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Innocent Traitor
By Alison Weir

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Innocent Traitor

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Innocent Traitor
A Novel of Lady Jane Grey
By Alison Weir
Thorndike Press Large Print (2007)
ISBN 10: 0-7862-9459-0
ISBN 13: 978-0-7862-9459-6
Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Angela Evans - July 9, 2007

Innocent Traitor is Alison Weir's first novel. It is not, however, her first book. Weir is a renowned author who is perhaps best known for her popular biographies of preeminent personalities of Tudor England. Some of her nonfiction works in this area include: Henry VIII: The King and His Court, Children of Henry VIII, The Life of Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

In this work of fiction, Weir provides a compelling, and intimate glimpse into the life, and world of Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554). At the age of sixteen, Lady Jane became the Queen of England in 1553. Her reign lasted nine days, and she was destined to die less than a year later when she was beheaded. What propelled this youngster to such great heights, and what destroyed her so quickly, is a story for the ages.

The story of Lady Jane Grey is a perfect vehicle for a work of fiction because so much of her story defies belief. Manipulated by her parents, betrayed by her husband, and murdered by her successor, Queen Mary I, Lady Jane Grey's life was, from the moment she was born, an all too real soap opera. Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, had groomed her to become the wife of Prince Edward, heir to the throne of Henry VII. When Edward succeeded to the throne as Edward VI, he was a mere lad of nine - so the wedding had to wait. As events transpired, Edward expired before the wedding to could place, but not before Lady Grey's parents convinced him to exclude his Catholic sister, Mary from the succession. By doing so, he paved the way for her parents, and the devious Duke of Northumberland to maneuver Lady Grey and her new husband, Northumberland's son, onto the throne. Mary, however, what not so easily pushed aside, and she, and her supporters, quickly entered London and removed Queen Jane from her not yet warm throne and threw her into the Tower of London to await her execution.

Rich in historic detail, and keen insights into Lady Grey's life, Weir has crafted a fine story adding layers of vivid nuances onto the bland outline left behind by history. She explores Lady Grey's early life and the treatment she endured at the hands of her parents (they were not beyond beating her to make her compliant), and how she was manipulated into their political machinations, and into the bed of Lord Guildford Dudley. All this just so that they could gain a modicum of power for themselves and for the ambitious Duke of Northumberland. This book sheds light on what Lady Grey may have felt, and it examines what she may, or may not, have understood about the situation that she found herself in.

The story is told from the viewpoint of several different participants, which allows you to better understand who the various players in this farce were, and how each wove an intricate web that served to entangle Lady Grey in a situation that she had neither the training nor the ability to extricate herself from. Innocent Traitor is a complicated story that is based on solid historical facts. Despite the complexity of this tale, Weir's narrative deftly takes the reader through the maze of political intrigue and personal schemes that Lady Grey was trapped in.

In Innocent Traitor, Weir manages to present Lady Grey as an intelligent child trapped in a situation not of her own making. As such, Lady Grey comes across as a compelling and sympathetic character. Like Lady Grey, all the characters in this novel are life-like and dynamic. While I did find some of the dialogue to be a bit stilted, this is an otherwise excellent piece of historical fiction, and I hope it is not the last novel that Weir pens.


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