Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey

Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey

Ann Rinaldi
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 2005   ISBN: 0060549238

Jane comes from a wealthy, well positioned family and she should be having a happy childhood. Instead, she is having a miserable time. Her mother is abusive, taking every opportunity to put Jane down, to shout at her, to slap or beat her.  Her father is almost worse because he simply stands aside and says nothing, does nothing. It is with great relief therefore that Jane goes to live in King Henry VIII’s household. It would appear that the King’s new wife Katherine, wants to bring all the King’s children under one roof and there is much pity for Jane, the sad little cousin.

There is no doubt that living under the protection of Queen Katherine is much better than anything Jane has experienced before. She gets to spend time with her cousins Elizabeth, Mary, and Edward, and she receives love and kindness at long last, something she has longed for for so many years. There are, of course, always the undercurrents of political intrigue, suspicion, and manipulation to be dealt with, but, as Jane readily accepts, these are things she and the other royal children have lived with all their lives. Jane is always aware that her parents and others have plans to marry her off to her cousin Edward, the future king of England.

Jane’s circumstances change several times when first King Henry dies and then when Katherine dies. Edward comes to the throne and there are several battles for power over the boy king, his advisers fighting to be the power behind the crown. In the background, the royal children struggle on, trying to stay out of trouble despite the actions of their parents and guardians.

Poor gentle Jane, who would so much like a quiet life among her books and music, soon finds herself being forced into a marriage she finds abhorrent. It is a marriage based on political alliances and behind it all there is one plan – to put Jane on the throne. Jane’s much loved cousin Edward is dying and though Jane is not supposed to inherit the throne after his death, there are those who are determined to keep Edward’s catholic sister Mary from taking her rightful place as Queen of England. They want Jane, a good protestant girl, a biddable girl, to become the queen instead.

This often sad, ultimately tragic story of a girl struggling to survive in a world where the adults in her life are using her for their own purposes, is beautifully written with pathos and an obvious understanding of the times. Ann Rinaldi gets inside the mind and heart of this brave girl who does her best to please, and who is in turn never given much cause to be happy with what life throws her way.