Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Other Queen

Written by Philippa Gregory, The Other Queen is a historical fiction book about the doomed Scottish Queen, Mary and her life under house arrest in various castles in England at the instigation of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who viewed Mary as dangerous and a real threat to her throne.

For amusement and entertainment, this book had served its purpose but for someone like me who is into historical research about European royalty, this book sounds a bit absurd and puzzling. I don't know, maybe the trouble lays on the way it was written and presented.

Miss Gregory presented the book based on each principal character's point of view, so it often jumped from one thought/situation to another, unable to distinguish who is telling the truth and where the story should be picked up. What I did not like about this book is the way it ended. I was expecting the whole thing to be centered hugely on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, after all it is where this book was told but I was surprised when the most important aspect of history on how the Queen was tried, sentenced and beheaded were deliberately excluded and only narrated the circumstances where George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsburry, who was the custodian of the Scottish Queen for 19 years, silently wept as the sword slash the neck of Queen Mary. It was simple as that with no further twist.

The Other Queen centered on Bess of Hardwick and her husband, George Talbot and their financial and emotional struggle they experienced while accommodating the house arrest of Mary, Queen of Scots. The book also tries to present a theory that William Cecil, one of the Kingdom's influential advisers, was actually a formidable spy whose main responsibility in life was to protect the reign of Queen Elizabeth I at the expense of other people's freedom. I am not sure exactly if it is part of history or merely fiction, but the book tries to describe Mary as a disgusting human being whose immorality and excesses in life had cost her life and her throne.

The book is slightly disappointing and after reading the whole story, I am still left wondering what really happen to the Queen's trial and the significant events leading to her beheading. Nevertheless, it gave me some idea why the Spanish Armada was defeated.


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