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.