Set during the reign of Queen Mary I (Mary Tudor) in the mid-1500’s, The Queen’s Fool by Phillipa Gregory melds history with Mary Tudor and her fool, Hannah Green.
Hannah Green wasn’t technically a real person. She was based on extensive research on the behalf of Phillipa Gregory who is an actual PhD historian. Hannah and her dad fled Spain because of the Inquisition; her mom was discovered to be a Jew in a reality where Jew’s are being severely persecuted. Her mom had already been burned for being a Jew and it wouldn’t take much for people to be suspect of Hannah and her dad if they didn’t pretend to be Protestants once they got to England.
Once in England, Hannah is brought in by Robert Dudley as the Holy Fool because, apparently, she can see visions sometimes. This led her to meet King Edward, Mary Tudors younger brother who died at the age of 15. Upon his death, Mary Tudor became Queen Mary I.
The Queen’s Fool definitely paints Mary in a much more positive light than many other historical depictions I have seen of her before. In reality, she became very hostile toward her sister, Elizabeth, who she saw as a threat especially because she wouldn’t give up Protestantism and Mary, herself, was trying to return England to Catholicism. This was touched upon by Gregory in the book because, as a historian, she wouldn’t likely dare to ignore Mary’s penchant to not always be super friendly.
Hannah, despite her fears of the Inquisition and being burned, remains loyal to Mary even when she’s planning to merry a Spanish person. She tries to defend Mary because, of course, being Queen is hard, she has sympathy for Mary for quite a while. But she also likes Elizabeth a lot and doesn’t like how she’s being treated either and is terrified of the possible marriage to the Spanish price.
To me, it almost seemed like Hannah saw why each person (character, but actual historical figure) would act as though they did. This is an interesting way to present a book, which would ordinarily side with one person and stick to it versus going back and forth. I liked this approach because I think historians try to shed light on Mary’s behaviour; her dad’s treatment of her, the loss of her mother, the rejection she faced, and so much more.
Of course, many life lessons are learned for Hannah along the, including finding her place in the world and learning how to accept love and family.
Considering how history presents Mary often, it was really interesting to read a perspective that didn’t hide those things but also suggested that there might have been a private side to her that was kind and loving. I also thought it was interesting that Phillipa Gregory made a fascinating choice in allowing readers to learn about a bit of the history of Jewish people during this period.
Phillipa Gregory’s books are amazing; I don’t know if I would start with The Queen’s Fool if you haven’t read her books before, but I would definitely add it to you list of books to read some day along with some of her other books.
- Title: The Queen’s Fool
- Author: Phillipa Gregory
- Publication Date: February 4, 2004
- Genre: historical fiction
- Page number: 512
- Publication Company: Touchstone