Book Review: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels)

TheLastTudorCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.

Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.

“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.

“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?

Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: England, 1550-1573
My Copy Came From: I purchased the Kindle version from Amazon.

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: Sadly, this bored me. The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory is the latest in the popular Plantagenet and Tudor Novels that detail the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty. This entry in the series centers on Lady Jane Grey and her younger sisters, Katherine and Mary.

“He named you as queen.”

I look into her determined face. “I can’t be,” I say simply.

“You are,” my mother repeats. “At the end, he named our line. You inherit through me.”

“But what about Princess Mary?”

“She was named as a bastard by her own father in his will, and besides, we will never accept a papist queen,” Lady Dudley interrupts. “Never.”

“Princess Elizabeth?” I whisper.

This time, neither of them troubles to reply. I don’t even name Mary Queen of Scots, though her claim is as good as ours.

“I can’t do it,” I whisper to Lady Dudley, and I look askance at the room filled with men. “I really can’t.”

“You have to.”

Philippa Gregory’s books are hit or miss with me. Some I absolutely love, and others I find longwinded and boring, and sadly, The Last Tudor was one of the boring ones. Split into three sections, with each section focusing on one sister, we get a choppy narrative. I found the decision to split the narrative into these sections a bit confusing. The first 20% of the book is dedicated to Jane, and details her rise to the throne and her fall and beheading. The next 50% of the book is told from the point of view of Katherine, Jane’s sister who falls in love, secretly marries her love, and then is arrested for the marriage and spends her life imprisoned. Mary, the youngest sister, who is also unlucky and is arrested for a secret marriage, tells the last 30% of the book.

I want to dance and wear a small fortune on my fingers. I want someone to love me, I want to feel alive, I want to feel madly alive every moment of every day, since I have seen how easily and quickly a girl can die. “Learn you to die!” I have learned; and I only want to live.

This is a tricky story to tell, because it is essentially the story of three women and their time under arrest. So, they aren’t going here and there and having conversations and witnessing the action of the time, they are sitting there, reading letters and waiting for things to happen to them. So much of the story was happening outside the walls, to other characters, and so this just really felt like a drag of a book. While I liked learning about these ladies, and I appreciate how difficult it was to live in Elizabeth’s shadow, unfortunately not much happens that is very exciting. What I think may have helped this book, would’ve been to have shifted the narrative to alternate between the sisters rather then go sister by sister through time. Because, for example, while Jane was locked away in the tower, both Katherine and Mary were free, and it would’ve been interesting to read their interactions outside of the Tower while also hearing Jane’s thoughts while imprisoned. Also having Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots as narrators would’ve helped this read, but Gregory has already told that story in a different book (The Other Queen), and the focus was really the sisters here and not the Elizabeth vs Mary, Queen of Scots plot.

Red is the color of defiance, red is the color of life, red is the color of love, and so it is my color. I shall wear my black embroidered gown and my red petticoat till the day that I die—and whenever that is, if that poor loveless thing Elizabeth is still on the throne, then I know at least that she will give me a magnificent funeral, fit for the last Tudor princess.

In terms of the sisters, I liked Mary the best. She had the most spunk and daring, and I would’ve liked to have heard her voice throughout the novel. Mary is a dwarf, and I loved her attitude and outlook on life. Katherine was annoyingly cheerful and arrogant, while Jane was obnoxiously pious and holier-than-thou.

All in all, I was bored by this read, and even though it was enlightening to read in some of the sections, overall it was too longwinded and slow. I’m still a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and will definitely be re-reading this series at some point in the future, this book included!

Bottom Line: Boring and slow.

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author Website
My Reviews of:   The Taming of the Queen   |   Three Sisters, Three Queens


Have you read The Last Tudor? Are you a fan of Philippa Gregory’s novels? Which one is your favorite?


13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels)

  1. I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but… by “last” does this mean that maybe Gregory will start writing about another era? Sorry! I see you were bored by this, so perhaps you’ll be tolerant of me. See, I’ve never been interested in these books, mostly because the excerpts I read of the first ones seemed so randomly inaccurate, from what I know. Then she wrote more, and more and more and I kept thinking… when will she ever stop! Yes, I know lots of people love her stuff, and will follow her books, but… sorry, as much as I love this era for historical fiction, I can’t get into these books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do feel that this may be her last in this particular era. It’s a good stopping point, and I can’t think of anyone else that she could craft an entire novel about from this time period. She did talk about it in an interview or the authors note at the end of the book, and I think it was left up in the air if I’m remembering properly. She does have a new book coming out in August – it’s called Tidelands and is the start to a new series set in 1648 – I’m not sure if I’ll read it. I haven’t read too many of her other books besides this Tudor series, and while I know that there are historical inaccuracies, I do find them enjoyable sometimes! This particular one just wasn’t that interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read anything by this author, but it seems like she’s just writing the same time period repeatedly. Does she have a background in this time, or does she explain in an author’s note what her interest in it is?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She’s written other books, but as these are her most popular I think she was really focused on this time period for awhile. The thing about this time period is that there really is a LOT to tell – Each of these reads focuses on a different woman (or women) whose names we may know, but history has really overlooked their story. Like Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn – we all hear about Henry VIII, but not necessarily his wives. And going back even earlier to the War of the Roses, we may have heard about Richard III, but I never really knew anything about his wife until I read one of Gregory’s books. Again with Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Woodville. I love this particular time period!
      Looks like Gregory has a PhD in 18th century literature and she’s written a couple nonfiction books as well. I’ve really just read her Tudor series & haven’t ventured too much into her other writing. I think a lot of people who aren’t into her work don’t like the historical inaccuracy of it, but that doesn’t bother me too much.
      She’s got a new book coming out next month, but I don’t think I’ll read it. Well, I know I won’t actively seek it out unless I hear fabulous reviews of it, but I wouldn’t not read it if it came my way.


      1. I feel like the people are funny about where they draw the line on historically accurate. I mean, someone will watch a movie about WWII and think they learned a bunch only to discover the director upped the entertainment factor. Personally, I think movies about the Civil Rights movement are some that people should be very cautious of. A lot of directors romanticize the role of white people in those films to avoid isolating viewers. I get it, I do, but I also know many prominent voices in the black community have called for enough with the civil rights and slave narrative films and get on with the lives of POC today, now.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, the accuracy thing doesn’t always bother me. It’s called fiction for a reason! If I was truly concerned about the accuracy, I’d just pick up a nonfiction read. I enjoy historical fiction because it makes me want to learn more about a particular time period, event, etc and I always end up looking online for more information. I think it’s always good to try to look something up & find more information about it rather than just taking an authors word for it – both in fiction and also in nonfiction.
          Now where I am a stickler for accuracy is in book to movie/TV adaptations. There are so many that make such odd choices… !


          1. I was surprised by the differences between Hidden Figures the book and the film. However, I think the film did smoosh together several people to make a more coherent book. Personally, I did not enjoy the book. It was all over the place and lacked focus, in my opinion.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I still haven’t read that book! I enjoyed the movie, but I haven’t really heard anything too exciting about the book so I haven’t bothered to read it yet. That’s interesting that they combined a few characters together to make the movie flow better – I think that happens a lot in page to screen adaptations. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely slow in places! But since it’s part of Gregory’s Tudor series, one day I will re-read it! I do enjoy how she spotlights different women during this time period.


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