The reign of King Henry VIII was turbulent, chaotic, and full of fear, but that’s nothing compared to what would happen next! After the death of King Henry VIII, everything was thrown into disarray. King Edward IV was a young king caught in the middle of a power struggle between his uncles, there were plots, schemes, executions, and that’s only during King Edward’s reign! The conflict after the death of King Edward brought a power struggle for the throne between the pious and Catholic Lady Mary and the Protestant teenage girl, Lady Jane Grey. In “Her Highness, the Traitor”, readers see through the eyes and point-of-view of Lady Frances Grey, the mother of Jane and Lady Jane Dudley, the wife of the Duke of Northumberland and mother of Jane’s husband Guildford. This is a novel of the women that created, loved, and nurtured the two pawns to the throne.
The novel follows the lives of two very different women. Lady Frances Grey is the niece of the great King Henry VIII and a member of the Tudor family. She has an unhappy marriage with her ambitious and Reformer husband as well as a difficult relationship with her oldest daughter, Jane who is intelligent and wise beyond her years. Frances struggles feeling left-out of the close relationship between her intelligent husband and daughter as well as longing for a different life and relationship with her family. Lady Jane Dudley is the plain and meek wife of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and mother to the numerous Dudley children including Guildford and Robert. Jane is a devoted wife and mother and not ready for this power that comes to her husband and family. When the children of Frances and Jane marry and end up on the throne after the death of King Edward, all their worlds change forever. The novel is Lady Jane’s story told through the eyes of her sad and weary mother and her nervous and cautious mother-in-law. “Her Highness, the Traitor” is a portrait of the women that gave Jane and Guildford life and were behind them as they entered a dangerous and deadly time in their lives.
Higginbotham paints a fascinating picture of two very different women and saves them unflattering portrayals they had received in the past in other novels. Lady Frances Grey is not an abusive mother who beats Jane and hates her children, but a woman longing for her oldest daughter’s love and wishing for importance and use in her family and life. Lady Jane Dudley is not a shrewish mother-in-law tormenting young Jane, but a woman devoted to her husband and family. Also, other characters are saved by Higginbotham’s portrayal particularly the Duke of Northumberland who is not a cruel villain, but a man who loved his family and country. Higginbotham makes these characters human and fascinating.
What may be a questionable portrayal to some readers is Higginbotham’s version of Lady Jane Grey. She is haughty, difficult, and sometimes cruel, but also deeply pious, religious, and devoted to her faith. Readers may be more used to the kind and saintly version of Lady Jane Grey that many authors have offered, but Higginbotham offers a more realistic portrayal of how Jane’s religion and beliefs made her a difficult teenager especially to her mother, Lady Frances.
As always, Higginbotham offers a well-written, expertly researched, and compelling take on history. “Her Highness, the Traitor” gives readers a different look at this fascinating time in history.
To purchase “Her Highness, the Traitor”: http://www.amazon.com/Her-Highness-Traitor-Susan-Higginbotham/dp/1402265581
For more information on Susan Higginbotham: http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/