Said to be the author’s last novel to be set in the Tudor period, The Last Tudor is one of the best she has set in the era.
Telling the story of the lives of the three tragic Grey sisters Jane, Katherine and Mary, Gregory has created a novel that shows how the sisters were firm and strong in each of their beliefs – whether it be religious, love or simply choosing to live the life that they want. Unfortunately in different ways it cost them their happiness.
Dividing the book into the three sisters very different perspectives, Gregory’s novel flows with ease as each sister tries to outwit two Tudor queens and is richly filled with details about the politics and danger that existed during these times.
Of all of the sisters it will be the Lady Jane Grey who will be most familiar to those who know their Tudor history – having been named successor to King Edward instead of his sister Mary and became queen for nine days until her tragic ending and it is for this reason that her part in the story is relatively short. Gregory once again shows her ability to create a strong minded female character based on history and Jane Grey is no different. While in some moments she is cold and stubborn, Gregory reminds us that despite this she was a young girl who was bidden into a treasonous situation – as highlighted in the moment in which she finds out she is about to die for other people’s crimes.
Meanwhile, Katherine and Mary have to face the jealousy of Elizabeth I following their marriages. Both are instantly more sympathetic characters – perhaps slightly romanticised particularly with regards to their marriages, but both are equally perceptive when it comes to Elizabeth I. While each character has their own voice, their stories are entwined together to make compelling reading.
Gregory has a great skill of turning history on its head as seen from each character’s perspective, as seen with her previous Tudor Court novels. In this novel for example, Queen Elizabeth comes across as vicious and jealous woman in comparison to the nervous and frightened character readers are given in ‘The Virgin’s Lover’. Her vanity and jealousy causing numerous problems for everybody closest to her – but in particular the Grey sisters.
What makes this book a standout of the series is that it shows just how much the Tudor reign had changed by this point – the era which began in hope after the years of civil war is now transforming once again into suspicion and dissatisfaction among ordinary people of the era. It seems particularly vivid and heartbreaking to read with its constant undertones of sadness and details which capture what this period of history was like to live through. The reader feels completely transported.
Always compelling to read, fans of Gregory’s previous Tudor novels will not be disappointed with The Last Tudor – which seems a particularly poignant title if this is indeed the last Tudor court novel that Philippa Gregory writes.
The Last Tudor is available to buy now.