The Queen’s Fool – Philippa Gregory

I have to say that, of all the Philippa Gregory books I have read, this one is my favourite. Set in Tudor times, but instead of focussing on the kings and queens, tells the story of a young Jewish girl, Hannah, who has recently escaped the Spanish Inquisition with her printer father. Living as protestants they set up a printing and book shop in London which, in itself a dangerous endeavour, as in that unstable period in history many books are deemed to be heretical. A visit to the shop by the powerful Sir Robert Dudley, during which Hannah has a vision of an angel, changes her life forever when Dudley begs her for a fool to the king. The reigning monarch is the sickly son of the recently deceased King Henry VIII, and his time on the throne is inevitably short lived. Upon his death, Hannah is passed to Queen Mary and the much more impressive Princess Elizabeth. She then spends her time between these two powerful women but, also answering to her Lord Dudley with whom she falls in love. Hannah is tasked with spying on each of her providers in turn by the other two and has a hard job managing to survive as well as trying to avoid becoming ensnared by men involved in experiments in alchemy as well as plots against those in power. Among her other difficulties she has to deal with those she serves setting great store on Hannah being able to use her gift of the ‘sight’ in their battle for power. She also has a commitment to a young man her father has chosen for her to marry which brings more ups and downs in her life as he tries to persuade her to leave court so they can be married. During all of her time, in and out of court life, Hannah is haunted by the cruel execution of her mother making her greatest fear to be that of her origins and inherited faith being discovered. I found this book really enthralling – it brought me to tears, trepidation, laughter and every emotion in between during the many turns in the tale of Hannah’s life. If you have never read any of this author’s books try this one as I’m sure many other readers will enjoy it as much as I did!

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