Discussion Questions – ‘The Last Tudor’ by Philippa Gregory


Philippa Gregory 'The Last Tudor'

  1. What role do faith and religion play during the time period represented in The Last Tudor? What is the relationship between religion and politics, and how does this relationship affect the cultural climate of England? Is the country mostly united in their faith or divided? What impact does this have on the royals of England?
  • After the Henrician Reformation, there was the mid-Tudor crisis, already with differences of faith across England.
  • Edward VI was a devout Protestant as he had been raised, Mary I was a devout Catholic as her mother Katherine of Aragon had been, and Elizabeth I looked for a middle way in religion having seen the chaos of her brother’s and sister’s reigns.
  • Edward VI altered his Device for the Succession to stop Mary I succeeding to the throne and returning the English church to Rome.
  • Politics was based on religion – generally people who supported Edward VI and Jane Grey were protestant, and those who supported Mary I were Catholic, although Mary I did at first also attract the support of protestants as the real claimant to the throne by Henry VIII’s will.
  1. What is “the true religion” according to Lady Jane Grey? Why does Jane believe that she and her family do not need to earn their place in heaven as others do? Does her faith ultimately serve her well? Discuss.
  • Jane Grey believes the true religion is protestant – each is influenced in religion in the way that they were raised.
  • Protestants believe in pre-destination – that it is already decided whether you go to heaven or hell before you’re even born and you can’t influence that through good works.
  • Good works leading to heaven is a Catholic doctrine.
  • Jane Grey relies on her faith and it ultimately helps her to die, but she wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place if she wasn’t staunchly Protestant.
  • Edward VI settles the succession on Jane Grey because she is Protestant, rather than his Catholic half-sister Mary I.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Last Tudor’ by Philippa Gregory”

Discussion Questions – The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy


  1. Discuss the personalities of the three sisters – Jane, Kate and Mary. Who do you like best and why?
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.

Jane comes across as serious, studious, intelligent, logical, quiet, impassioned, determined and resolved. Katherine, on the other hand, comes across as flighty, flirty, likes to be the centre of attention, loved, passionate and impetuous. Mary comes across as the outsider, serious, logical, strong-willed and determined, though most of these only towards the end of her life. The three are completely different and contrasting, and perhaps that it why they get on so well. Mary is the most like me, she is the one that I can most identify with as she is an outsider, but is strong and determined, although people don’t always see it. I like Mary the best, then Jane and then Katherine, possibly because that is the order in which I identify most with them.

  1. The Grey sisters have a little ritual in which they stand before the mirror and identify themselves as “the brilliant one”, “the beautiful one” and “the beastly little one”, making fun of the way other people see them. Discuss the outside world’s perceptions of the three sisters and how they see themselves. Discuss their relationship with each other. If they weren’t united by blood and family ties, would these three girls have been friends?

Making light of harmful comments (“the beastly little one”) or idle gossip means that they don’t have as much power to hurt you. It means that you know how the world sees you but you don’t really care, or seem not to care – it’s a form of armour. The world sees the sisters as very one-sided, but the girls themselves know that there is more to each of them than meets the eye. For example, Katherine is beautiful and seems flighty, but is steadfast in what she wants in the end. Jane has a loving, caring side when it comes to her sisters, but no one else. I think that, had the girls not been related by blood, they wouldn’t have naturally gravitated towards each other, but I think their relationship with each other enhances their own personalities, so I think if they hadn’t been related to each other they wouldn’t have been the same people. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy”

Potted History of Prominent Tudor Families


Katherine Howard miniature by Hans Holbein.
Katherine Howard miniature by Hans Holbein.

Howards

The Howards were one of the oldest families. They were the family who had the Dukedom of Norfolk. Anne of York, the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, married into the Howard family. Well-known descendents included Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII) and Katherine Howard (fifth wife of Henry VIII). Mary Howard married Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Duke of Richmond and Somerset. It was probably their ambitions that brought them down in the end.

Seymours

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.

The Seymour family were pretty obscure until Henry VIII fell in love with Jane Seymour, who later became his third wife after the execution of his second, Anne Boleyn. Their triumph was short-lived. Jane’s only child became Edward VI, but he had no children. Jane’s two brothers, Edward and Thomas, were both executed in the reign of their nephew, Edward VI. Edward Seymour had been Lord Protector, until he was overthrown by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Thomas Seymour tried to get control of Edward VI and was killed for it. Continue reading “Potted History of Prominent Tudor Families”

What Made the Tudor Dynasty Unique?


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.

The Tudor dynasty was unique in several ways, not least that two of our most remembered monarchs were Tudors – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Furthermore, the dynasty was unique in issues of marriage, succession, political unity, religion, and love. Read on to find out more.

Henry VIII is the only reigning monarch to have married more than twice. He was also only the second to have a wife who had already been married (the first was Edward IV whose Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, already had two sons when they married). He is also only the second King to have married a commoner (Edward IV was, again, the first). He is also the only monarch to have had one of his wives (let alone two!) executed. Even more shocking that the two executed were in fact cousins.[1]

Edward VI was the third reigning English monarch not to marry, the first two being William II and Edward V, the second of whom was too young to be married when he died, and the former appeared to have been too busy with wars and dissenters to think about a family. Continue reading “What Made the Tudor Dynasty Unique?”

Mary, Dowager Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk


Mary was born on 18th March 1496 to Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York. She was the youngest of her surviving siblings: Arthur, Henry and Margaret. She was betrothed in 1507 to the future Charles V, the son of Philip I and Juana, the sister of Katherine of Aragon. However, the treaty fell through and she was instead betrothed to Louis XII of France who was thirty-four years her senior. They married on 9th October 1514, but Louis died on 1st January 1515, less than three months after their marriage. They had no children.

Mary was almost certainly in love with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, at this time. Brandon was a close friend of Mary’s brother, Henry VIII. Suffolk was sent to bring Mary back from France. There is debate over whether or not Henry knew of his sister’s feelings for his closest friend, but he wanted Mary’s second marriage to be to his advantage. However, they married in secret on 3rd March 1515, which was technically treason (marrying into the royal family without the monarch’s consent). Because of the intervention of Thomas Wolsey, Henry’s first minister, the couple were let off with a fine once Henry had gotten over his outrage. Continue reading “Mary, Dowager Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk”