THE ROSE AND THE THORN: A Biography of Mary and Margaret Tudor by Elizabeth Lenz Harvey

THE ROSE AND THE THORN: A Biography of Mary and Margaret Tudor

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Easily equal in judgment and vitality to Hester Chapman's The Thistle and the Rose (1972), Harvey's tandem biographies of the sisters of Henry VIII also offer generous excerpts from letters authored by the sometime queens and their friends and foes. Elder sister Margaret, wed young to James IV of Scotland who died at Flodden Field, and afterward unhappily wed twice more, had the Tudor instinct to maneuver power sectors. However in spite of some wily shifting of alliances, Margaret was never able to hold off the territorial rapacity of brother Henry and was no match for the chaotic Scots' council whose ""general hatred for England surpassed only their hatred for each other."" She also sacrified the potentially firm base she had as widowed regent by her unwise marriage to the Earl of Angus. It is the author's contention that Margaret, ultimately unwelcome in both Scotland and England, neglected by her allies, chieftains, husbands and ultimately her son James V, "". . . was never secure in what she was. . . or in what she wanted to be. . . she defined herself in terms of the men she knew, never in terms of her own (policy)."" In contrast to the unhappy Margaret, Mary, wed to the rheumy old Louis XII who quickly died, seems to have had a happy second marriage. Her wedding to the Duke of Suffolk in France was accomplished without Henry's knowledge, although it seems clear he had previously given his consent. With Wolsey's help Mary succeeded in cooling her brother's wrath and there are strong hints in the correspondence that Mary knew how to use threats--both to Suffolk, to whom she gave a four-day deadline (""If I would not marry her,"" wrote Suffolk, ""she should never come into England. . . I never saw a woman so weep. . .""), and Henry the King. Miss Harvey presents the muddle of Scots politics and the parade of Franco-Scots love feasts and fasts simply and cleanly; and the portraits of two very different women, both equipped with ""the drive of the Tudor will,"" are firm and appealing. Very good popular historical biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Macmillan