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Literature / The Queen's Fool

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A Historical Fiction novel written by Philippa Gregory. It is part of the writer's Tudor series, along with The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance. The events take place during the reign of Queen Mary I. The story focuses on the power struggles between Mary and her half-sister Elizabeth (the later Elizabeth I).

The story is narrated by the fictional Hannah Green, the 14 year old (at the beginning) daughter of a Jewish bookseller who flees from The Spanish Inquisition to England. She becomes the fool of King Edward VI, and later she serves under Queen Mary I. She is betrothed to another English Jew named Daniel Carpenter.


Hannah has an unusual ability that called The Sight by the other characters. Sometimes, when this Sight comes to her, she can see the future, although it mostly comes off as vague prophecies. Other times the Sight is more concrete. Most of the time though it does not come, no matter how much the Queen wants it.

This book has examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Robert Dudley calls Hannah "Mistress Boy", because she wears boys' clothing. He even calls her that at the end after she starts wearing gowns.
  • Burn the Witch!: Queen Mary burns heretics, as does the Inquisition in Spain.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: To Hannah.
  • Conflicting Loyalties: Hannah has a three-way one. First, towards Queen Mary who she sees as a good person, although she is a quite incompetent ruler. Second, to Princess Elizabeth, who is cold and calculating, but who would bring peace and freedom of science to England. Third, to Daniel Carpenter, her betrothed (and later husband), who wants nothing to do with politics.
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  • Despair Event Horizon: After Mary goes through her second fake pregnancy, she completely loses all hope. It is implied that she actually died of the grief that she lost both her husband and her child (the second time).
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Hannah spies on Mary to Robert Dudley, who works for Elizabeth, and also on Elizabeth to Mary. She is actually loyal to both of them. She loves Mary and sympathises with Elizabeth's cause.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The story is narrated by Hannah Green, the Queen's fool.
  • Foreshadowing: Hannah's Sight serves as this. Most of the times her prophecies are vague enough so that the others don't understand, but other times not so much.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: She is not called Bloody Mary without reason (although she is never once called that in this novel).
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  • Knight in Shining Armor: Robert Dudley. He rides to battle in the war against France to show the Queen his loyalty after he loses all his lands. He also remains respectful towards Hannah after she refuses him, and remains cool with his wife when she accuses him of cheating on her.
  • Love at First Sight: Subverted. Hannah seems to fall in love with Robert Dudley the first time she sees him, but later she grows out of it.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Amy Dudley accuses her husband on cheating on her every time he is seen with another woman. Sometimes it is completely ridiculous (e.g. with the Queen), other times not so much (e.g. with Elizabeth).
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Hannah has a really bad time with her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Between Hannah and Daniel, although she realizes how much she loves him after she runs away from him.
  • The Professor: John Dee.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: John Dee becomes the bishop's clerk, helping him convicting heretics. Although he does it to avoid being accused himself, and he actually saves Hannah from the stake.
  • Really Gets Around: Elizabeth is portrayed this way.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The story is about the children of Henry VIII, after all.
  • Tomboy: Hannah wears boys' clothes until she gets married. Although it is mostly for disguise, her personality fits this trope too. It appears that she wouldn't make a good housewife.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Queen Mary goes through this. First she loses her sister's love, then her first child, then her husband (who never even loved her, but she fails to realize this), then her second child.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: All the royal family seems to have this. King Edward dies at the beginning. Mary is described as sick at the beginning and dies 5 years later. Elizabeth is always ill when things go badly for her, though it doesn't cause her death.
  • Villain Protagonist: While Mary is treated more positively than usual, her burning of heretics makes her villainous, especially that the viewpoint character is secretly a Jew (who escapes burning only by luck).
  • Virgin Power: Subverted. John Dee insists that Hannah should not marry, because she would lose her Sight with her virginity. Actually, it turns out that she doesn't.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: While Mary is a religious fanatic from the beginning, it is implied that her mercilessness is fueled by all the bad things happening to her.


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