Mastodon The Writing Desk: Book Review: Mary I Queen of Sorrows, by Alison Weir

9 May 2024

Book Review: Mary I Queen of Sorrows, by Alison Weir

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Adored only child of Henry VIII and his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, Princess Mary is raised in the golden splendour of her father's court. But the King wants a son and heir. With her parents' marriage, and England, in crisis, Mary's perfect world begins to fall apart. Exiled from the court and her beloved mother, she seeks solace in her faith, praying for her father to bring her home. But when the King does promise to restore her to favour, his love comes with a condition. The choice Mary faces will haunt her for years to come - in her allegiances, her marriage and her own fight for the crown. Can she become the queen she was born to be?

I've learned to go to the author's note before reading Alison Weir's books, and this one is particularly poignant.  Alison talks about how, like Mary, her own parents separated when she was eleven years old.  This experience means she can identify with the first crowned Tudor queen in her retelling of a familiar story.

Mary inherited a country in a social, political and economic mess, and did little to change the life of the people for the better, yet she emerges as a woman deserving of understanding, if not our sympathy.

Alison ran a competition for suggested subtitles for the book, and a popular suggestion was the enduring epithet 'Bloody Mary'.  After having read the book I agree the eventual choice of 'Queen of Sorrows' was the right one. 

Although a work of historical fiction, the story of Queen Mary is based on sound historical sources, and I'm happy to recommend this book to anyone wanting a more nuanced understanding of one of our most troubled queens. 

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth and several historical biographies, including Mistress of the Monarchy, Queen Isabella, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England with her husband. Find out more at Alison's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter  @AlisonWeirBooks

(A review copy of this book was kindly provided by the publishers, Headline UK)

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