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Review of Lady Mary by Lucy Worsley

by - March 01, 2018

Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Release Date: 05/04/2018
Find The Author: Website / Twitter
Find The Book: Book Depository
(Received from NetGalley for review)

By turns thrilling, dramatic and touching, this is the story of Henry the Eighth and Catherine of
Aragon's divorce as you've never heard it before - from the eyes of their daughter, Princess Mary. 

More than anything Mary just wants her family to stay together; for her mother and her father - and for her - to all be in the same place at once. But when her father announces that his marriage to her mother was void and by turns that Mary doesn't really count as his child, she realises things will never be as she hoped. 

 Things only get worse when her father marries again. Separated from her mother and forced to work as a servant for her new sister, Mary must dig deep to find the strength to stand up against those who wish to bring her down. Despite what anyone says, she will always be a princess. She has the blood of a princess and she is ready to fight for what is rightfully hers. 

 The Tudor "thing" in portraits was to hide subtle messages and clues for the viewer, in fact Elizabeth The First often hid a pelican in her portraits, which was a sign of motherly love for all her subjects. This idea is cleverly continued in the cover of Lady Mary, where you can see knives, birds, coins and poison amongst the leafy background, all things that give subtle clues as to what you will be reading in the book.

The writing in this book kept well to the period, sometimes too well. I was trying to read this from a children's perspective as it's stated that this is what it's marketed towards and I had to look up a few words - forswear for one and obsequious, which apparently means "obedient or attentive to an excessive degree".

"She knew that her mother would insist that she should detest this baby girl. And yet how could she hate something so weak and powerless. How could God really want her to do that?"

The Mary we know as Bloody is a vicious, violent woman, obsessive in her Christian beliefs and she took the throne by force in 1553. She was known for her hatred of Protestants and history paints her as a truly evil Queen. The Mary we meet here however, is a teenager, watching her parents marriage fall apart before almost becoming a servant under Anne Boleyn, a woman who is shown to have a truly cruel side in this book, that I've never seen before.

I love books that takes people from history that have become characters, or caricatures in Thomas Cromwell's case, and shows us a different side to the one we know. We know that Mary takes the throne eventually, but watching her suffer as she slowly starves to the brink of death after refusing to sign away her rights to the throne is gut wrenching. She ends up completely alone, in a house she does not know, with servants she does not know.

"'They should not use you this way in their quarrels. You are a girl. They must let you be a girl!' 'But,' Mary whispered, 'I'm not just a girl. I'm a princess.'"

We visit Mary at key points in her life from a young age up to young adulthood, showing us her relationships with her mother, her father and her servants. She comes across as a kind girl, while refusing to act below her station she treats everyone with equal respect and sees no problem with sitting down for dinner with her trusted servants. We also see her relationship with her father, from when she saw him as truly perfect until she started to see him as he truly was.

What really shines though, is her strength. She decides she would rather starve than compromise her faith and she knows how much it will disappoint her mother. After being shipped from house to house and losing everyone she loves she comes away with a steely determination that has to be admired. As Lucy points out at the end of the story, Mary's actions against Protestants weren't any different to what Kings before her had done, she was mostly a victim of Catholic propaganda.

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  1. I love Lucy Worsley's historical documentaries! I'm not surprised she couldn't resist dropping a few 'big words' in the mix, but if the book was otherwise enjoyable, I guess we can forgive her for that, haha. I'm glad you liked this book!

    Ronnie @ Paradise Found

  2. This is such a great review, I have a feeling that the book only cares about Mary, maybe portraying other characters differently as we know them in the process? Can't wait to read it.

    1. I never thought of that but you're absolutely right, as it is from Mary's perspective we will be seeing things in a different light. That being said, Anne's actions when Mary refuses to sign her rights to the throne over really don't paint her in a good light!


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