Sisters to the King by Maria Perry
Much has been written about Henry VIII and his six wives, but his sisters, Margaret and Mary, have had less of the limelight – until Maria Perry examined their amazing lives and their influence on European history in this enthralling book.
In the Tudor age both Margaret and Mary were thought to be more important personalities than Henry’s six wives. Margaret became Queen of Scotland at the age of thirteen. Mary, Henry’s famously beautiful younger sister, was married off to the ageing King of France. Against convention both chose their second husbands for love. Mary risked her head by proposing to the handsome Duke of Suffolk; Margaret’s husband James IV was killed by Henry’s armies, her children were snatched from her and her two subsequent husband betrayed her, yet she defied convention by twice seeking divorce.
Wonderfully illuminating and truly groundbreaking, Sisters to the King not only reveals two remarkable historical figures, but radically alters our view of Henry VIII and Tudor history.
I admit that my initial reason for purchasing this book was because I am quite fascinated with the life of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Charles Brandon was a lifelong friend of Henry VIII and in my opinion he is quite a remarkable man, he dared to marry Henry’s sister Mary without permission, which could amount to treason, and yet he still kept his head on his shoulders! I was interested in reading about the marriage of Charles and Mary Tudor and what their relationship was like and I thought this would be a very interesting book to read. Through reading this book I discovered a fascination not only with Mary Tudor but with Henry VIII’s older sister Margaret.
Maria Perry did a wonderful job of bringing the lives of both Margaret and Mary Tudor to the reader. Her style of writing is not only informative but also creates a detailed story in which I found myself constantly desiring to read more. I have read little about the life of Margaret Tudor and it was fascinating to learn more about this incredible woman. She married at a young age to King James IV of Scotland, living the dutiful life of a Queen while watching her husband and brother go to war. She lost her husband and then remarried for love, a marriage which turned out to be quite a disaster and cost Margaret her regency and much of her wealth.
During Margaret’s second marriage to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus it was quite an intricate story in itself. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Margaret’s relationship, her regency and her battles with the Duke of Albany and how she fought so hard to retain her position as the King’s mother and regent of Scotland. Perry wrote in such a way that I truly felt sorry for Margaret, she came across as quite a stubborn woman, but also a woman who stuck to her beliefs and what she felt to be true and just. Although not an uncommon practice it was still sad to read that Margaret had married a second time for love only to find her husband having an affair and as she was just a woman she had little right to her lands and money. She fled to England and at least for a time sought comfort in the court of her brother Henry VIII, but even when she returned to Scotland things never stayed quite peaceful for Margaret.
She managed to obtain a divorce from her second husband but her third marriage, once again for love, was another disappointment. Henry Stweart, 1st Lord Methven provided to be just as flirtatious and enjoying of woman as Margaret’s second husband and seemed to love her money just as much. I can only wonder how happy Margaret was in her last marriage.
I was also quite interested in the relationship between Margaret and her son James, the future James V of Scotland. From what I understood it appeared as though Margaret truly loved her son and only wanted the best for him as his mother and regent. I do have to admit that I wonder about James’ thoughts and feelings towards his mother and if he deeply loved her or saw her as an obstacle to his complete and utter rule of Scotland.
As well as detailing the life of Margaret Tudor, Perry did a wonderful job bringing the life of Mary Tudor, younger sister of Henry VIII to life. It was absolutely fascinating to read about Mary’s secret marriage to Charles Brandon and all the drama and trouble that went along with this. Technically what Charles Brandon did, marrying the King’s sister without permission, amounted to treason, and yet both he and Mary not only got away with the marriage but they also had a public wedding at Greenwich! Although Henry VIII did impose a huge fine upon the Brandon’s and they were required to pay £2000 a year over the next twelve years! This and the need to maintain status as a Duke and Dowager Queen of France left the Brandon’s in quite a lot of financial difficulty.
Despite this I got the feeling that Charles and Mary married for love, at least Mary sought Charles’ hand in marriage because she loved him. Their marriage was rushed and certainly Mary was afraid that after the death of her first husband King Louis XII, Henry VIII might make her marry another foreign King, but she seemed to truly love Charles Brandon. I can only assume that Charles loved Mary equally in return, after all he did defy his best friend and King and risk being executed for treason!
It was also very interesting to read all about Charles Brandon’s marital adventures! It would seem as though in his younger years he was quite the ladies’ man, seeking out advantageous marriages which would provide him with some income and wealth. Unfortunately things caught up with him in the end and he had to get a Papal dispensation to prove his second marriage to be null and void so that his children with Mary were legitimate and not bastards! Oh to think that the nephew and nieces to the King of England could have at one stage been bastards!
Overall I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Maria Perry’s book. She did a fantastic job of interweaving the lives of Margaret and Mary Tudor with the life of Henry VIII. It was really interesting to see how at different stages all three sibling’s lives affected one another in some way. Because of one’s actions another was affected and so on. They say that history is boring but from reading Perry’s book I would argue that. Even just taking Margaret Tudor’s life it reads more like a drama than any modern day soapie! Margaret and Mary lead such fascinating and interesting lives and I really enjoyed learning more about these captivating women. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about these two amazing woman.