Three Maids for a Crown: A Novel of the Grey Sisters

( 16 )


In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister Katherine Grey charms all the right people--until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine whose goal is simply to protect people she loves--but at a terrible cost.
In an age in which begetting sons was all that...
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Three Maids for a Crown: A Novel of the Grey Sisters

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In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister Katherine Grey charms all the right people--until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine whose goal is simply to protect people she loves--but at a terrible cost.
In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived under the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager: their daughters' lives against rampant ambition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her absorbing second novel, Chase (The Virgin Queen's Daughter) returns once more to the Tudors with ladies Jane, Katherine, and Mary Gray, three sisters who quickly learn that their rightful claim to the throne through their royal blood is as much a curse as a blessing. Jane, the eldest, is implicated in her father's plot to overthrow her cousin, Queen Mary I. Although the queen is reluctant to have her cousin killed, she eventually gives into the pressure, and Mary and Katherine watch their sister killed. Queen Mary appoints them ladies-in-waiting, and from her court they watch the schism between Protestants and Catholics widen, the future of England becoming more uncertain and the reign of the queen more precarious. The final years of Queen Mary's reign and the first of Queen Elizabeth's-some three decades-are predictably recounted from the perspectives of all three Gray sisters, no easy task given their disparate personalities, but Chase largely succeeds. This is a suspenseful and engaging novel, offering a fine sense of the turmoil and uncertainty that plagued the royal houses of Europe in the mid-16th century.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"Chase’s prose is engaging, and her rich, detailed portraits of Renaissance women,
particularly those of a kindly but haunted Mary I and a vicious, conceited Elizabeth, are unforgettable."--Booklist

“High praise to Ella March Chase, who knows her Tudor history, for putting the fascinating and doomed Grey sisters at the center of an ingenious work of fiction."—G. J. Meyer author, The Tudors
“Thanks to the skilled craftsmanship of Ella March Chase, the three Grey sisters come vividly to life in Three Maids for a Crown, an intimate portrait of their struggle to survive in the hostile environment of the Tudor court--a world brilliantly recreated in this thoroughly engrossing novel.”—Kate Emerson, author of the Secrets of the Tudor Court Series
"With lyrical prose, Ella March Chase tells the riveting story of the Grey sisters, from Lady Jane Grey's nine day reign to all that came after. Three Maids for a Crown is a beautiful tale that gives Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey what they never had in life: a voice."--Christy English, author of To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine
“In Three Maids for a Crown Ella March Chase powerfully evokes the courageous stories of the three truly unforgettable Grey sisters, saintly Jane, beautiful Kat and misshapen Mary.  Each maid triumphs, then falls prey to their cousins, first Queen Mary Tudor and then Elizabeth I, both queens terrified of the three maids' royal Tudor blood. The sisters find the triumphant love their queenly cousins are denied, but each is forced to pay a heavy price. At last, Chase writes their untold story, woven throughout with fascinating period detail.  Not to be missed if you love well-told Tudor stories, or if you have a sister.”--Jeane Westin, author of His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester
“Ella March Chase vividly portrays the paranoia of the Tudor court in Three Maids for a Crown. Lady Jane Grey and her sisters navigate their tragedy with compelling grace, ultimately powerless against the two queens who fear them. An absorbing and heartbreaking story.”--Emma Campion, author of The King's Mistress

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307588982
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 814,845
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Elle March Chase is the author of The Virgin Queen's Daughter and Three Maids for a Crown. She lives in East Moline, IL.
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Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


8 years old

Suffolk House, London

May 24, 1553

Spying on the devil was a dangerous prospect, but if the whispers were true, he had visited me before. I limped through Suffolk House like a gargoyle brought to life, clutching my dark bed gown under my chin so I might blend into shadow. At any moment the guards might demand to know why the youngest daughter of the Duke of Suffolk wandered alone past midnight. Yet I had learned early that people avoided looking at me if they could. They shrank away as if deformity could be catching, like sweating sickness or plague.

They were wise to be wary. I overheard more than anyone suspected, and I sensed what could not be seen, only felt in that ticklish place inside my head. Of late the voices in that secret spot shrilled that something wicked had come to steal my sister Jane away.

I peered around a corner, saw a guard stationed outside my destination. I ducked behind a heavy chest, but a moment later the man’s soft snore sounded. I slipped past. Most of Suffolk House slept—exhausted from the preparations for the greatest wedding England had seen since the dead king Henry took the last of his six wives. Or so my mother claimed. But I could not rest. From the nursery window I had seen the devil ride through the gates, the bear and ragged staff on his banner visible in the light of the torches his guards carried. I knew where he was bound. I had heard my father ordering servants to lay his dice upon the gaming table in his privy chamber. I would hide in the chamber. Tonight I would see the devil’s face.

I slipped through Father’s door, then stole into the space between the wall and the tapestry of blind Saint Lucy holding her eyeballs upon a plate. I could see the table clearly from there, though I hoped no one would be able to see me. What would happen if my father discovered me? He would beat me. But I had to help Jane if I could.

The tramp of boots sounded in the hall, and I caught my breath. The guard must have wakened. My father did not reprimand him before entering with his guest.

The stranger sank into Father’s best chair, his shoulders weighted with gold chains of office. Dark hair fell about a harsh face. His eyes seemed as if they could cut stone.

From the time I could remember, I heard people whispering that Satan had twisted me into a hunchbacked dwarf. Now he was coming to steal Jane away.

For two weeks my eldest sister wept into her bolster at night. Jane, only fifteen, who cried when her lessons were over and kind Dr. Ayl-mer sent her back to our parents. Jane, who loved me and never lied.

“They have sold me to the devil, Mary.” Her words scraped into my memory. I trembled to think how dark the wickedness must be to make Jane defy our parents’ will. I still winced every time I recalled the hiss of the willow branch as our mother cut bloody stripes into Jane’s back. The beating had gone on until I feared it would kill Jane, and Kat, who could not bear cruelty of any kind, had flung herself at our sister, pleading. “Give way! You will have to do what they command in the end.”

Mother boasted that her stern hand had bent Jane to her will. I knew better. Jane had given in because what Kat—at almost thirteen years old—said was true. Even the humblest of fathers had the right to beat a daughter until she followed his command. Our father, the great Duke of Suffolk, wished his eldest to marry the devil’s son come morning. The lord chancellor of England was determined on the match too. As chancellor, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, held the reins of government instead of the boy king. Dudley was the most hated man in England. The devil . . .

Father leaned across the table, his voice low. “Our plans may come to nothing, Northumberland. Even you—the most powerful man in England—cannot hold back death. The wedding must be accomplished, and you must have time to convince His Majesty to—”

“Bow to the will of God?” Northumberland smiled. “It should not be difficult to convince His Majesty to resolve the situation as we wish—not with eternal damnation hanging over the boy’s head. That is what he will face if he allows his Catholic sister to succeed him on the throne and lead England back to the evils of popery—the worshipping of saints’ bones that are really pigs’ knuckles and indulgences for sale by greedy priests, any sin forgiven if enough money is paid to the church. Worse still, servitude to Rome and a foreign pope who cares little for the welfare of this island. No. We cannot allow a return to that slavery. As to your fear that Edward will thwart our plans before all is prepared, do not underestimate my resourcefulness, Suffolk. I have certain assurances from the woman I have hired to see to His Majesty’s comfort.”

I chewed my lip. Edward . . . His Majesty . . . they were speaking of my cousin, the king. I had barely formed the thought when my father gave a snort of disgust.

“Comfort? Last we spoke, you said Edward coughs up blood. There is no telling how soon he may die.”

“Careful!” Northumberland looked around the room. I held my breath, fearing he might see me with his demon powers. “It is treason to predict the death of a king.”

“It may be, but I have seen enough consumption to know when the end is near.” Father lifted a gilt ewer and poured two goblets of wine. Never had I seen my father perform such a lowly task for himself. Strange, not even Father’s most trusted servant was near. “As for treason,” Father said, offering a goblet to his guest, “there are many in this kingdom who would call the business we do tomorrow the work of traitors.”

What business? I frowned. Tomorrow there could be no business at all. The day would be spent in celebration of two weddings. Jane’s to Guilford Dudley, Northumberland’s youngest son, and Kat’s to the Earl of Pembroke’s lad. My chest ached whenever I thought of it. Two sisters lost in one day. Me, left behind.

My musings were drowned out by Northumberland. “Ignorant crofters might object to what we do, but many Englishmen would say we pull the realm back from the brink of hell. If the Catholics regain power, what do you think will happen to those who took the chalices from their churches and turned abbeys into country manors? Men like you and me, Suffolk? It is our duty to protect England’s simple people from their own ignorance. Your daughters will give us the power to see it done. First Jane and Katherine, then Mary.”

At the sound of my name, I closed my hands into fists. My nails scraped the rough back of the tapestry. I held my breath in terror.

“Leave Mary out of it,” Father said. “No nobleman will wed someone like her—even if she does carry the blood of the royal Tudors in her veins.”

“I think you underestimate the power of ambition. We will gamble with her in addition to the others.” Northumberland’s smile chilled me. “So the game begins. What is your stake to be, Suffolk?”

Father grasped his ivory dice, then cast them upon the table. “I wager three maids for a crown.”

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Three Maids of a Crown

1. All three sisters were used as pawns by their parents.  How would you have felt if you had been in their positions?  What kind of effect does that have on a child?  Do you feel that powerful parents today still use their children to promote their own status?  Can you think of any examples?

2. Jane Grey and Mary Tudor are resolute in refusing to change their religion, even when their adherence might cost them their lives.  In contrast, Elizabeth Tudor, Katherine and Mary Grey take a more pragmatic view, willing to accede to whoever is in power at the time.  When King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church he set in motion a period of religious upheaval that would divide England long after the end of his daughter Elizabeth’s reign.  As monarchs shifted between varying degrees of Protestantism and Catholicism, lives of courtiers and simple people depended on taking an oath adhering to the religion of the party in power.  How would you have navigated those treacherous waters if your family had been in danger? 

3. Talk about the conflict Kat and Mary must have felt, serving the woman who had their sister executed.  Is it possible to love someone yet hate the actions they take?  How do you think little Mary survived the terrible time from Jane’s arrest through the aftermath of Jane’s execution?  What do you think it cost Queen Mary when she realized she had killed her cousin for a man who could never love her?  Can you think of examples in your own life where you’ve had hide your true feelings—of revenge, hatred, or contempt—in the interest of self-preservation?

4. Katherine goes from the cherished beauty of the family to an outcast, a self centered girl to a woman, wife and mother capable of great sacrifice.  How are the hardships she suffers necessary for her transformation?  How different would she have been if all had gone well with Henry Herbert?

5. Katherine and Mary Grey are not unique in daring Elizabeth Tudor’s formidable temper by marrying in secret without the queen’s permission.  It is historical fact that many of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting and favored gentlemen, including Robert Dudley and later, the Earl of Essex, faced the queen’s wrath in just that way.  Discuss the dangers and benefits of such unions first from the queen’s point of view, then from the view of the Grey sisters.  If you were faced with such a choice, how much would you risk for love?

6. What kind of a queen do you think Kat would have made if Mary Tudor had done as she threatened and named her as her successor instead of Elizabeth?  How do you think Kat would have fared if she had faced the threat of the Spanish Armada?

7. During the Renaissance, a woman’s main function was to produce heirs for her husband.  This became even more important in families of royal blood.  Pregnancy figures largely in Three Maids for a Crown.  Twice Mary Tudor believed she was pregnant, even going into confinement and having to emerge without producing the desperately needed heir to the throne. How do you think the kingdom responded when the queen did not produce an heir? What would you have thought if you’d been a subject?  Katherine cannot tell Ned whether or not she is pregnant until she can see the baby moving inside her.  Imagine what it was like for women before they could confirm they were with child

8. Mary’s “Thief’s Coffer” holds treasures that remind her of people she loves.  If you had a Thief’s Coffer what might you put inside it?  What makes something worth saving?  Is she wise at the end of the story to let some of her treasures go in order to make room for new things?  Are their memories or old talismans you would be better off to release?

9. In the end, Three Maids for a Crown is the story of three very different sisters, how they grow and change, each one dealing with their heritage and the ambitions of those around them in different ways.  Which sister do you identify with most?  How do the struggles between the sisters relate to family bonds that exist today?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 20, 2012

    I was thrilled to read the sample of this book and bought it to

    I was thrilled to read the sample of this book and bought it to read the
    whole thing. It's been a huge disappointment, and I'm sorry to say it's
    the quality of the writing that's made it less than enjoyable. The text
    is filled with cliche after cliche, some of the incidental references
    are incorrect, and there are even some grammatical errors. The dialogue
    is laughable-- these are supposed to be queens, courtiers, and children
    of the 16th century speaking, not equals of the 21th century. I don't
    bring up these negatives to be mean, only to say that they detract from
    enjoyment of the story, which is a humdinger all on its own. I wish I
    could get a refund.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    Interesting read about the Grey sisters

    Lady Jane Grey has to be one of the most tragic historical figures ever born. This book chronicles her rise to the throne of England, her sisters' Katherine and Mary lives, tragedies, and deaths. It was an easy read, and something interesting to pass time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Interesting read!

    This book was a great read. The chapters involving Jane were some of the best historical fiction. This book however does not show Queen Elizabeth I in the best light. The Grey sisters deal with some of the most manipulative men. As someone new to the historical fiction genre, this was a great introduction to some magnificent women.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    If you like the Tudor period, this is a very good book that follows the Grey sisters. The ending was very touching!

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Different and awesome

    This was a different but very interesting story. Wish there was more

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  • Posted October 9, 2011

    A fine read

    I enjoyed the inside look at the sibling relationship of the Grey sisters as presented by this author.Historically correct except for spots the author notes.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful, Compelling

    Ms. Chase has done it again with another absorbing read! The story is about the 3 Grey sisters and how their family manipulated them for their own greed. The research is so meticulous, the story so real with a twist of fiction. So real in fact you feel your heart pounding every time the Queen calls. Anyone familiar with the Tudor era will know the outcome of these Courageous women but you can't help to keep reading and reading to see how the story ends. Very well written and Highly recommended.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    Talented author's 2nd book dazzles!

    Wonderful read for Tudor era historical fiction. She does her research to perfection and her passion for writing shows through with absolute precision. I would reccomend this read to anyone who enjoys reading the "truth" about the Greys with a great story intertwined.

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    Posted January 31, 2012

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