The Other Queen

The Other Queen

3.6 254
by Philippa Gregory

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory—a dazzling new novel about the intriguing, romantic, and maddening Mary, Queen of Scots.

Fleeing violent rebellions in Scotland, Mary looks to Queen Elizabeth of England for sanctuary. Though promised protection, Mary, perceived as a

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory—a dazzling new novel about the intriguing, romantic, and maddening Mary, Queen of Scots.

Fleeing violent rebellions in Scotland, Mary looks to Queen Elizabeth of England for sanctuary. Though promised protection, Mary, perceived as a serious threat to the English crown, is soon imprisoned by her former friend as a “guest” in the house of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. The newly married couple welcomes the condemned queen into their home, certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court.

To their horror, they grow to realize that the task will bankrupt their estate and lose them what little favor they’ve managed to gain as their home becomes the epicenter of intrigue and rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. And Mary is not as hopeless as she appears, manipulating the earl and spinning her own web of treachery and deceit, as she sharpens her weapons to reclaim her Scottish throne—and to take over Queen Elizabeth’s of England.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Mary's hell-bent assuredness combines deliciously with brisk chapt ers and rich historical detail. Indulge." — People

"A mesmerizing novel that will keep readers turning pages deep into the sweet and thorny as a wild English rose." — BookPage

"Mary's hell-bent assuredness...combines deliciously with brisk chapters and rich historical detail. Indulge." — People

Historical novels about queens and princes possess a double, seemingly contradictory lure: On one hand, they conjure up images of royal wealth and splendor that seem remote to us. On the other, they portray humans torn by passions and intrigues that we can all understand. In her latest full immersion into British history, Gregory revisits the endlessly fascinating drama of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. As retold in The Other Queen, the story of Mary's lavish imprisonment as the "guest" of the Earl of Shrewbury displays a tinge of surrealism, especially when counterpoised against the cutthroat schemes of the Elizabethan court. An exquisite royal entertainment.
Diana Gabaldon
Acynical observer might think the world could get along without another book about Mary Queen of Scots. The cynic would be missing a bet. Philippa Gregory's novel looks at Mary Stuart and her times from a fresh and engaging angle, while making an unusual point about history in general…One of the most admirable things about The Other Queen is the delicate way in which Gregory drops bits of historical allusion into a very personal story. We're never distracted by information, but there's enough of it to make the past both factually comprehensible and emotionally accessible. In the author's view as well as Bess Shrewsbury's, questions of religion and political allegiance always come down in the end to money. That's true, but fiction rarely focuses primarily on the economic basis of history; this novel is a refreshing exception. Above all, the book is an examination of the nature of loyalty, as well: to a spouse, to a monarch, to a family or a family name, to a religion, to political ideals and especially to one's sense of self.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In her latest foray into the lives and minds of Elizabethan shakers and movers, Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl) takes on Mary Queen of Scots during her 16-year house arrest. By the secret order of her cousin, Elizabeth I, Mary is held at the estate of George Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick; the latter three share first-person narrative duties. The book centers on Mary's never-ending clandestine efforts to drum up enough support to take her cousin's throne, but the real story is in the clash of two women and the earl who stands between them. Shrewsbury's refusal to recognize superior intelligence and force of will in his wife, who runs the estate, and in Mary, who tries to make him her instrument at every turn, makes for one delicious conflict after another. The voices are strong throughout, but Gregory's ventriloquism is at its best with Bess of Hardwick, a woman who managed to throw off the restrictions of birth, class and sex in order to achieve things that proved beyond her titled husband. (Sept.)

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Library Journal

New York Times bestselling author Gregory remains true to history in this "untold story" of Mary Queen of Scots and her time in England. Though the tale is rife with characters difficult to empathize with and even harder to like, actors Bianca Amato, Dagmara Dominczyk, and Graeme Malcolm-who together also read Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl-make the most of each character's flaws. For fans of the author and of this particular time in English history. [Also available from Recorded Books (14 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 16 hrs. ISBN 9781436121743,9781436164863
—Lisa Anderson

Kirkus Reviews
Gregory (The Boleyn Inheritance, 2006, etc.) makes a return trip to Tudor England, focusing on the period when Mary, Queen of Scots, fleeing from rebel Scottish lords, found herself imprisoned in England by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. The story is narrated from multiple perspectives: that of Queen Mary as well as her two jailors, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his new wife, Bess of Hardwick, a much-married and canny financial administrator as well as a spy for the ruthless William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth's chief adviser. As the months, then years, pass, George's hopeless, forever unfulfilled love for the Queen of Scots wars with his desire to retain his honor and serve Queen Elizabeth, and also destroys the affectionate business relationship that united him and his wife in amiable marriage. Bess watches the substantial fortune she amassed through well-chosen husbands, good investments and careful accounting dwindle in support of Queen Mary's extravagant lifestyle. And, of course, Mary plots and plots again, to little avail. Reading the novel is a bit like witnessing a fixed tennis match: Queen Mary shuttles back and forth between various castles, her return to Scotland always imminent until each grand scheme fails. Meanwhile, the reader marks time waiting for the queen's inevitable walk to the scaffold. Gregory vividly evokes her three protagonists, but their personalities remain static to the point of tedium; however, it's fair to say that each one's inability to change is the very thing that leads to their joint tragedy. Mary believes that her beauty and royal status allow her to do whatever she likes with impunity; Bess, despite her wealth and title, can never surmount herhumble origins; and George, in the face of obvious evidence that his way of life is dying, stubbornly insists that noble blood, not ambition, must determine rank. Not without interest, but this claustrophobic novel should be more intriguing than it is.

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Product Details

Publication date:
Philippa Gregory Tudor Series, #6
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

1568, AUTUMN,



Every woman should marry for her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of his life. If she chooses a wastrel she will be avoided by all her neighbors as a poor woman; catch a duke and she will be Your Grace, and everyone will be her friend. She can be pious, she can be learned, she can be witty and wise and beautiful, but if she is married to a fool she will be "that poor Mrs. Fool" until the day he dies.

And I have good reason to respect my own opinion in the matter of husbands having had three of them, and each one, God bless him, served as stepping stone to the next until I got my fourth, my earl, and I am now "my lady Countess of Shrewsbury": a rise greater than that of any woman I know. I am where I am today by making the most of myself, and getting the best price for what I could bring to market. I am a self-made woman -- self-made, self-polished, and self-sold -- and proud of it.

Indeed, no woman in England has done better than me. For though we have a queen on the throne, she is only there by the skill of her mother, and the feebleness of her father's other stock, and not through any great gifts of her own. If you kept a Tudor for a breeder you would eat him for meat in your second winter. They are poor weak beasts, and this Tudor queen must make up her mind to wed, bed, and breed, or the country will be ruined.

If she does not give us a bonny Protestant boy then she will abandon us to disaster, for her heir is another woman: a young woman, a vain woman, a sinful woman, an idolatrous Papist woman, God forgive her errors and save us from the destruction she will bring us. Some days you hear one story of Mary Queen of Scots, some days another. What you will never, never hear, even if you listen a hundred times, even when the story is told by her adoring admirers, is the story of a woman who consults her own interest, thinks for herself, and marries for her best advantage. But since in this life a woman is a piece of property, she does well to consider her improvement, her sale at the best price, and her future ownership. What else? Shall she let herself tumble down?

A pity that such a foolish young woman should be foisted on me and my household, even for a short stay, while Her Majesty Elizabeth the Queen decides what is to be done with this most awkward guest. But no house in the kingdom can be trusted to entertain and -- yes -- secure her like mine. No husband in England could be trusted with such a Salome dancing on his terrace but mine. Only my household is run with such discipline that we can accommodate a queen of royal blood in the style that she commands and with the safety that she must have. Only my newly wedded husband is so dotingly fond of me that he is safe under the same roof as such a temptress.

No one knows of this arrangement yet; it has been decided in secret by my good friend Secretary William Cecil and by me. As soon as this hopeless queen arrived in rags at Whitehaven, driven from Scotland by her rebellious lords, Cecil sent me a short note by an unknown messenger to ask if I would house her, and I sent him a one-word reply: yes. Yes indeed! I am honored by Cecil's faith in me. From such trust comes great challenges, and from great challenges come great rewards. This new world of Elizabeth's is for those who can see their chances and take them. I foresee honors and riches if we can host this royal cousin and keep her close. Cecil can rely on me. I shall guard her and befriend her, I shall house and feed her, I shall treat her royally and honorably and keep her safe as a little bird in the nest till the moment of...

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The Other Queen 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 254 reviews.
julie1972 More than 1 year ago
Let me say first that I am a huge Philippa Gregory fan and generally love her work. This book however, was long and boring. The subject itself was a good choice the storyline in my opinion was dull and lifeless. The Queen being moved from one place to another, plotting her escape.....yawn. I wish she would have chose to write about the queen during her time upon the throne. The Queen of Scots had a fascinating life during her reign, full of scandal and turmoil. It would have made a sensational historical novel. I usually read one of Philippa's books in a day and reread them several times. I had to force myself to finish this one and I will not reread it.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
This is a story told in segments, with each chapter telling one's story, and then rotating to each other. It makes for frustrating reading as the pacing is horrible. I am well familiar with the story and looked forward to a dramatic telling, but this is a very disappointing book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually LOVE Philippa Gregory's books and I was so excited for this one to come out, but I only got half way through the book because it was incredibly slow, repetitive and BORING. There was hardly any dialogue in the book! Even if a book is slow, I usually try to force myself to finish, but I just couldn't with this one. Poorly written and just no story. Hopefully, Gregory will reprove herself with her next one because I love all of her other books!!!
deGuzman More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because I love Gregory's other books. However, it really was a waste of my time and money. There really was no story. It was constantly jumping around from character to character. I did not like that there were 3 points of view, constantly shifting the focus of the reader. Overall, I think that it was poorly written. If you are a die-hard fan of Gregory's, please check it out of the library, do not purchase it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is not nearly as compelling as her previous books have been. I had a hard time staying interested in the plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is written with vehemence but is not well written. I really disdain the way that Mary Queen of Scots is painted.She takes the angle that Bothwell raped Mary and the truth of the romance is eclipsed.Bothwell is an amazing figure, and he isn't even part of this book other than the letters she writes. I also dislike the format, going back and forth between three perspectives because it really doesn't connect the way it should. The vocabulary is simple and there's no imagery. You can't escape with this book. I literally had to force myself to pick it up and finish it, whereas Margaret George's books I couldn't put down. Philippa Gregory may be a big name, but just because her books are popular doesn't mean they are quality.
ElizabethCat More than 1 year ago
This is without question the most tedious read in Philippa Gregory's library of books. Billed as "the untold story" there really were few surprises. If you have read even a smattering of English and French history you would know that Mary Stuart is a spoiled, vain and charming woman, and royal many times over... the Queen of Scotland, as daughter of James V, the Queen of France, through marriage to Francois II, and the legitimate heir to the English throne, as grand niece of Henry VIII. But though she is body royal, she is also despised in all three of her lands. Her mother in law, Catherine de Medici, former queen of France and now regent of France, despises her. The Lords of Scotland have driven her out of their country and forced her to abdicate. And her cousin Elizabeth I distrusts her and is housing her as a prisoner/guest with the Lord and Lady of Shrewsbury, the highest lord in England, while her adviser William Cecil (and his assorted spies) watch Mary and collect evidence that will lead to her downfall. The book is told from three different perspectives. Mary Stuart, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and Mary's jailer "host" who falls under her spell, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, a self made woman who has married up 4 times and is now a woman of wealth and land. Bess and George are newlyweds when Mary Stuart arrives, but the strain and expense of housing their queenly guest tears their marriage and finances asunder. The most interesting chapters are the ones told from Bess's perspective. She has a longtime friendship with spymaster Cecil and is the only one who sees the inevitability of Mary's destruction. The only surprise in this book is the fact that Gregory decided to paint Elizabeth R in such a negative light, as a pawn of William Cecil and a desperately vain and insecure woman who is motivated in part by jealousy. The other surprise is how few pages were spent on the death of Mary, in contrast to that of her betrothed, Thomas Howard, the earl of Norfolk. (yes, one of *those* doomed Howards. It is a family tradition for them to be sent to the Tower. His father, Henry Howard (earl of Surrey) also met with the block, and his grandfather came close to being beheaded several times.) I can believe that Elizabeth agonized far more over the death of Thomas Howard than over that of Mary Stuart. All in all, this book was an adequate read, but not really an enjoyable one. If you are looking for another Philippa Gregory page turner, this isn't it.
AndromedaIL More than 1 year ago
After reading a couple of biographies and becoming familiar with Mary’s story, I was ready for a fictional drama about her life. This novel focuses on Mary’s life after Lord Darnley’s murder and mostly revolves around her imprisonment in the custody of George Talbot and his wife, Bess. The story is told from three points of view and that makes it sort of confusing. I would have liked to have seen it told from Mary’s viewpoint. Not the best book by Philippa Gregory, but overall I enjoyed it.
Bshorty More than 1 year ago
I love reading Philippa Gregory's books on the Tudors! She puts so much fact into it and it really takes you back 500 years. It was a very interesting read into that time in England. Pretty easy to follow considering the story is told by 3 different people. A Tudor must read!
penname96 More than 1 year ago
Another Philippa book that I couldn't put down. I understood Bess' frustration. Her husband, George was a fool. Now I'm onto " The Constant Princess."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was more than disappointing. The other books in this series are oustanding and I pre-ordered this book b/c I was so excited to read it. Snooze!! I couldn't even finish it. It was WAY too long and way too repetitive, which is a bad combo. Not worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tells a good story. Following along is easy. I like Mary Queen of Scots the character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't know much about all three of the main characters and I enjoyed learning about them through the book. But I definitely felt like the book was dragging on. I didn't really connect with the characters or the love story. I still gave it three stars for enlightening me on the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of all the Phillipa Gregory books I have read this was my least favorite. The story was slow in developing and I kept waiting for something to happen but it pretty much ended as it began. The writing was not bad and the characters were interesting I was just not crazy about the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, however I did feel a little left hanging. The story resolves itself and is well-spoken, but also doesn't quite feel complete. I'd recommend this book to young women who enjoy historical fiction without too much romance. I'm an avid Philippa Gregory reader, but I don't think this was one of her better books.
nooklover42 More than 1 year ago
First of all let me say, I am a HUGE Philippa Gregory fan, however this book was very difficult to read. It was told in first person by 3 different people so it was hard to follow. It was interesting historically but was very hard to actually fall in love with any of the characters because just when you thought you were getting to know them, the story changed to another point of view.
AlisaLorrine More than 1 year ago
I listened to the audio version and it was good because there were three different readers who helped engage the listener to the plot and characters. Many customers complained about the segmented style, but I think that listening to this book read by mulitple characters helped alleviate that problem.
kayKW More than 1 year ago
This writer does an excellent job of describing her main characters in the on-going saga of the Tudors. The three individuals are caught in a tradegy. Mary, Queen of Scots, is protrayed in a slightly different light. One is torned between Elizabeth and Mary in their struggles.
bookloverCK More than 1 year ago
As in Philippa Gregory's other novels in this series, knowledge of the history of the Tudors is helpful. The author's style takes some getting used to; the title of the chapter tells to whose perspective the story has now shifted. The Other Queen tells of the struggle of Mary Queen of Scots' attempts to reclaim her throne and the political rivalries with her cousin Elizabeth I and her court. This is a well researched fictional account of that struggle, well written and a quick read.
Magee7416 More than 1 year ago
This book took some time to get into. A lot of what the characters say gets repeated in 50 different ways, so the story doesn't really progress for awhile. Not as good as some of her other novels. :/
paris2istanbul More than 1 year ago
I love historical fiction and I am a big fan of Philippa Gregory, but I was a little disappointed by her latest offering. Perhaps my biggest frustration was her use of three different characters to tell the story. The story is told in the first person through the eyes of Bess of Hardwick, her husband George, and of Queen Mary. Each chapter ends one viewpoint and begins another. For me, it was too difficult to get into the story or to get involved with any of the characters. Just as I would begin to get interested, the chapter would end and I was abruptly seeing the story though another set of eyes. If you want Philippa Gregory at her best read The Other Boleyn Girl. If you want a really good book on Queen Mary then I recommend Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George.
civilwargirl More than 1 year ago
Philippa Gregory is an author that just seems to get better with each book that she writes and The Other Queen is no acceptation. The Other Queen recounts the first three years of Mary Queen of Scots imprisonment in England by her cousin Elizabeth I. Queen Mary is placed in the guardianship of newlywed George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and Bess of Hardwick. The Scots Queen quickly becomes an unwelcome guest as she plots for her freedom and the overthrown of her royal cousin and drives a wedge between Talbot and his self made wife. The novel is full of intrigue and scandal and I found to be a fun read. One of Gregory's best!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was overall medeocre. it was pretty slow to start out with and then the whole book it seemed like they were saying the same things over and over again . about half way through i was asking myself 'Why are you reading this book' it was pretty boring and i think that it is really not worth your time. if you want something to put you to sleep then be my guest and buy this book you will fall asleep in no time at all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Philippa Gregory's novels, and I have to say that this novel is the first disappointment I've come across. There was no real story or plot, the three narrators were extremely repetitive and it was plain boring. It was painful for me to even finish the novel. I waited eagerly for this novel to come out and was so excited once I got my hands on it. But within the first 50 pages, I was debating whether or not to even finish the novel. Please, do not waste your money, or at least wait until it comes out in paperback or is on sale, definitely not worth it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have truly enjoyed most of Philippa Gregory's novels, but this one was really disappointing. None of the characters were terribly likeable, every section by Bess is about her money and coming from nothing and losing it all to keep the 'Other' Queen ad nauseum. And poor George, in love with Mary and so honorable and loyal . . . eegads. I agree with the reviewer who said that there just wasn't enough material here for an engrossing book. Mary has a compelling story but this wasn't it.