Three Sisters, Three Queens

Friday, December 30, 2016
Philippa Gregory

This story of Margaret Tudor, the quintessential English Princess of her time, and the often tumultuous relationship she shares with her siblings as she fulfills her predestine duty to be the wife of King James the IV of Scotland. 

Margaret Tudor is the narrator of this book, and when we meet her she’s a young girl of ten who worships older brother, Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales and is annoyed by the spoiled, childish antics of younger brother, Henry.  Mary Tudor, the youngest of the bunch, is a beautiful, carefree child still in the nursery and the sister of Margaret’s heart.  However, when Katherine of Aragon arrives at the English court to marry Arthur, Margaret’s entire world gets upended and jealousy begins to consumer her. She regards Katherine of Aragon as Katherine of Arrogant, and immediately envies her beauty, lavish wardrobe and jewels.  This jealousy dogs Margaret throughout the rest of this novel, and informs much of the precarious relationship she has with her sister, Mary, and sister-in-law twice over, Katherine. 

When Margaret arrives in Scotland to marry King James, a man seventeen years her senior and the greatest king Scotland has ever known, Margaret, often childish and self-centered, settles in to her new life and celebrates the fact that she is a true queen before both Katherine and Mary. While Margaret is the narrator of this story, the three sisters continue a correspondence that carries them across all the vagaries of their royal lives and the often brutal politics that shape their thoughts and actions.

I’ve read many of Philippa Gregory’s novels but was particularly interested to see how she’d handle the little known Margaret Tudor and her life as Queen Margaret of Scotland.  Although fictionalized and flavored with a relatable modern voice often reminiscent of a shallow, spoiled teenager, I really did enjoy this novel.  Philippa Gregory has a way of taking complicated history, distilling it and delivering it up for every person to enjoy. This was a very detailed, painstakingly researched account of Margaret’s life in Scotland.  The three sister-queens exchange letters and it is through these that we get a glimpse of Katherine and Mary’s most intimate thoughts.  Their lives are as fascinating as they are tragic, mirroring the time and countries in which they lived.  I believe this book is well worth the time if you’re a historical junky like I am.  My honest opinion?  I’d give this five out of five stars.

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