In each queen’s life story, Trease emphasizes the two crucial questions that she asked herself: “Shall I ever reach the throne?” and “Whom shall I marry?” The first describes the family situation of a princess, who could rule only in the event that there was no male heir. At times, a father might go to great lengths, as Henry VIII did, to find a son for the throne. Even a princess in her maturity would lose her place in the succession if her father had a son late in life. The likelihood of reaching the throne shaped a young girl’s education; the more likely it was, the more she was trained in languages and history. In the case of Anne, her accession was unexpected; as a princess, she had concentrated on card playing and hunting rather than on French and geography. The second question describes how a crucial decision in private life became, because of the laws of succession, a matter of national interest. For example, Elizabeth I never married, thus keeping herself free of a coruler and her country in love with the image of the Virgin Queen. By contrast, Mary II was married before her accession, with little personal choice, in order to secure the Protestant claim to the throne.
Without straining the facts, Trease seeks a dramatic event or adventure to help define a queen’s personality and illustrate her character. For combative Maud, it is a midwinter escape from Oxford Castle under siege by rebels. For headstrong Mary Tudor, it is the assertion of her right to marry Philip of Spain (and have a Catholic consort rule over a Protestant people) despite the revolt of the Duke of Northumberland and the presence in the wings of her...
(The entire section is 677 words.)