As much as this is a book of political monarchs in highly turbulent times, this is also the personal story of siblings and how they related to one another. Once again, Alison Weir has knocked another one out of the park, bringing even the most nuanced aspects of this realm and time period to life in such a way that even a foreigner of the modern world can understand it in a deeply meaningful way. As a narrative history, this excels.
Weir does state that this book is a follow-up to her book The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which I’ve also given top marks. Indeed, I would agree that in conjunction with that work, Tudor history becomes a very human story, something far beyond a soap opera. Having read her biography of Henry VIII first (my introduction to Weir’s work), I can say that anyone serious in Tudor studies via Weir should start there, proceed to Six Wives, then this. This one focuses on the time period between Henry’s death and Elizabeth’s ascension, spotlighting Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth. Next in line is her Life of Elizabeth, which will no doubt build on all of these other foundations, and which I’ll be adding to my reading list soon. It’s all dense storytelling, but it’s also expert level history made as friendly as if reading a novel, building the layers as an artist does a painting. It’s that good.