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The Queen's Fool

The Queen's Fool

4.3 406
by Philippa Gregory

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#1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory weaves a spellbinding tale of a young woman with the ability to see the future in an era when destiny was anything but clear.

Winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee with her


#1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory weaves a spellbinding tale of a young woman with the ability to see the future in an era when destiny was anything but clear.

Winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee with her father from their home in Spain. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee; she has the gift of “Sight,” the ability to foresee the future, priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward’s protector, who brings her to court as a “holy fool” for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up with her own yearnings and desires.

Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen’s Fool is a rich and emotionally resonant gem from a masterful storyteller.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
It's 1553, and a teenaged girl with a dangerous secret is caught up in royal intrigue as she tries to serve a scheming lord, an unhappy queen, and the queen's ambitious sister. As Edward VI, only male heir of Henry VIII, lies dying, 14-year-old Hannah Green is helping her father in his London printing and bookshop. Because young girls are not supposed to set print or deliver books, she's dressed in boy's clothing, but that's not Hannah's only secret. She and her father are Spanish Jews who fled the Inquisition after her mother was burned as a heretic. Finding refuge in Protestant England, the Greens observe Christian rituals in public, but privately they still honor the old ways. One day Hannah attracts the attention of a shop customer, handsome Lord Dudley, by innocently revealing that she has the gift of second sight-a particularly useful gift in these uncertain times, when it seems that Protestant Edward will be succeeded by Catholic Mary. Hannah becomes an aide to Lord Dudley, who recommends her to the young king to be his Fool. While serving Edward, she follows Dudley's orders to attend and spy upon the king's older sister Mary, whom she grows to love. When Mary becomes Queen, Hannah attends her at court, but (again at Dudley's request) also makes contact with her sister Elizabeth. Hannah admires the young princess's courage as Elizabeth faces losing her life when Mary starts burning Protestants as heretics. Her loyalties divided, fearful that she and her father are vulnerable in Catholic England, Hannah relies on her wits to survive threats, intrigue, and danger. She must also decide whether she will marry Daniel, a family friend, to whom she is officially betrothed. Tudor Englandis not a merry place, but Hannah is no fool. Another intelligent and engrossing tale of Tudor England from Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl, 2002, etc.). Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM

Product Details

Publication date:
Plantagenet and Tudor Novels Series , #4
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Summer 1548

The girl, giggling and overexcited, was running in the sunlit garden, running away from her stepfather, but not so fast that he could not catch her. Her stepmother, seated in an arbor with Rosamund roses in bud all around her, caught sight of the fourteen-year-old girl and the handsome man chasing around the broad tree trunks on the smooth turf and smiled, determined to see only the best in both of them: the girl she was bringing up and the man she had adored for years.

He snatched at the hem of the girl's swinging gown and caught her up to him for a moment. "A forfeit!" he said, his dark face close to her flushed cheeks.

They both knew what the forfeit would be. Like quicksilver she slid from his grasp and dodged away, to the far side of an ornamental fountain with a broad circular bowl. Fat carp were swimming slowly in the water; Elizabeth's excited face was reflected in the surface as she leaned forward to taunt him.

"Can't catch me!"

" 'Course I can."

She leaned low so that he could see her small breasts at the top of the square-cut green gown. She felt his eyes on her and the color in her cheeks deepened. He watched, amused and aroused, as her neck flushed rosy pink.

"I can catch you any time I want to," he said, thinking of the chase of sex that ends in bed.

"Come on then!" she said, not knowing exactly what she was inviting, but knowing that she wanted to hear his feet pounding the grass behind her, sense his hands outstretched to grab at her; and, more than anything else, to feel his arms around her, pulling her against the fascinating contours of his body, the scratchy embroidery of his doublet against her cheek, the press of his thigh against her legs.

She gave a little scream and dashed away again down an allée of yew trees, where the Chelsea garden ran down to the river. The queen, smiling, looked up from her sewing and saw her beloved stepdaughter racing between the trees, her handsome husband a few easy strides behind. She looked down again at her sewing and did not see him catch Elizabeth, whirl her around, put her back to the red papery bark of the yew tree and clamp his hand over her half-open mouth.

Elizabeth's eyes blazed black with excitement, but she did not struggle. When he realized that she would not scream, he took his hand away and bent his dark head.

Elizabeth felt the smooth sweep of his moustache against her lips, smelled the heady scent of his hair, his skin. She closed her eyes and tipped back her head to offer her lips, her neck, her breasts to his mouth. When she felt his sharp teeth graze her skin, she was no longer a giggling child, she was a young woman in the heat of first desire.

Gently he loosened his grip on her waist, and his hand stole up the firmly boned stomacher to the neck of her gown, where he could slide a finger down inside her linen to touch her breasts. Her nipple was hard and aroused; when he rubbed it she gave a little mew of pleasure that made him laugh at the predictability of female desire, a deep chuckle in the back of his throat.

Elizabeth pressed herself against the length of his body, feeling his thigh push forward between her legs in reply. She had a sensation like an overwhelming curiosity. She longed to know what might happen next.

When he made a movement away from her, as if to release her, she wound her arms around his back and pulled him into her again. She felt rather than saw Tom Seymour's smile of pleasure at her culpability, as his mouth came down on hers again and his tongue licked, as delicate as a cat, against the side of her mouth. Torn between disgust and desire at the extraordinary sensation, she slid her own tongue to meet his and felt the terrible intimacy of a grown man's intrusive kiss.

All at once it was too much for her, and she shrank back from him, but he knew the rhythm of this dance which she had so lightheartedly invoked, and which would now beat through her very veins. He caught at the hem of her brocade skirt and pulled it up and up until he could get at her, sliding his practiced hand up her thighs, underneath her linen shift. Instinctively she clamped her legs together against his touch until he brushed, with calculated gentleness, the back of his hand on her hidden sex. At the teasing touch of his knuckles, she melted; he could feel her almost dissolve beneath him. She would have fallen if he had not had a firm arm around her waist, and he knew at that moment that he could have the king's own daughter, Princess Elizabeth, against a tree in the queen's garden. The girl was a virgin in name alone. In reality, she was little more than a whore.

A light step on the path made him quickly turn, dropping Elizabeth's gown and putting her behind him, out of sight. Anyone could read the tranced willingness on the girl's face; she was lost in her desire. He was afraid it was the queen, his wife, whose love for him was insulted every day that he seduced her ward under her very nose: the queen, who had been entrusted with the care of her stepdaughter the princess, Queen Katherine who had sat at Henry VIII's deathbed but dreamed of this man.

But it was not the queen who stood before him on the path. It was only a girl, a little girl of about nine years old, with big solemn dark eyes and a white Spanish cap tied under her chin. She carried two books strapped with bookseller's tape in her hand, and she regarded him with a cool objective interest, as if she had seen and understood everything.

"How now, sweetheart!" he exclaimed, falsely cheerful. "You gave me a start. I might have thought you a fairy, appearing so suddenly."

She frowned at his rapid, overloud speech, and then she replied, very slowly with a strong Spanish accent, "Forgive me, sir. My father told me to bring these books to Sir Thomas Seymour and they said you were in the garden."

She proffered the package of books, and Tom Seymour was forced to step forward and take them from her hands. "You're the bookseller's daughter," he said cheerfully. "The bookseller from Spain."

She bowed her head in assent, not taking her dark scrutiny from his face. "What are you staring at, child?" he asked, conscious of Elizabeth, hastily rearranging her gown behind him.

"I was looking at you, sir, but I saw something most dreadful."

"What?" he demanded. For a moment he was afraid she would say that she had seen him with the Princess of England backed up against a tree like a common doxy, her skirt pulled up out of the way and his fingers dabbling at her purse.

"I saw a scaffold behind you," said the surprising child, and then turned and walked away as if she had completed her errand and there was nothing more for her to do in the sunlit garden.

Tom Seymour whirled back to Elizabeth, who was trying to comb her disordered hair with fingers that were still shaking with desire. At once she stretched out her arms to him, wanting more.

"Did you hear that?"

Elizabeth's eyes were slits of black. "No," she said silkily. "Did she say something?"

"She only said that she saw the scaffold behind me!" He was more shaken than he wanted to reveal. He tried for a bluff laugh, but it came out with a quaver of fear.

At the mention of the scaffold Elizabeth was suddenly alert. "Why?" she snapped. "Why should she say such a thing?"

"God knows," he said. "Stupid little witch. Probably mistook the word, she's foreign. Probably meant throne! Probably saw the throne behind me!"

But this joke was no more successful than his bluster, since in Elizabeth's imagination the throne and the scaffold were always close neighbors. The color drained from her face, leaving her sallow with fear.

"Who is she?" Her voice was sharp with nervousness. "Who is she working for?"

He turned to look for the child but the allée was empty. At the distant end of it he could see his wife walking slowly toward them, her back arched to carry the pregnant curve of her belly.

"Not a word," he said quickly to the girl at his side. "Not a word of this, sweetheart. You don't want to upset your stepmother."

He hardly needed to warn her. At the first hint of danger the girl was wary, smoothing her dress, conscious always that she must play a part, that she must survive. He could always rely on Elizabeth's duplicity. She might be only fourteen but she had been trained in deceit every day since the death of her mother, she had been an apprentice cheat for twelve long years. And she was the daughter of a liar -- two liars, he thought spitefully. She might feel desire; but she was always more alert to danger or ambition than to lust. He took her cold hand and led her up the allée toward his wife Katherine. He tried for a merry smile. "I caught her at last!" he called out.

He glanced around, he could not see the child anywhere. "We had such a race!" he cried.

I was that child, and that was the first sight I ever had of the Princess Elizabeth: damp with desire, panting with lust, rubbing herself like a cat against another woman's husband. But it was the first and last time I saw Tom Seymour. Within a year, he was dead on the scaffold charged with treason, and Elizabeth had denied three times having anything more than the most common acquaintance with him.

Copyright © 2004 by Philippa Gregory Limited

Meet the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels are the basis for the critically acclaimed STARZ miniseries The White Queen. Her most recent novel is Three Sisters, Three Queens. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds two honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

Brief Biography

Yorkshire, England
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1954
Place of Birth:
Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984

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The Queen's Fool 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 406 reviews.
BANCHEE_READS More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. My favorite Gregory novel is The Other Boleyn Girl, and this comes a close second. Other reviewers have criticized the author for her portrayals of Mary and Elizabeth in this book, but everyone needs to keep in mind that we are viewing these women through Hannah's eyes, and this is fiction, not a historical textbook. Hannah is a very likeable character, who struggles throughout the book to come to terms with her gift of sight, her religious faith and her place in the world as a woman. In this book, as in The Other Boleyn Girl, it's the slow-building, passionate love story that touches me the most. The love story of Hannah and Daniel is very well-written and is my favorite part of the book. It is easy to see what draws them to each other and what keeps them apart. Though the road is bumpy, I was very pleased with the ending. My only complaint would be that I thought the book ended a few pages too soon. (In fact, I would love to see a sequel about the next chapter in Hannah's life.) After everything Hannah went through to discover what she truly wanted, and after everything she went through to get it, I would have liked to see a more passionate ending and a little more assurance that Hannah's future would be as happy as I wanted it to be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Philippa Gregory's books, but this book is relentlessly gloomy. It was a perilous time for high and low, Catholic or Protestant by turns but the heroine's thoughts never stray from the imminent possibility of death because she is a 'converted' Jew, although she gains a privileged position with both of Henry the VIII's daughters at court. Both Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth dwell nearly every waking moment on the possibility they will be either overthrown and put to death or put to death for treason. Mary enjoys brief happiness on her marriage, soon dashed. Elizabeth literally gets ill with fear again and again. Elizabeth was a brilliant woman, judged to have the genius IQ her father, Henry, is also believed to have had. Yet Gregory has Mary accuse her of being a bastard by a lute player, which has to be taken as Mary's hatred and paranoia. Elizabeth had too many traits in common with her royal father for anyone to believe this was anything but a false accusation used to send Anne Boleyn to the block. Gregory portrayed Anne Boleyn as a raving shrew in THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, with Katherine of Aragon rightly the victim she was. Anne Boleyn was calculating and selfish, but lost her head because she didn't bear Henry a son. However, I see a pattern of soft-pedaling of the excesses of the old Catholic order and the Inquisition, while the Protestant monarchy that prevailed is denigrated by unpleasant accusations about Elizabeth, and there is inexcusable downplaying of Bloody Mary's campaign of mass murder of suspected Protestants by burning at the stake. Much blood was spilled before Mary, with priests and Catholics true to their faith masquerading and in hiding but Elizabeth did not start burning Catholics when she took the throne. Calling her a callous seductress even at age 14, rather than seeing an awakening teenaged girl chased and perhaps seduced by Thomas Seymour, is ludicrous. Supposedly she even swung her hips when she walked to seduce Mary's husband, Phillip. Who reported this, if any historical source? That doesn't play for me. It was a tightrope she walked, not instead her wicked nature to be a tease. She probably wasn't a virgin queen, only an unmarried one but I think Gregory tries too hard to paint her as less sympathetic than Mary, when Mary was a woman almost addled on the subject of religion and devoid of conscience at what she did. Not that a lot of people weren't then, and still are now--witness Northern Ireland and the Islamic terrorists who bomb innocents in the name of their religion. I have to confess much as I love historical fiction, and know religious fanaticism played a threatening role in that world, I am getting bored with characters who natter on about it all the time. I disliked much about THE BIRTH OF VENUS by Sarah Dunant for this reason--I want a human story to dominate in a novel, not constant thoughts of saints or what is the correct route to heaven. Hannah Verde is the protagonist, yet she is dwarfed by the events portrayed and there were contrived events that conveniently sent her back to England when she escaped that clunked in the plot. This isn't like Philippa Gregory, not the writer I've admired.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so disappointed with this one,I know this one was only my second book by her but it was awful.Everybody giving their reviews were being just nice,I hope the rest aren't like this one.Loved The Other Boleyn Girl.
tehtarik More than 1 year ago
bought this book expecting the same interest with other boleyn girl (5 star from me). unfortunately been dragging myslelf to finish it. the long and slow and unimportant plot can be shorten.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe I would have rated it higher if I hadn't read "The other Boleyn girl" first. It just fell flat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was great. I always enjoy Gregory's books in the Tudor family. I felt the story dragged on a little at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual, Gregory crafts addictive and intricate historical accounts of life in the Tudor period. Another well written story....cant wait for the next.
penname96 More than 1 year ago
I love the fact that you learn history while reading Philippa's books. I'm sure like many, I stop and google and research while I go along. It's fascinating. The only part that stumped me was Mary's first pregnancy. I have since researched and learned that she had convinced her body that she was pregnant. Reading the book, I was intrigued and freaked out that her baby had died in the wound at 9 months and that she continued to carry the dead child for so long after. Now I know, it was all imagined. I also didn't know court fools existed. People have complained about the way Elizabeth was portrayed. I think she was very smart and did what she had to do to survive. I just ordered "The Virgin Queen" can't wait.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Phillipa Gregory is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Her ability to blend fiction with factual characters is a pleasure to read. Great story, a real page turner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine living in the time of King Edward, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Imagine being a courtier or a lady in waiting in their great court. Wouldn¿t that be astonishing? I get this feeling every time I read The Queen¿s Fool, written by Philippa Gregory. I find it amazing how Gregory can turn back time the moment you have read the first line. Even though most books can pull you into them and make you feel like you are there, Gregory does an excellent job of making the reader feel like they are the character whose eyes through which the story is seen. I found it hard to believe that when I looked up from reading I was in my room and not in fact strolling around the gardens of Hampton Court. Gregory has taken a story that we all know and has permeated it with an exceptional sense of intrigue, suspense, drama, and surprise, making it seem as if it is a whole new story. This novel seems to include everything: being recruited as a ¿holy fool¿ for the king, being sent by your master to spy on the heir, running away from the king¿s army, running away only to turn back, running away and not turning back, making a new life, being caught in a battle that makes you turn back to the life you ran away from, and making a new life in the country you ran away from. Believe me, without reading this novel you are missing out on a lot of Tudor intrigue.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book sounded great on the cover but once I started to read it I just could not get past the first few chapters...it did not keep my interest in the slightest...The story was slow and dull...I hope the rest of her books are more upbeat...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book thinking that it would be interesting..... Boy was I ever wrong! The beginning immediately drew me into the book, but as I progressed, I began to become increasingly more bored. By the end all I felt was a gasp of relief thinking 'it is done.' It was a good book to put me to sleep at night when I found myself being plagued by insomina. The women seemed too detached and not real. This book did nothing for me and in fact I can truly say it was the worst book I've read in a long time. I certainly will not be venturing any further into the endeavors of this author....
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was all right up until the ending. I won't give it away but Hannah slips completely out of character. None of the characters are really fully revealed. I didn't connect with any of the story's characters. Hannah's paradoxical approach to life along with Gregory's ambiguous storyline leaves the book feeling unfinished. It's a bit absurd to me that some people gave this book five stars. The ending actually upset me so much that I tossed the book across the room.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book of Gregory's books that I have read. Disappointing is definitely the wood I would choose to describe it. Not only was Hannah, the main character inconsistent and 'flat' in personality, she seemed to drop out of the modern feminist mold, which would be just fine if that could be conceivable during the highly patriarchal system of the 1500s. The men is the book were either philanderers or solid but demeaning to women. Hanna constantly makes strange claims about love that we as readers cannot make sense of. Why does she love the handsome but immoral and traitorous Lord Robert; 'He is wonderful,' as Hannah puts it, doesn't really make us understand. Also, she treats several male characters in very rudely, so rudely that if the roles were reversed we would highly dislike the men whose mouths the words were coming out of. In fact, it's hard to like much of anyone in this book. We, unlike Hannah, don't respect the husband stealing Elizabeth or love the heretic burning Mary. We may like or understand them at certain points, but we cannot relate to them as Hannah does. Again, maybe this is because we cannot relate to Hannah, the cutout from modern times pasted in the past.
avidreaderCR More than 1 year ago
Phillippa Gregory does a wonderful job with historical fiction. Most of the charactors are real historical figures and she does a good job of combining fact with fiction, weaving a wonderful, believable story around these charactors.
jbevans More than 1 year ago
The Queen's Fool is yet another beautifully written novel by Philippa Gregory. It is written from the perspective of the great Queen Mary's "holy fool", Hannah, who gives us a feeling of finally knowing a commoner, someone who can give us some insight as to how the people of England were living outside of the royal court. This is not the most exciting book in the series, but is very important as far as giving detailed background information on characters who become the focus of the next book The Virgin's Lover. If you've read and enjoyed any other novels from Philippa Gregory's Tudor series this is a MUST read!!
Tiffannie More than 1 year ago
Since it came after The Other Boleyn Girl, I expected it to be really good. It was good but just not what I expected. I wouldn't read it again soon but maybe in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While the story could be interesting if not impossible, the incorrect grammar put me off.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Awesome read as always
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to this book, and ended up highly dissapointed. The main character never developed a personality, was flat and mundane. I didn't feel a connection to ANY of the characters in this book. Completely boring!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first time I read this it just went on and on... but now its a favorite I've read it like 5x! Its a story about love and loss. Beautiful to the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Follow Bloody Mary from the eyes of Hannah the Fool. Great Historical Fiction at its best. Ms. Gregory can always be trusted to weave a great tale. Thank you, enjoyed it.