Book review: Mary and Elizabeth by Emily Purdy

After 38 years on the throne, the lion king Henry VIII is taking his last agonised breaths ... tormented by the coming of death and God’s divine judgement.

The future now belongs to his three ‘cubs,’ all fated to be caught up in the storm that will inevitably rage around his throne.For Mary, Elizabeth and their nine-year-old ‘little lost sheep’ brother Edward, the gathering clouds will bring power, rivalry, betrayal and death...

Emily Purdy’s enchanting and intimate novel puts the spotlight firmly on the fiery and fascinating relationship between

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two very different princesses; sisters united by their father’s blood but divided by their ambitions for the crown of England.

A richly descriptive and highly imaginative take on the royal siblings, Mary and Elizabeth brings to life the dazzling Tudor court and its dangerous undertow of politics, greed and ambition.Mary, aged 31 and a pious, prudish spinster by the time of her father’s death, was once England’s precious jewel, the only surviving child of the tumultuous relationship between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

However, when Henry fell passionately in love with the dark-eyed Anne Boleyn, he cast his wife and daughter aside. Henry and Anne’s union produced Elizabeth, a flame-haired princess with dark flashing eyes, noted for her brilliance and intuition.

On her mother’s divorce, Mary was declared a bastard, stripped of all royal privileges and forced to perform the lowliest tasks like acting as nursemaid to her new sister. She should have hated Elizabeth but her heart wouldn’t let her and, against the odds, she grew to love her.

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Three years later, Anne Boleyn is executed, Henry can no longer bear the sight of his younger daughter and his third wife Jane Seymour produces a longed-for son Edward. It seems that both Mary and Elizabeth are now destined for oblivion. But fate has something far more elaborate in store for the sisters who share childhood

memories and one grand ambition…

Through the alternating first person narratives of Mary and Elizabeth, Purdy takes us deep into the heart of the complex dynamics between two very royal women and a dramatic period in England’s colourful history.

An interesting new angle on the endless Tudor saga.

(Avon, paperback, £7.99)

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