young woman of tremendous courage and determination through out her imprisonment never gives up her fight for the throne, even as plot after plot to free her is discovered.

As a story based on historical fact told to us by three main players during an interesting period in history this novel could not be better. As the reader I felt involved with Mary, George and Bess as individually they told of their hopes and disappointments during the years that plans were made, acted on and failed time and again to restore Mary to her rightful place on the throne of Scotland and provide freedom of choice in religion for the British people. Had they succeeded the course of history would have been somewhat different!

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