The Queen’s Fool is one of my favourite Phillipa Gregory books (I have quite a few favourites of hers actually), set after the death of Henry VIII it follows the succession dramas that unfold when childless king Edward VI dies and his two sisters Mary and Elizabeth must fight to be recognised as his heirs.
The book is from the perspective of Hannah Green, a hidden jew in London in a time when faith is dangerous and the right answers change with the politics of the time. Hannah fled Spain when her mother died in the Inquisition, and is adopted as a Holy Fool at the court after she sees an angel. Hannah observes the politics of the court, and through her willingness to give her heart out becomes dangerously close to conflicting loyalties and plots around the crown itself.
Hannah is an endearing and headstrong character who refuses to be told what she can and can’t do – whether that is the clothes that she wears, the religion she follows or the man that she will marry. She is far ahead of her time in independance and makes for a fascinating character to watch grow. At the beginning of the book when she comes to the court she is a child in boys clothing, but by the end she is a woman of her own making with a level-headedness that almost amounts to sassiness.
The characters surrounding her at the Tudor court are not quite so loyal or straightforward – The Princess Mary and the Princess Elizabeth make for exciting companions as the succession dramas unfold, as does the charismatic, trechorous Lord Dudley. Her position as a secret jew inside a court with secrets of its own makes it difficult for her to navigate safely around the plots and alliances and simply be true to her own heart – I wish she was my friend in real life.
I particularly enjoyed the reluctant relationship between Hannah and her betrothed – Daniel Carpenter, a betrothal forged by distant family members to bind Hannah and her father to an existing jewish community when they fled Spain. The two are equally stubborn with conflicting ideas of what their lives together will look like and it makes for some fireworks throughout the book. I found their relationship quite refreshing to be honest – I liked the way that they both spoke their mind and how they needed to learn to respect each other without deception before they could move forwards. It felt like a very real relationship and I loved every minute of the two of them bickering.
Overall it was an enjoyable book which I regularly re-read and would recommend to any Historical Fiction fans, or even just someone looking for a good read – there is very little focus on events that happen away from the immediate sphere of Hannah herself and she offers frank insight into those people around her.