THE SISTERS WHO WOULD BE QUEEN; The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine & Lady Jane Grey


This triple biography of Lady Jane Grey and her sisters is the only authoritive history of these Tudor princesses, heirs to the last Tudor.  

‘Leanda de Lisle brings the story of nine days’ queen, Lady Jane Grey and her forgotten sisters, the rivals of Elizabeth I, to vivid life in her fascinating biography’ #Philippa Gregory

Lady Jane Grey is an iconic figure in English history. She has been mythologized as a child-woman destroyed on the altar of political expediency. Behind the legend, however, was an opinionated and often rebellious adolescent who died a passionate leader, not merely a victim. Growing up in Jane’s shadow, her sisters Katherine and Mary would have to tread carefully to survive.

The dramatic lives of the younger Grey sisters remain little known, but under English law they were the heirs – and rivals – to the Tudor monarchs Mary and Elizabeth I. The beautiful Katherine ignored Jane’s dying request that she remain faithful to her beliefs, changing her religion to retain Queen Mary’s favour only to then risk life and freedom in a secret marriage that threatened Queen Elizabeth’s throne.

While Elizabeth’s closest adviser fought to save Katherine, her younger sister Mary remained at court as the queen’s Maid of Honour. Too plain to be considered significant, it seemed that Lady Mary Grey, at least, would escape the burden of her royal blood. But then she too fell in love, and incurred the queen’s fury.

Exploding the many myths of Lady Jane’s life and casting fresh light onto Elizabeth’s reign, acclaimed historian Leanda de Lisle brings the tumultuous world of the Grey sisters to life, at a time when a royal marriage could gain you a kingdom or cost you everything.



‘A enthralling story of tyranny and betrayal..meticulous history that reads like a best selling novel’ Julian Fellowes.
‘Utterly gripping…This is a marvellously told and quite terrifying biography.’ Daily Telegraph.
‘A thrilling read…de Lisle wears her learning lightly, though the details are carefully crafted and researched.’ Spectator.
'An unrivalled account of the struggle for the Tudor succession' John Guy, Sunday Times


On Januray 9,10, 11  2018 Leanda is appearing on the BBC 4 series ENGLAND’S FORGOTTON QUEEN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF LADY JANE GREY . If you are interested in learning more about Jane and what happened next then you may enjoy this thirty minute lecture

Reader Reviews


“Now THIS is how historical biography is done!
History nerd that I am, I always get ridiculously excited to find a new biographer, just as much as finding a great new historical fiction author. I was not familiar with this author, but could not go past the subject matter - the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey fascinates people even today.

Leanda de Lisle is one of those biographers who can really tell a story. This study of Lady Jane Grey and her lesser known sisters is riveting - scholarly as well as entertaining. Although it reads like a novel, de Lisle backs up her contentions with primary source evidence and balances any necessary speculation with fact.

One of the main objectives of this study is to debunk many of the myths that surround the Grey sisters, particularly Jane. For example, de Lisle argues convincingly that Frances Brandon's reputation as Monster Mummy Dearest is undeserved, and shows Jane as being far from a passive figurehead, with a determination to be a Protestant leader and, if necessary, martyr. There are some fascinating bits of information that shed a completely different light on my perception of the principals: for example, the forbidding and unattractive portrait that is often labelled as being of Frances and her second husband, Adrian Stokes, turns out to be of a completely different woman and her son...
I highly recommend this... de Lisle demonstrates that she can write non-fiction in a way that is just as compelling as fiction; erudite without being stodgy or pretentious. Absolutely brilliant.”


“I always enjoy Lenda de Lisle books and only wish she would write more so I can read them also. A darling story and more history for me to learn.”
“Leanda de Lisle brings the story of the 9 days queen, Lady Jane Grey and her forgotten sisters, the rivals of Elizabeth I, to vivid life in her fascinating biography The Sisters Who Would be Queen”
Leanda de Lisle - The Sisters Who would Be Queen - Book Cover
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“Leanda de Lisle's biography of Lady Jane Grey, "the nine day queen," and her two younger sisters, Katherine and Mary, is clever, pacy and unsentimental. If you're unfamiliar with the period, it explains the complex political situation of the mid-sixteenth century in an accessible but intelligent way. If you are already a Tudor fan, then de Lisle's book will still prove interesting because of the confident way in which she narrates the story of the Grey sisters' lives and discusses the importance of feminine monarchy in the years after Henry VIII's death. She strips away many of the romantic legends surrounding the girls, especially Jane, and re-appraises some of the period's other important women, such as the Greys' mother, the Duchess of Suffolk, and their cousin, the future Queen Elizabeth I. De Lisle's writing style is witty and clever - she deals equally well with the tragedy and the absurdity of the sisters' lives. (The lives of Katherine Grey and Mary Grey after their sister's death help make this book feel particularly "fresh," which isn't always easy to do in the Tudor market.) "The Sisters Who Would Be Queen" is a good biography in its own right or a "must-read" for anyone fascinated by the Tudor monarchy and the legend of Jane Grey and "the nine days" of 1553.”