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  • In the Shadow of the Crown
  • Written by Jean Plaidy
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  • Written by Jean Plaidy
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On Sale: January 21, 2009
Pages: 416 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49614-0
Published by : Broadway Books Crown/Archetype
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As Henry VIII's only child, the future seemed golden for Princess Mary. She was the daughter of Henry's first queen, Katharine of Aragon, and was heir presumptive to the throne of England. Red-haired like her father, she was also intelligent and deeply religious like her staunchly Catholic mother. But her father's ill-fated love for Anne Boleyn would shatter Mary's life forever. The father who had once adored her was now intent on having a male heir at all costs. He divorced her mother and, at the age of twelve, Mary was banished from her father’s presence, stripped of her royal title, and replaced by his other children--first Elizabeth, then Edward. Worst of all, she never saw her beloved mother again; Katharine was exiled too, and died soon after. Lonely and miserable, Mary turned for comfort to the religion that had sustained her mother.

In a stroke of fate, however, Henry's much-longed-for son died in his teens, leaving Mary the legitimate heir to the throne. It was, she felt, a sign from God--proof that England should return to the Catholic Church. Swayed by fanatical advisors and her own religious fervor, Mary made horrific examples of those who failed to embrace the Church, earning her the immortal nickname "Bloody Mary." She was married only once, to her Spanish cousin Philip II--a loveless and childless marriage that brought her to the edge of madness.

With In the Shadow of the Crown, Jean Plaidy brings to life the dark story of a queen whose road to the throne was paved with sorrow.
Jean Plaidy

About Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy - In the Shadow of the Crown
JEAN PLAIDY is the pen name of the prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. More than 14 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Visit www.CrownHistorical.com to learn about the other Jean Plaidy titles available from Three Rivers Press.
About the Book|Discussion Questions

About the Guide

Written by one of the grandes dames of historical fiction, In the Shadow of the Crown is the richly compelling story of Mary Tudor, the oldest child of Henry VIII. Though born a royal princess, her life is far from easy, and her first-person account is a spellbinding storm of danger, intrigue, and dashed romantic dreams. As a mere female, Mary is caught–in the politics of succession, as Henry tosses aside countless wives in a dire quest for a son, each time endangering Mary’s life from those who would claim the throne themselves; in the constantly shifting politics of Europe, as Henry repeatedly betroths Mary to the scion of his latest ally, only to call it off before any wedding takes place; and in the politics of religion, as her refusal to accept her father’s new Church of England has disastrous repercussions in her own five-year reign, leaving her forever known as Bloody Mary. Through her eyes, we see all the telling details–the majesty, the magnificence, and the machinations–of one of England’s most turbulent eras.

Discussion Guides

1. Mary’s motto is, “Time unveils Truth.” Why does she believe that? Does it prove to be an accurate statement? How does it become a recurring theme of the novel?

2. Love–for her mother, her betrothed, her siblings, her handmaids–is an enduring motif in Mary’s story. Do you think she understands what love is? Does she find true love in any form?

3. Mary portrays her father at various times as a cruel tyrant, an incorrigible dissembler, and “a god, all-powerful and gloriously benign." Do you think she believes each one at the time? What do you think of Henry–how he treats his daughter, his wives, and women in general? Is he a good king, even if he’s not the best father? If he were ruling a country today, how might he be perceived by the world?

4. After her betrothal to the Emperor is rescinded, Mary says, “I must thrust aside sentimentality. I must cease to dream of chivalry and romance. That was not for such as I was, and oddly enough I did not wish it to be different.” Does she succeed in this effort? Why or why not? Does she really want to?

5. Mary says, “My heart was filled with anger–not toward him so much as toward [Anne Boleyn], the goggle-eyed whore, the woman who was his evil genius. I blamed her for all the trials which had befallen us.” Why does she lay the blame at Anne’s feet instead of her father’s? In doing so is she betraying her gender, or rationalizing as any child of a broken home might do?

6. Over and over, Mary criticizes her father for his malleable conscience, but it often seems hers is equally compliant. As she says on page 135, “I began to believe fervently that what I had done–however much it had been against my principles–was the only way in which I could have acted.” When does that cease to be a purely personal foible? What are the repercussions? Does Mary ever recognize this trait in herself?

7. How does Catherine of Aragon’s example affect Mary’s behavior? Ultimately, do you believe her mother would be proud of her? What about her surrogate mother, the Countess?

8. Symbolism plays a great role at court, through rituals, family members’ inclusion or exclusion, even room decor. What would you say was Mary’s most symbolic act? What did it signify?

9. Most, if not all, of what happens in Mary’s life stems from the simple fact of her gender. How might things have been different if Catherine had managed to produce a son in addition to Mary? If Mary had been permitted to marry and have children at a reasonable age?

10. Mary’s illnesses often come on at critical times. What does Plaidy lead you to believe about these spells, through Mary’s own narration? If she were alive today, would her bouts be taken seriously, or would she be sent for psychiatric treatment?

11. Throughout the novel, Mary persists in believing her cousin the Emperor to be her staunch supporter, even though he repeatedly refuses to involve himself in any meaningful way in her plight. Is she just naïve, or is something bolstering her belief? Do you see parallels in her relationships with Elizabeth and Philip?

12. Ultimately Mary gains the throne. Is this because, as she seems to believe, she has learned to maneuver in the politics of the court, or just happenstance? What do you think of her choices as Queen? Is she making up her own mind or being manipulated? How do her advisors differ from her father’s?

13. “Though I was a woman and they might think a man would be more suitable to rule them, I had a heart full of sympathy for my subjects and I would be a gentle and loving sovereign.” Mary says this at the beginning of her reign, but later she complains, “How many more had suffered, and as cruelly, in my father’s reign? . . .He had sent them to their deaths because they disagreed with him; I had done so because these victims had disagreed with God’s Holy Writ. Why should I be so stigmatized when none had questioned him?” Given the fact that Mary is telling her story in hindsight, what do you make of these two quotes? Was her gender a factor in the way her subjects judged her? Was her legacy deserved?

14. Do you see any parallels between the hunts for “heretics” in Henry’s reign, and again in Mary’s, and religious extremism in the world today? What might we learn from the Tudor era?

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