Published On: Sat, Aug 19th, 2017

The Last Tudor review: Royal sister act is dissected in Greys’ anatomy


But few know what happened to her younger sisters Katherine and Mary, who also faced imprisonment and death sentences for treason.

In this, her 15th novel from the bestselling Plantagenet and Tudor series which includes The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen, Philippa Gregory turns her attention to the tragic fate of the three Grey sisters. 

The tale is split into three parts, each narrated by one of the sisters.

The story begins with 16-year-old Jane, forced to take the throne by her father Henry Grey and his co-conspirators, ahead of the deceased King Edward VI’s half-sister Mary.

But Mary quickly mustered an army, claimed her crown and locked Jane in the Tower.

When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her cousin to the scaffold, sealing Jane’s status as a Protestant martyr for centuries to come. 

“Learn you to die,” writes the pious Jane to her flighty younger sister Katherine, who Gregory paints as a young woman fully intent on enjoying her youth and determined to find love.

But being a potential heir to the throne in Tudor times was a hazardous business and Katherine’s lineage makes her a threat to the insecure and unmarried Queen Elizabeth I.

When Katherine had the audacity to fall in love and marry in secret, she too was promptly despatched to the Tower.

“Farewell, good sister,” writes a heartbroken Katherine to her younger sister, shortly before her death in 1568 at the age of 27, having spent the last years of her life imprisoned and separated from her husband and eldest son. 

In the final chapters, Mary, who is disregarded by the court because of her small stature, finds it easy to avoid Elizabeth’s suspicious glare until she too makes her own love match and risks marrying without permission.

When the subterfuge is revealed, she is also imprisoned and never sees her beloved husband again. Gregory admits that she struggled with the title for this last instalment of her Tudor saga and says the title she eventually plumped for is ambiguous.

It could refer to Elizabeth, the last ruling Tudor (the throne is eventually inherited by a Stuart), or Mary Grey, the last Tudor of the Brandon line.

If the former, it seems an odd choice when Elizabeth is no more than a background character, although her influence dominates the lives of two of the main protagonists.

Gregory’s skill has always been to breathe life into historical figures, creating real and engaging characters, and her fans will love this final instalment of her Tudor saga.


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