#110 ~ The Other Queen

October 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 8 Comments
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The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

I had been awaiting the publication of The Other Queen since I finished reading The Virgin’s Lover in October of 2007.  As time progressed and got closer to its September 16th release, my anticipation kept growing.  Finding out that I would be seeing Philippa Gregory in person just a couple of short weeks added to my excitement.  When I finally held the book in my hands, it was a happy day indeed.  Although this novel did not displace The Other Boleyn Girl as my favorite of Gregory’s Tudor series, I enjoyed the time I spent with Mary, Queen of Scots, Lord Shrewsberry, and, most especially, Lady Bess of Hardwick.

When writing about Mary, Queen of Scots, Gregory chose to explore her first several years in British captivity.  In what at first seemed like a royal privilege bestowed upon them by Queen Elizabeth, the Lord Shrewsberry and his new wife, Lady Bess, were asked to house the Scots Queen the short time that she would be safeguarded in Great Britain.  What they found quite early on, however, was that holding court for the Queen of Scots was expensive and would quickly rely on them living beyond their means.  What they didn’t realize right away was all that this honor would cost them.

Lady Bess, the first in her kind in the way she accumulated wealth and managed the properties left to her by her husbands, was dreaming of the wealth and favor that would come with performing such a task.  She married her way up to the nobility and was proud of the way she orchestrated her life and was now able to make a place for her children.  She learned how to keep books and it had become her passion.  She took pride in knowing to the penny how much she was worth and what she had spent.  As I got to know her, it became apparent that when things were happening beyond her control that she had her own inner mantra about who she now is and how efficient she is as a landlord.  She is quite the Protestant, but when she’s under stress, all she needs are prayer beads to make this mantra into her own personal rosary.

For all their differences, Mary, Queen of Scots is much like Lady Bess.  She, too, handles stress by telling herself over and over who she is and what her station means.  When she is confident in what she is doing and the plans that are underway on the outside to free her and return her to her throne, her thoughts are fluid and she has a hard time containing her enthusiasm.  There is no need to remind herself that she is a queen of the royal blood.  She is prospering in that role.  When she is not, or when she feels defeated, her thoughts of freedom and who she is become excessive and obsessive.  It is then that she thinks of Bothwell.  When things become dark enough, she admits to what he did.  In her fear she reveals how vulnerable she is, which makes her no different from any other woman.

Philippa Gregory made a bold choice in choosing to tell Mary, Queen of Scots’ story of early imprisonment.  Despite the lack of physical action, it paid off for me.  I understood Mary and Bess both in their perceived triumphs and actual defeats.  I felt their impatience, resentment, and the immense weight of their boredom.  Whether it was intentional or not, Baron Burghley and Queen Elizabeth proved that all torture has to be physical to be effective.  If I were to change one thing about this novel, I might have chosen a different third voice.  Lord Shrewsberry’s last chapter didn’t work well for me.  I would have chosen someone from outside the house.  Thomas Howard or Queen Elizabeth would have added a third distinct layer to the story.

The Other Queen is a novel of internal drama.  As Mary, Queen of Scots is prisoner from start to finish, and her jailers could not be rid of her.  There was a constant battle between the Shrewberry’s and their other queen.  When Lady Bess is up, Mary is down.  When Mary is up, Lady Bess is down.  Lord Shrewsberry was beaten and battered by the storm erupting between the two women.  Still, this novel was not as compelling as The Other Boleyn Girl or The Boleyn Inheritance, but it kept my interest and my interest grew with the characters.  I look forward to reading more about Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick.

Now that my reading of Gregory’s Tudor series is complete, I would rank them in the following order:

1) The Other Boleyn Girl
2) The Boleyn Inheritance
3) The Queen’s Fool
4) The Other Queen
5) The Constant Princess
6) The Virgin’s Lover

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To buy this novel, click here.

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  1. […] 1. The Constant Princess 2. The Other Boleyn Girl 3. The Boleyn Inheritance 4. The Queen’s Fool 5. The Virgin’s Lover 6. The Other Queen […]

  2. Interesting.

    I found the characterisations a bit one dimensional, and some of the choices that she made in telling the story quite strange.
    Marg, I hope that you will be reviewing this book. I don’t know if you have read more about Mary, Queen of Scots, but I’m assuming that you have. I would be interested to know how my views are colored by it being my first novel about her.

  3. I agree. I don’t think this is Gregory’s best work, but I still enjoyed it. I have not read The Queen’s Fool yet, but the only way my rankings would differ from yours at this point is I would put The Boleyn Inheritance first. That was my favorite. 🙂

    Lezlie
    Lezlie, I think you’ll really like The Queen’s Fool. Telling the story of Queen Mary from a fictional character’s perspective was great. The Boleyn Inheritance was really good. I guess I rank The Other Boleyn Girl ahead of it because it was my first PG novel. Sometimes I’m funny that way about liking the first book the best.

  4. Great review and I appreciate the ranking as I have never read any of Gregory’s work.
    Ti, if you haven’t read any of Philippa’s novels and would like to read them, I would suggest reading them in chronological order. I’ve written a post about it based upon my reading of the series. Here is the link if you are interested. I’ve also included some of my favorite books that fill in the “gaps” of Tudor history.

  5. I love love love Phillipa Gregory! I have been putting off buying this book as I am not a fan of hardbacks, but I may to have to buy it anyway. Thanks for the review!
    I go back and forth about hardbacks. I don’t have her other novels in the series in hardback, so I’ll probably end up buying this in paperback eventually. Have you read all of her other novels in the Tudor series? If not, the rest are available in paperback. By the time you’ve finished, maybe this one will be out in pb as well. 🙂

  6. I’m also putting off buying The Other Queen because I have her other Tudor Court novels in paperback and I like them all the same height if possible. Nerdy I know!
    Hey, it’s not like you don’t have others to read in the meantime, right? I don’t think it’s nerdy to keep things organized like that. 🙂 Thanks for your comments!

  7. “She, too, handles stress by telling herself over and over who she is and what her station means. When she is confident in what she is doing and the plans that are underway on the outside to free her and return her to her throne, her thoughts are fluid and she has a hard time containing her enthusiasm.” — this reminded me a little of Juana in The Last Queen.

    Jennifer, despite the plethora of ho-hum reviews, I am excited to read this book. Your review re-affirmed that for me.

  8. […] 1. The Constant Princess 2. The Other Boleyn Girl 3. The Boleyn Inheritance 4. The Queen’s Fool 5. The Virgin’s Lover 6. The Other Queen […]


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