Becky’s Ninetieth Book Review: “The Other Queen” by Philippa Gregory

“The Other Queen” by Philippa Gregory follows the story of Mary Queen of Scots. There are several different characters who tell the story, Mary the Queen, and a husband and wife who are put in charge of caring for the queen, Bess and George. This is all taking place in Protestant England under Elizabeth’s rule. This is a time of paranoia, where everyone is capable of being charged with treason. Elizabeth’s most trusted adviser, Cecil, has convinced her that everyone is plotting against her. Her paranoia causes her to make hasty arrests, look the other way as Cecil tortures people in order to get confessions out of them, and overall make living in England a frightening experience. Enter Queen Mary. She is the cousin to Elizabeth and a queen several times over. She was born heir to the throne in Scotland and England and was married to a French prince who became king and in turn, she became queen. Her husband dies and so she leaves France to return home to Scotland where she is put in charge until she is run out of town. She flees to England in hopes that her cousin will help her to regain her throne. Instead, Elizabeth keeps Mary under house arrest.

Throughout the book, Mary is convinced that as a queen three times over that any moment a rebellion will rise to set her free. When she is the one narrating the story, the reader can expect to see all the hardships that she has endured during her life and the lengths that she will go to to escape her prison.

Bess and George tell their stories in a different perspective. Bess is a woman who came from nothing and built herself up through marriage. She married several times, each time climbing further and further up the social ladder. Her latest marriage to George left her a countess. Her opportunities are all largely based on the fact that when the Catholic church was overthrown for the Protestant church, abbeys, monasteries, churches, and anything to do with the church were raided. Her husbands took advantage of this. George on the other hand, comes from nobility and so when he and Bess are charged with keeping the queen in their home, George cannot comprehend why Bess is so upset that Queen Elizabeth isn’t paying them to house Queen Mary. He is so used to money never being a problem that he can’t grasp why Bess is always talking about it.

While all the main events really did take place, I am no history buff so I really didn’t know what was going to happen. This made reading the book much more interesting, I think, than if I had known what was going to happen. Philippa Gregory practically holds the patent for writing historical fiction surrounding the throne in England. She does take liberties, but you can pretty much guarantee that her novels contain the bones of what really happened. I am a big fan of her writing styles and I think most people would enjoy “The Other Queen”. I would recommend it, I especially think it would appeal to a female crowd.