Acclaimed author Philippa Gregory, takes us back to Tudor England in The Queen’s Fool, a novel that is more than a simple romance. It is an extraordinary work of historical fiction. Set amidst the intrigue of court life, this novel paints a vivid portrait of the time, seen through the young eyes of Hannah Green.
Hannah, a young Jewish emigre, works with her father in his bookshop, dressed as a young boy for her protection. When the store is visited by Lord Dudley and his charismatic son, Robert, Hannah has one of her unpredictable visions. Enamored by the potential power of her gift, Robert quickly begs her for a fool in the court of King Edward. To the uninformed, this means that he makes her his servant, and there is little her father can do to stop him. Hannah becomes a holy fool and is protected by both her service to the frail young king, and her powerful benefactor.
As the realm is thrown into the turmoil of a holy war when Mary ascends to the throne, Hannah is thrust into the middle of it all. Required to continue her service, Hannah dare not arouse suspicion about her family. The fires of the Inquisition have haunted them since they fled Spain. As history unfolds, we are privy to the courtiers’ lives in a way that is rarely seen. The splendor and the sacrifice, the truth and the pervasive lies that swirl about the monarchy are revealed in believable narrative.
As Hannah must serve the Crown, so must she continue to be a dutiful daughter, and try to maintain a relationship with her betrothed, a young medical student named Daniel Carpenter. As the romance of Hannah and Daniel emerges in bits and pieces, it is the royal court that pulls us back, just as it calls Hannah back to service.
A very subtle underlying theme in this book are the other romances that make the Tudor Queens so famous. Mary’s desperate love for her Spanish husband and the toll that it takes on the entire country. Princess Elizabeth’s desperate manipulation of seduction to insure her safety. The deep and abiding love of the British people for their monarchy - even when it all goes terribly wrong.
The Queen’s Fool is historical fiction with romance, not a historical romance. I want to make sure that this is clear. It is a stunning work, a breathtaking novel of scope and detail. I recommend it for every reader who is interested in the Tudor monarchy but dislikes dry biographical tomes. This novel brings history to life.