Lady Mary

By Lucy Worsley

Lady Mary by Lucy WorsleyBethany P (13)'s review
I liked this book because it focused on Mary, almost as if she was narrating it even though it was written in third person. It really gave you and insider’s view of the royal court of Henry VIII, as well as giving you an insight on Mary’s thoughts and feelings. I think this made Mary the most interesting character because she was the focus of the story, although all the characters were described in interesting and different ways.

I definitely learnt some more about the early life of Mary I. I enjoy reading historical books, especially about the Tudor period of history, but mainly ones focused on Elizabeth I, or Henry VIII and his many wives, so it was very interesting to discover some more about what went on during Mary’s life.

The plot was quite serious, as she was an exiled Princess, so life was a lot of anxious waiting for her mother’s (Catherine of Aragon’s) letters. Despite the more serious note of the story, there were some more exciting parts, like when she puts her ladies-in-waiting in a deep sleep so that she can try and escape back to her father’s court. There is also the occasional sad bit, as she just wants her father to love her and accept that she’s not a boy and therefore isn’t (in her father’s eyes) a suitable heir to the throne. She also just wants a normal family that she can love, and that love her back, but because of all the controversy with Henry VIII wanting to divorce her mother, marrying Anne Boleyn instead and then beheading her and marrying Jane Seymour, she can’t.

I would recommend it to other pupils that are interested in history, but they don’t necessarily have to be interested in the Tudor period, as it is an interesting book all the same. I would say it is mainly aimed at girls, but boys could read it too as the plot is still thought-provoking and stimulating.

Eleanor's review
I very much enjoyed Lady Mary, as I found the protagonist really engaging. The portrayal of “Bloody” Mary was very clever and put a new light on her character. I found the character Lady Shelton very interesting as there is a lot more depth to her personality than you originally think, as she goes very quickly from jailer to saviour. I did not already know a lot about the Tudors, but we briefly looked at “Bloody Mary” when studying for my GCSEs. This put her in a very negative light, so seeing the world through Mary's eyes made the plot more interesting. The initial chapters were light-hearted but after Mary's exile, the story becomes more serious in nature after she and her mother are sent away when King Henry VIII remarries. The bittersweet ending in the knowledge of her inevitable tyrannical reign is very moving as the writer leaves the narrative when things begin to look better. Although we look back on her as villainous, the book does not give that impression. I would very much recommend this book to anyone interested in history, or even just looking for a good read. it was a refreshing change of pace to have a story about strong female characters rather than the male dominated history we have. The plot is thrilling and I couldn't put the book down! 

Clement's review
Which of the characters did you find most interesting and why?
Mary herself remains the most interesting character throughout the story. Her initial naïve, childlike nature was paired up well with unfavourable circumstances, only highlighting her strength and courage as she grows into the future Queen of England. Her inner mindset was also considerably and detailed explored and strengthens the connection and sympathy with readers. However, the fatal flaw of her is that she isn’t given something decisive and meaningful to do. Nearly all of the events in the books end with outside interventions rather than some bold, memorable acts of courage of hers, which makes it frustrating to see all the potential of her character wasted. It shouldn’t be mistaken that she is downright weak, as she did have moments of growth that display her daring, bold, resilient nature, but they are nowhere near being memorable or significant.

Did you learn anything new about the past from the book? 

What made the history or the time it was set in interesting to you?
Thanks to the detailed descriptions of Mary’s inner struggles and the plot which is heavily connected with the aftermath of Henry VIII’s actions, I gained considerable knowledge about the history. The detailed account of Mary’s mindset also provided more personal perspectives to the events, making them more relatable.

Is this a period of history you knew much about beforehand?
I wasn’t extremely knowledgeable about the period of history, but I know about the background and general details of Henry VIII’s ruling.

Was the plot exciting, thought-provoking, serious or light-hearted (or any combination of these)? Did this make a difference to whether or not the book was interesting/enjoyable to read?
The narrative is certainly provoking given its detail of Mary’s turmoil. The great detail explored of Mary mindset fuels my sympathy and understanding of her. This adds on to the interest of reading on. However, the plot lets me down by failing to do justice to such a complex, vulnerable, and rich build up for the character. Mary is often not given the most decisive things to do in the end to show case her character ultimately. It was often others who solved the problem, like her mother sending in servants during Mary’s capture, and servants of Henry VIII freeing her after provided evidence for Anne Boleyn’s execution.

Has the book inspired you or made you want to know more about anything?
It has inspired me certainly by shining light on the difficulties of within the monarchy and the struggles of being female in a world where they weren’t valued and power depends only on being male.

Would you recommend it to other students – why?
I would recommend it to other students as this book properly showcases the struggles and hardships within the monarchy in a society hierarchy in a convincing, and hard-felt way. This helps us understand society then more comprehensively.

Oliver's review
For me, this was an interesting book because it discussed possibly one of the most well-known historical “stories”, aside from the two World Wars, namely Henry VIII and his many wives, but from a completely different viewpoint. Consequently, although I didn’t particularly learn very much, I was able to empathise with Lady Mary and how she may have felt about Henry VIII’s actions and the isolation from her mother, Catherine of Aragon, who eventually died.

I truly enjoyed how this book paints a picture of monarchy status and alliance at that time. Catherine and Henry’s divorce was a messy affair due the fact that Catherine is a princess of Spain in her own right, sister of the ruler at that time. Henry’s decision to marry Anne Boleyn, who grew up in France, made the alliance between France and England seem stronger, but at the same time weakened England alliance with Spain and Rome. Not to mention the long-time animosity between Spain and France. Add that Catherine’s nephew was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at that time, it seemed the battle lines were drawn between the supporters of Henry and Catherine. If only we could have seen more of Catherine’s scheming somehow.

While I love the focus on characters and inner turmoil of Mary was enjoyable, I had hoped to see more intrigue and scheming, as well as some court richness being shown. The lack of storyline caused this book to be pretty unmemorable to me, as the pages and story blurred together in forming Mary’s waiting day in exile. Therefore, I cannot possibly recommend this book as unfortunately, it is quite tedious with no formulated and structured plot, thus making for an uninspiring read, however, I can credit Lucy Worsley for presenting such a well-known “story” in such a different way.

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