Synopses & Reviews
Legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy brings to life the story of Princess Mary Tudor, a celebrated beauty and born rebel who would defy the most powerful king in Europe—her older brother.
Princess Mary Rose is the youngest sister of Henry VIII, and one of the few people whom he adores unconditionally. Known throughout Europe for her charm and good looks, Mary is the golden child of the Tudor family and is granted her every wish.
Except when it comes to marriage. Henry VIII, locked in a political showdown with France, decides to offer up his pampered baby sister to secure peace between the two mighty kingdoms. Innocent, teenage Mary must become the wife of the elderly King Louis, a toothless, ailing man in his sixties. Horrified and furious, Mary has no choice but to sail for France. There she hones her political skills, bides her time, and remains secretly in love with Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. When King Louis dies, after only two years of marriage, Mary is determined not to be sold into another unhappy union. She must act quickly; if she wants to be with the man she truly loves, she must defy the laws of church and state by marrying without her brothers permission. Together, Mary and Charles devise a scheme to outwit the most ruthless king in Europe and gain their hearts desire, not knowing if it will lead to marital bliss or certain death.
The beloved and prolific English historical novelist Plaidy (a.k.a. Victoria Holt and Eleanor Hibbert) is back, thanks to Three Rivers Press's relaunch of ten of her most cherished novels. "Mary, Queen of France" is the third in the series.
About the Author
JEAN PLAIDY, one of the preeminent authors of historical fiction for most of the twentieth century, is the pen name of the prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. Jean Plaidys novels had sold more than 14 million copies worldwide by the time of her death in 1993.
Reading Group Guide
1. Mary and Henry maintain a subtle balance of power between them. Although Henry has the last word by virtue of being king, Mary has enormous emotional
sway over him. Where do you see Mary affecting Henrys decisions or intervening to calm situations that would otherwise prove disastrous? When does Henry first offer a glimpse of just how dangerous his temper can be, even with Mary?
2. Henry is so eager to become king that he joyfully anticipates his own fathers death: “Every direction in which he turned he found adulation, and
very soon—it could not be long because the old man was coughing and spitting blood regularly now—he would be the King of this country.” And as Mary contemplates her brother Arthurs death, she muses, “perhaps it was all for the best…for Henry was surely meant to be King.” Are Henry and Mary vultures or pragmatists? Do you think their attitude is a necessary product of life in the English court, or are they particularly cold-hearted?
3. Marys arrival in France as wife to Louis is a hard blow to “the trinity” of François, Marguerite, and Louise. Yet, ironically, it is François who is chosen by the king to greet Mary when she first arrives. How does this first meeting go? Does François have a soft streak, or is he a consummate actor? Mary asks herself, “What was it he was attempting to offer? Commiseration? Consolation?” What is the answer?
4. Early in his rule, Henry faces a series of setbacks. The death of a newborn son, a mutiny by English soldiers in France, and the treacherous teaming-up of Ferdinand of Spain and the Emperor Maximilian, all send Henry into his first serious slump. What changes do you notice in Henry from this point on? How do they affect his rule, and how do they impact Marys plans? How does his wife, Queen Katherine, accidentally add insult to injury?
5. The friendship between Charles Brandon and Henry is a vehicle for the most intense dramatic tension in the novel. What method does Charles find most effective for stroking the kings ego and keeping him happy? Charles recognizes “a certain primness in Henrys character;” what does he mean by this?
6. Why does Pope Alexander agree to dissolve Louis XIIs marriage to Queen Jeanne? What is in it for him?
7. Despite Charles Brandons passionate love for Mary, he seems to be quite content to adapt into whichever romantic union happens to come along. He is betrothed and then un-betrothed to Anne Browne, married to Margaret Mortymer, married to Anne Browne, betrothed to Elizabeth Grey, and comes very close to becoming betrothed to Margaret of Savoy. He is enthused at the beginning of each relationship, seeing it as a new lease on life, but soon becomes apathetic. What do you make of Charles? Is he fickle or just searching for true love? What makes the relationship with Mary stick?
8. From his cushy position as political prisoner in Henrys court, the Duc de Longueville writes to Louis in France, describing Mary in glowing terms and reporting on Henrys deep love for her. What is the significance of this letter? What mischief is Longueville attempting to stir up? Does he succeed? Why does he find Henrys court “so interesting and amusing to watch?”
9. Louise is tormented by the idea of Mary getting pregnant with the kings child. Since she knows that Mary is desperately unhappy in the marriage, why doesnt she encourage Mary to take a lover, thus creating a possibility that Mary will be discovered and ousted from the French court? What does Louise fear might happen?
10. What do you make of King Louis? He can see both the wild flirtation that goes on between Mary and François and the blatant love that Mary harbors for Charles Brandon. And yet, while it would be in keeping with the times to have her arrested for treason, he quietly suffers Marys indifference. He goes so far as to muse, “My poor little one . . . it is time I was dead.” Is he naïve, kind, self-loathing, or what? What events in his life have led him to this point?
11. When Mary leaves France, she tells Marguerite that “she would always remember their friendship with pleasure,” despite the fact that Marguerite has spent most of Marys reign as queen trying to get rid of her. Is this Marys version of diplomacy? Has she recognized and sympathized with “the trinitys” ambitions? Where else do you see Mary smoothing feathers, politically and personally?
12. A theme of silencing runs throughout the novel. In various ways, Henry silences Mary, Louis silences Jeanne, Mary silences Anne Boleyn, etc. Where else do you see this theme at work?
13. Françoiss first love is the devout, mysterious Françoise. Who is she? Why does she reject him? This is the first refusal François has ever experienced in his gilded life; how does he take it? Who suggests that he simply abduct and seduce Françoise against her will?
14. Men may rule France, but there is fierce competition among the women behind the scenes as they struggle to put their chosen men on the throne. Louise and Anne of Brittany blatantly wish death upon each others children as they jockey for position. Is there any female solidarity to be had in this novel? Where do you see the men picking up on this female competition and using it to their advantage? Which female character do you find most sympathetic?
15. At the age of eighteen, Mary calls a meeting with Thomas Wolsey, Bishop of Lincoln; Sir Ralph Verney, the Princesss Chamberlain; the Earl of Worcester; and the Bishops of Winchester and Durham. She asks them to plead her case to the king, and help dissolve her betrothal to the Prince of Castile. How does she get away with this meeting without facing Henrys wrath? Do they help her? What international debacle releases her from this dreaded betrothal?