The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory follows the life of Hannah Verde as Holy Fool first to the young king, Edward Tudor, and then his older half-sister, Mary Tudor. Hannah is blessed with “the sight” whereas she sees things before they happen. During this very anxious time in English History (right after the death of Henry VIII), words were chosen very carefully and no one was above (or below) suspicion. And as the Holy Fool, Hannah is allowed to blurt out statements without thought or worry of what the political fallout might be. Which is good because, in my mind, Hannah Verde is just stupid. And worse, the author treats her readers as idiots as well. I usually get things the first time I read them and if I don’t, I have enough sense to go back and read the passage again. I cannot count how many times I had to read that Hannah was a Jew posing as a Christian, a girl hiding out in boy’s clothing. Even after she graduates from knickers and doublet to a full gown, she keeps repeating that she was a girl hiding out as a boy. I KNOW THAT ALREADY!

I loved the first three books I read by Philippa Gregory – The Constant Princess, The Other Boleyn Girl, and The Boleyn Inheritance. She has made quite a name for herself writing about Henry VIII and his many wives. They even made The Other Boleyn Girl into a movie (which I have yet to see, but it’s on my list). Which is more than fine by me – I love this period of history and reading historical fiction about it just makes my day. But give me some good characters. And if I’m intelligent enough to follow the intricacies of inheritance (what with Jane Grey thrown in there for 6 days) of the British throne at that time, I’m smart enough to carry a thought from one chapter to another.

One of the main themes of this book is religious persecution, a very real danger from that time period. What with the “now we’re Catholic, now we’re Protestant” regimes, it’s a wonder that anyone knew how it was safe to worship. And at the bottom of the pile were members of the Jewish faith, who weren’t even allowed to be in England. Let me state this upfront – I am not, in any way, denigrating anyone of any faith and I am not trying to belittle any of the trials the Jewish people have had to endure. However, other than a brief mention of an incident involving her mother at the beginning of the book, Hannah’s faith really doesn’t play a part in the book other than as yet another facet of her life that she is hiding. There is nothing about the hunting down or torturing of Jews. That is reserved for the Protestants. Is it implied? I don’t think her being Jewish was a key to the story (she could just have easily been anything other than Catholic), and certainly didn’t need to be stressed as much as it was, especially when it didn’t go anywhere.

I finished the book, something I wasn’t sure would happen about 1/2 way through. I was very frustrated by the characters, by the way the book was written, by the overall feel of the book. I have not been turned off Philippa Gregory completely – The Virgin Queen is next on my shelf. I am hoping this will be one of the good Philippa Gregory’s!


  1. Hey Teach! Says:

    You better not even start Earthly Joys, it will REALLY piss you off.

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