I have come to find that I enjoy fictional materials that highlight political conspiracies within a kingdom. From the hunt for the rightful heir of the Novronian empire in the Ryiria Revelations, to the secrets behind the kidnapping of the Pale in the Tainted Realm series, I do enjoy a good conspiracy. Of course, real life have its own versions of these tales, particularly in the United Kingdom.
A Dangerous Inheritance is the 2012 historical fiction novel by Alison Weir, following the lives of Lady Catherine Grey and Dame Katherine Plantagenet. We learn about the lives they lead and the dangers they faced being so close to one of the most infamous thrones in all of history. There is so much to get through so I’ll just split the book in two and talk about the main characters, writing, the historical facts and so on and go forth.
Lady Catherine Grey
Lady Catherine Grey is the younger sister of the nine day queen, Lady Jane Grey. I am just going to come out and say it, I don’t like Catherine, I honestly developed a strong dislike for her as a person. I know that some nobles weren’t very nice or giving in those days and some of them even tried to discredit, betray and/or even killed their kin to get a head in that world, but Catherine annoyed me something fierce. From the beginning she was obsessed with nothing more than getting married. I actually put that down to her being young, since she was 13 years old when she was married off to the Lord of Pembroke’s son Henry Herbert. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it became clear as I continued to read on. Catherine is self obsessed, she doesn’t really care much for others as long as her own life is going the way she wants it to. It’s shown shown through her interactions with her sister, Jane. Catherine sympathizes with her sister’s problems, Jane is the eldest and has to live up to impossible expectations from their parents, she is the one they hit, curse and basically abuse. I don’t believe Catherine doesn’t feel love for her sister but she pities her. This pity doesn’t stop at Jane either, they have a younger sister and she clearly pities their younger sister. She mentions Mary twice in the whole book and she calls her “crocked back Mary.” Her pity of Jane is shown in the following quotes:
“ Jane, my elder by four years, is the naughty intransigent child, and I am the meek and dutiful. Not for the me the nips, slaps and pinches that Jane has frequently endured for this supposed misdemeanor or for not doing what she has been told. As perfectly as God made the world.”
“Poor Jane, I have often seen her weeping to our beloved tutor gentle master Ayliner for some respite from their harshness”
And finally stating that Jane should be grateful to be married to a man she wanted nothing to do with because it would get her away from their parents and she should be proud of it. Once again I chalked this up to Catherine being young and not knowing what the hell she’s talking about, but actually, she’s a complete idiot. She is like a complete moron, her stupidity leaves me speechless at times, I don’t think I know, or have read about someone who is so…infuriatingly stupid. Monster’s Henry Black is infuriating but Catherine beats him by miles!
British History tells us that Lady Jane Grey is called the Nine Day Queen because she only served as Queen for .. well…nine days before the rightful heir of the crown, Mary I, came and reclaimed it.
Her ascension is explained within the pages of the book. The girls, Jane, Catherine and Mary are cousins to the royal family, the Tudors, their parents allowed some idiot called Northhumberland, to use Jane in his political plans to control the throne. This was done by having her marry his eldest son and usurp the throne.
There is a scene in which they name Jane Queen of the England, she reacts by fainting and bursts into the tears incessantly, waling like someone who has been dragged out and beaten in the street. She does this because, she knows. She knows what will happen if it all goes wrong, she knows Northumberland is just using her to put his son on the throne, she is nothing more than a pawn in their game of power. One which, if caught, she can not deny and will be put to death for high treason. Catherine’s answer to this, “How dear she not want this, I would give anything to be Queen.”
Of course, Mary I becomes queen, Jane is placed into the Tower of London charged as a Usurper and traitor. One would think that her sister facing death would be a wake up call to young Catherine, NOPE, all she cares about is the fact that her own marriage is over. Since Mary I labels all those who placed Jane on the throne as traitors, Pembroke, one of the original backers of Northumberland along with the Greys, has her marriage to his son annulled. Of course she does care that her sister is in the Tower of London, but doesn’t give it a second thought because she’s sad , she can’t be with her husband. The annoyance with Catherine began with that. It was cemented when Mary I asks Catherine to be her heir, since she did not have any children herself. There is just one thing that Catherine needs to do to be a potential queen, give up the religion that she grew up with. The Greys were very devout Protestants, but Mary just dangles the idea of a crown over Catherine’s head, and as Queen Elizabeth states:
“A Protestant? Bah! She trims her sail in the wind. She was a Catholic when it suited her, when she thought it would win her a crown. Her conversion in my sister’s reign was purely self-seeking. Since then, she has been all things to all men.”
Yup, converted without a second thought. While Jane is in the tower convicted of something she wanted no part of, her father Henry Grey decides to dig a hole deeper to bury himself and his daughter and they are both beheaded. In one of the most deliriously bitter sweet moments during Catherine’s story, she is called to Mary who tells her that they tried to save Jane’s life, telling her that they tried to get Jane to convert to the Catholic faith, saying that if she did they would spare her. Catherine learns that Jane is not as weak as she is and even faced with death, Jane never gave up on her faith. Even then it doesn’t really hit her, until Mary dies and Elizabeth is named Queen. She is now faced with the fact that, she gave up her faith, and her sister for nothing. Of course it takes a toll on her, but soon Catherine is back to her stupid self not caring for the lives of people who are caught up in her stupidity. She falls in love with Edward Seymour, and while I can get behind the whole love conquers all and nothing can stop their love that is shown through out the book. The way she goes about it just made me cheer for everyone who told her to get the hell away from them when she got herself too deep into her own mess.
Another head pounding annoying Catherine moment comes when Edward and Catherine ask her mother to write a letter to Elizabeth asking for permission to get married, her mother writes the letter but unfortunately becomes ill and the letter isn’t sent. Instead of, you know, worrying about her mother who is getting closer to death. She is worried about the damn letter not being sent. So yes, when she gets into trouble I am cheering everyone who throws her out of their rooms.
The author Alison Weir comments
“ – I think that she was a self-obsessed girl who let her heart rule her head. Her instincts were emotional rather than logical and because of that, she ended up out of her depth, in deep trouble.”
Even author thinks Catherine an egoistical dimwit. However there is more than one Katherine in this book, she is the part of the book that I found interesting and enjoyable. Her story was a breathe of fresh air from Catherine Grey’s impulsive irritation and she is Katherine Plantagenet.