I’ve read a fair bit of history on Margaret and Mary, the sisters of Henry VIII – enough to know that D. L. Bogdan’s The Forgotten Queen is a fairly historically accurate, if fictionalized, account of the life and times of Margaret Tudor, Queen Consort of Scotland’s James IV. It is a well-written chronological telling of Margaret’s life, from her childhood at Sheen to her three marriages in Scotland finally her last role as mother of James V.
Early in the novel, Bogdan does a good job of setting the stage for the later enmity Henry VIII had for his sister. Keep in mind Henry VIII left Margaret and her heirs out of his will and out of the English succession. Scotland and England were constantly on the brink of war–there were many Border skirmishes and several outright heartbreaking bloody battles, such as Flodden where James IV died. Against this reality, Margaret struggled with where her loyalty lay – to England as a Tudor Princess, or to Scotland as a Stewart Queen and mother of the heir. Bogdan captures this tension well. Bogdan also does a great job evoking Scotland and its palaces – places I visited last year like Linlithgow, Holyrood, and Falkland.
But I’ll just say it. As the main character in a novel, this Margaret Tudor left me cold. I wanted to warm to her, but she was vain, greedy, petty and a bit of a narcissist. Now perhaps she really was all those things, but it did not make me like her, or really want to read about her. She was utterly lacking in humility. (She might have been a bit like her brother Henry). Ultimately, her negative character traits were not offset by enough positive traits. It may have been an accurate portrayal of Margaret, but it could have used some empathy. Perhaps that was hard given some of Margaret’s decisions.
This was my first D. L. Bogdan novel. Despite my feelings for this Margaret Tudor, I would definitely read another.
So if you like all things Tudor, it is worth a read. And if you didn’t have much passion for Margaret Tudor before, you may not upon finishing the book. I’d be interested to hear what you think. Below I’ve linked to another review of The Forgotten Queen.