Monday, February 5, 2018

Favorite Books of 2017, Part 2

The Lost Tudor Princess by Alison Weir

Alison Weir tells the fascinating, little known story of Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots by her second husband Archibald Douglas. Margaret Douglas played a vital part behind the scenes throughout the turbulent reigns of her Tudor cousins. She was brought up at the court of her uncle Henry VIII, with Princess Mary, with whom she was close. Under the guidance of their cousin Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, both girls became devout Catholics, even as the Reformation burst upon England. With the fall of Mary's mother Queen Katherine, both girls suffered a huge disruption of their lives. Margaret languished through two love affairs with members of the Howard family. including imprisonment by Henry VIII, before she finally married Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox. It was a happy marriage, although most of their children died except for two sons, the oldest of whom was the infamous Lord Darnley. During the reign of Mary I, Margaret had a place of honor at court and many regarded her as the true heir to the throne. When Elizabeth I ascended the throne, Margaret became the center of the Catholic reaction to the penal laws. Margaret schemed for years to secure the marriage of Darnley to Mary Queen of Scots, a marriage which when achieved caused Margaret to be imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth. Darnley, however, had been spoiled by an overindulgent upbringing; his marriage with Mary was a disaster, leading to his murder and Mary's abdication and imprisonment. The book includes much that I never knew about Mary's relationship with her mother-in-law Margaret over the years, as well as what transpired with the rest of the Lennox family and little Prince James. Margaret ends up in prison again when her younger son Charles marries without permission of the Queen. Meanwhile, her husband is murdered in Scotland. One drama after another; such is the life of Margaret Douglas.

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

While Weir's The Children of Henry VIII includes his three legitimate children and his great niece Lady Jane Grey, the center of the book is undoubtedly Mary I, Henry's oldest daughter. Mary went from being the heir to the throne and the most sought-after princess in Europe, engaged to the Holy Roman Emperor, to being a maid in the household of Anne Boleyn's daughter, the future Elizabeth I. After breaking with her mother Queen Katherine, Mary's father treated her in such a way that she was almost destroyed psychologically. Her health suffered, too; she endured a lifetime of migraines. It is beyond tragic that someone with a compassionate and altruistic nature like Mary, who truly wanted what was best for her people, is remembered primarily as a mass murderer. Like her grandmother Isabel of Castile, Mary's anti-heresy laws were invoked with the best intentions, but they made her subjects hate her. Mary saw it as sinful weakness to recoil from burning people at the stake, and so she sent more to be burned. Many of the so-called heretics were poor souls who had never been taught the genuine Catholic faith, and were merely rejecting the myths with which they had been indoctrinated by the Reformers. Her marriage to Philip of Spain was a disastrous mistake as well. The book provides so much background information that was new to me and is a must-read for any fan of the Tudor dynasty.
Queen of Martyrs by Samantha Wilcoxson

Mary I's adult life is fictionalized by Samantha Wilcoxson in an eloquent and heartbreaking novel. In spite of pressure from her brother Edward VI, Mary clung to the old Faith. Like many Catholics today, who often are the lone members of their families to practice their religion, Mary endured a great deal of isolation coupled with frustration. She was also a child of divorce, with all of the feelings of confusion and betrayal that people who come from a broken home often experience. She was not able to marry until her late thirties; motherhood was denied her, although twice she thought she was pregnant and displayed all the symptoms. She showed great love for her half-siblings Elizabeth and Edward, as well as for all of her stepmothers, except for Anne Boleyn. Her reign of five years, in which she tried to restore the Church in England, was marked by disappointment, failure, and tragedy. The novel focuses on her thwarted love for her husband Philip, as well as her relationship with her cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole. Mary Tudor is infamous because of the 277 people burned at the stake during her reign. Sadly, those horrible deaths, which occurred towards the end of her life, overshadow everything else. It was a tragic and bitter mistake; it did not lead people back to the Church. How could it have?

The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah

The Power of Silence is a new spiritual classic in the form of an interview with African Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of  the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, appointed by Pope Francis. The Cardinal shares the insights of a life of prayer and meditation with an emphasis on the need for silence in the modern world. From the Cardinal's knowledge of both Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Liturgy of the Roman rite, he shows the path  a soul must take to safeguard its intimacy with God and Christ. Each passage is so beautifully written it can be pondered again and again; it took me a long time to read the book for that reason. But then it is a book which is meant to be prayed rather than read. Share

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