Tracy Borman (author of ‘Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen’ called ‘Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen’ in the USA) has very kindly answered my questions relating to the Grey sisters.
Thank you Tracy.
Why did you choose to write about ‘Elizabeth’s Women’?
Elizabeth I is my all-time historical heroine. I have devoured books, manuscripts and even films about her for as long as I can remember. But the more research I did, the more I realised that practically all of these books were about Elizabeth and men – often her relationship with Robert Dudley. And I became fascinated by the missing story – that of Elizabeth and the women in her life. They were hugely influential in shaping her character and reign, and it is through their eyes that a startling new image of the celebrated Virgin Queen emerges.
Why do you think Queen Mary made both Catherine and Mary Grey ‘Ladies of the Bedchamber’ even though their father and sister had been executed for the Wyatt rebellion?
It was that old adage ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’. Mary was very aware of what a threat the Grey family had been – after all, Lady Jane Grey had usurped her throne (albeit unwillingly). I suspect that there may also have been a sense of repentance there. Mary had agonised over signing Lady Jane’s death warrant, so perhaps she wanted to make amends by promoting her sisters.
During Queen Elizabeth’s bout of smallpox, why did Robert Dudley support the claim of Mary Queen of Scots, rather than that of his ex sister-in-law, Catherine Grey?
I think it comes down to Dudley’s rampant ambition. There was talk of him marrying the Queen of Scots, and if she had taken Elizabeth’s place in 1562 then Dudley would have been king. Furthermore, his arch rival Lord Burghley supported Catherine Grey, so Dudley was almost bound to be on the opposing side.
Who do you think had more chance of becoming Queen, Margaret Douglas during the reign of Mary or Catherine Grey during Elizabeth’s reign?
That’s a difficult one to judge because their claims were of similar weight. I would say that Margaret Douglas has the edge because, unlike Catherine, she was not tainted by any traitorous antics of siblings, etc. She also had Scottish, as well as English royal blood in her veins.
What impact did Jane’s short reign have on Elizabeth’s view of her sisters?
Undoubtedly it made Elizabeth highly suspicious of Catherine and Mary, and tainted her relationship with them forever afterwards. She remained convinced that they were plotting to overthrow her, even though there was little evidence that this was the case – particularly where Mary was concerned. I think jealousy also played a part, at least where Catherine was concerned. She was young, attractive and drew a lot of the male attention away from Elizabeth – a punishable offence in itself!