In Her Highness, the Traitor, Susan Higginbotham, seeks to redeem the reputation of both the Dudley and Grey families. Her purpose for the novel, as described in the author’s note, was to craft characters closer to their historical counterparts as she feels recent research has exposed that neither the Dudley’s or the Grey’s were the villains they are so as in popular fiction.
Like many I have always thought Jane Grey a sympathetic character. The poor girl, was used by other’s to serve their own ends, whether it be her only family or not, is beyond doubt. I have never found any evidence that would cast any of the responsibility for the seizure of the throne on Jane herself. Indeed, Mary I could not find fault against her. Higginbotham inventively tells the story of Jane through the eyes of her mother, Frances Dudley, and her mother-in-law Jane Dudley.
I found the use of these woman at first off-putting, but some grew to appreciate Higginbotham’s choice of these women, not only two of the foremost noblewomen in the land, The Duchess of Suffolk and The Duchess of Norfolk, married to the two most powerful men and each connected to Jane.
Admittedly, I have never liked Frances Grey, and though Higginbotham looked to redeem the character of families I feel that she was less successful with the Grey’s. I seemed to take to Jane Dudley more, especially in her courageous and successful campaign to win the freedom of her sons. In the end, in this reader’s opinion, Higginbotham was more successful in her purpose with the Dudley’s, and less so with the Grey’s. The Grey’s, to this reader at least, still seemed to show little care for the safety of their children, were reckless and impulsive in their actions that seemed to be rooted in delusion more than anything else. Perhaps there is just no redeeming them, but I applaud Higginbotham for her attempt.
All that being said I enjoyed this novel and found it a quick entertaining read. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the story from the perspectives of powerful women and commend Higginbotham for venturing to set the course of fiction back on a more historically based foundation.