Book Review: Alison Weir’s Innocent Traitor

510-vMIH1pL._SL160_Told in the first person, mostly in Lady Jane’s voice, this novel meticulously details this tragic and heartbreaking tale of a young aristocratic girl who lived in England in the mid-1600s during the outbreak of the religious wars.  Because Lady Jane had the misfortune to be living in a very dangerous period of English history surrounded by brutal and irresponsible people, she was executed for treason at the age of sixteen.

Lady Jane Dudley née Grey was distantly related to the Tudors, and during the period of time when there was a power vacuum in the country between the death of the Calvinist King Edward VI and the accession to the throne of his Catholic sister Mary I, Lady Jane Grey was made Queen of England by her father-in-law the Duke of Northumberland. Because of this, Lady Jane is also known at the Nine Day’s Queen.

Naturally, a teenager could not really be a traitor, and Alison Weir’s outstanding novel details how her self-absorbed and selfish parents betrayed Lady Jane by acting irresponsibly in ways that contributed directly to her death.  The tragedy is not just that a young life was lost to no purpose, but that Lady Jane was an outstanding young woman.  She was highly intelligent and a gifted scholar of Latin and Greek, who already was developing a correspondence with some of the leading intellectuals of her day.  By forcing her to marry at the age of fifteen – especially to the son of a person with dangerous pretensions to the throne – her patents showed that no only did they not appreciate Jane, but they were willing to sell her off for political and financial gain.  Such actions were not unusual in aristocratic families of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and in a forthcoming novel I discuss this issue myself.  But what makes this story so tragic is that Lady Jane was exceptional, not only in her academic gifts but also in her level of maturity and piety.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.   (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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