Of all the royal women of the Tudor period, one we tend not to hear much about is Margaret, the elder sister of King Henry VIII and grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots. And yet Margaret was not only a princess of England, but she also became a queen at the age of thirteen when she married King James IV of Scotland. In this historical fiction novel aptly titled The Forgotten Queen, D.L. Bogdan tells Margaret Tudor’s story.
James IV is much older than Margaret and given that this was a marriage made for political reasons, she is fortunate that James proves to be a kind and gentle husband – although not a very faithful one. In time Margaret comes to love him and is devastated when he is killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Their young son succeeds to the throne and is crowned James V, but as he is not yet old enough to reign on his own, Scotland is ruled by a series of regents. Margaret marries again, this time to a man of her own choice, but as she learns more about her second husband – Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus – she begins to wonder if she has made a terrible mistake.
With her ties to both England and Scotland, it’s inevitable that eventually Margaret will have to choose between the country of her birth and her adopted country and must decide where her allegiances lie. It’s often unclear to the reader and even to Margaret herself what her true loyalties are, but the one thing that is obvious is that she wants whatever is best for the young James V, who is in a vulnerable position at the mercy of the various advisors, regents and noblemen who surround him. And while she fights to secure her son’s throne, Margaret never forgets her father Henry VII’s dream that through her Scotland and England could one day be united.
I knew absolutely nothing about Margaret Tudor before reading this book so, for me, she really is ‘the forgotten Queen’. It made a nice change to read a book set during the Tudor period that chooses to focus on somebody other than Henry VIII and his six wives and I did learn a lot about Margaret’s life. Unfortunately though, Margaret herself comes across as a very unsympathetic character: immature, selfish and stubborn. She makes some very bad decisions, often failing to take advice from other people, and she expects more from her friends than she is prepared to give in return. However, there were still times when I could feel some compassion for her, as she did seem to have a very difficult and tragic life. Only two of her children survived past infancy – James and her daughter with Angus, Margaret Douglas – and her second and third marriages were both very unhappy (although having said that, I felt that Margaret did nothing to make them any happier).
In addition to learning about Margaret’s life I enjoyed learning more about this period of Scottish history in general, for example the aftermath of Flodden, but I found the author’s attempt at handling Scottish dialect very irritating. To indicate that a character is Scottish she substitutes the words ‘dinna’ and ‘canna’ for don’t and can’t but doesn’t make any real effort to use any other Scottish words. This made the dialogue feel very unconvincing and artificial. Also, as the book covers such a long period of time, it would have been helpful if dates had been provided in the chapter headings or whenever the story jumps forward by a few years. It was hard to tell how much time had passed between one chapter and the next, or sometimes even between one paragraph and the next. Just a small thing but it would have made the story so much easier to follow!
This was a fairly light read, as you can probably tell from the title and cover. I think if I had been looking for a more in-depth book about Margaret Tudor I would have been disappointed, but as an introduction to her story it was enjoyable enough and has left me wanting to know more about this forgotten queen.
11 thoughts on “The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan”
I’ve always been interested in the Tudors but didn’t know about this book. Thanks for your review. I look forward to getting this book and reading it now, too.
I hope you enjoy it, Lark. The Tudors are fascinating, but the thing I really liked about this book was that it told the story of one of the lesser-known figures of the period.
Hi – I stepped over here via your link at Historical Tapestry. I read and reviewed this, too, and had similar thoughts, especially about the attempts at dialect and the unclear timeline. If you haven’t read it, Jean Plaidy’s “The Thistle and the Rose” is also about Margaret. It’s years since I read it, and of course, it was written back in the 50s or 60s, but I liked it more than this one.
Hi Caz! I’ve never actually read any of Jean Plaidy’s books, despite being a big fan of historical fiction. I would like to try another book about Margaret though, so I’ll look out for The Thistle and the Rose.
I always like reading about ‘forgotten’ historical characters and it sounds like Margaret was a pretty important pawn in her time. Like you said, it makes for a nice change to read about someone other than one of Henry’s wives from this period.
Despite reading quite a lot of Tudor novels, there are still so many people from this period I know nothing about. I’ll have to look for a book about Henry’s other sister, Mary, next.
I like that there are books about Henry’s sisters, they have been passed in favour of the wives (I suppose them being queens in other countries does cause them to be forgotten a bit). Not sure about the method for dialect, it does generally come across badly, in all though, it sounds pretty good.
I thought it was a good book overall. It was really just the dialect that irritated me – and the fact that Margaret was so unlikeable, although that might not be the fault of the author.
I think Margaret, Queen of Scots has had a very hard press – unfairly so. You may enjoy an excerpt from my new NON fiction book Tudor: The Family Story which is taken from a chapter about her. http://www.leandadelisle.com/blog/ I suppose it wont be there long so I may transfer it to ‘articles’ later on my website. I do notice how history soon becomes fiction – several novels on the Grey sisters followed my last book on them, with new more sympathetic portrayals of their mother Frances (following my research on her), and I hope my new book will do the same for Margaret Tudor and also Margaret Douglas (see my article on her at http://www.leandadelisle.com/articles/ )
Thanks for those links, Leanda. I read your article on Margaret and found it very interesting. I thought Margaret was portrayed in quite a negative light in D.L. Bogdan’s novel, but I’m aware that it was a fictional account so it’s nice to have the opportunity to read some factual information about her. Good luck with the new book.