The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

252499I started this book on my flight to London with the thought that I would spend Monday afternoon reading about Tudor England in the gardens at Hampton Court Palace. Well, the weather didn’t agree with that plan, but I still enjoyed the book!

Hannah Green is a “holy fool,” first begged to King Edward’s court and then shuffled between Lady Mary (turned Queen Mary) and Lady/Princess Elizabeth. Hannah is a Jew hiding in England with her father following the death of her mother, burned at the stake in Spain for being Jewish. She’s betrothed to another Jew hiding in England, but isn’t sure about the institution of marriage. Growing up in the Royal Court does nothing to help her doubts. She’s compelling as our guide through Mary’s ascension to the throne following the death of her little brother and her subsequent troubled rule of England. Hannah is enamored with her protector, Robert Dudley, and they circle around each other through most of the book, even as he falls for Princess Elizabeth. Even knowing the history of the period, there were a lot of twists I didn’t see coming (I clearly don’t have the Sight), which kept me engrossed through all 500 pages.

While at Hampton Court Palace, I saw this painting, which depicts King Henry VIII with his son, Edward and his other children, Mary and Elizabeth. But interestingly enough, Holy Fool, Will Somer and Mary’s Fool, Jane, also appear at the edges of the painting. Though Hannah is fictional, it was really interesting to see Mary’s Fool was so important to Court that she appears in a “family” portrait.