Review by Jenny Elizabeth Whitfield
As a history student, my life revolves around dull textbooks.
Textbooks that are so content heavy, jargonistic and, in particular, continually bore on about all of the men that our history centres itself around were becoming mind-numbing – not to mention disappointing. I feel women are underrepresented in our recollection of history. Indeed, my belief does not exist in isolation. My college lecturer helpfully pointed out, when we discussed my frustration, that the few women who are well-known from our textbooks are remembered only for not conforming to traditional ideas of femininity and gender roles, rather than for their achievements.
So when I first saw Alison Weir’s The Lost Tudor Princess, I was hoping for an alternative account of history. I was drawn to this book as a source of wider reading for my Tudor unit, if nothing else. What I did not expect was to find, not only an accessible nonfiction text, but one that genuinely engrossed me as if this was a work of prose.
The Lost Tudor Princess is an immensely detailed biography of Margaret Douglas, who is the daughter of Henry VIII’s sister, and before reading this book my knowledge of Margaret stopped there. But Weir delves deep into her story, revealing intimate details of her subject’s life, from her reputation at the English court to more dramatic affairs, such as how she was imprisoned in the Tower of London on three separate occasions, and the brutal murder of her husband and son.
A whole one hundred pages or so are dedicated to the extended footnotes and index, and the separate chapters made it easy to move between helpful sections and ones that caught my eye on the contents page. This book is big and in some ways crazy, and as a result I would say it is certainly not one for the young adult fiction aficionado in need of a quick read. It is, however, ideal for those with an interest in the Tudors or British history as a whole, who also want something detailed and different but don’t know where to start. Weir writes about well-known periods of history with a fresh perspective. It was comforting to read such an in depth account of a female historical figure’s life, and Alison Weir has helped to fill this gap in nonfiction that many don’t realise is there.
Alison stated herself that she writes popular history because “History belongs to us all”, and I think that perfectly captures the beauty of this book. She makes history accessible for those that need it. That is a quality in a writer which I greatly admire.