Lady Jane Grey embraces Faith Cook’s wish to “sift fact from fiction and present a sympathetic though realistic assessment of Lady Jane’s personality and the events of her life” (10). Lady Jane Grey is considered a Protestant saint who was highly educated and who wholeheartedly rejected Catholicism for the Protestant faith during the Reformation. Cook’s book details the sad facts of Lady Jane’s life, depicting how the young girl was coerced into a plot for the throne after the death of Edward VI. Cook’s main premise for her book is to vividly demonstrate the ardent faith of a young sixteen-year-old girl who paid the ultimate price for her faith and heritage.
Faith Cook defends her thesis very well. She weaves the story of Lady Jane’s life in such a way that the reader is compelled to feel sympathetic toward the young queen. The evidence for this version of Lady Jane’s life is strong and thorough in its presentation. Cook demonstrates the strong Christian faith that the young Lady Jane had through her extensive correspondence to Protestant reformers and her own devotional reading. Cook includes multiple excerpts from Lady Jane’s own letters and journal entries. Lady Jane’s entire doctrinal debate with Queen Mary’s priest, Dr. John Feckenham, is also included as evidence for her Christian faith. The book is both a historical and spiritual work.
Faith Cook adequately develops her thesis. She opens the book by explaining the historical era into which Lady Jane was born. The specific influence of Erasmus and Tyndale’s Bible translations is detailed, as well as the beginning trends of the English Reformation. Cook continues the story by noting the background of Lady Jane’s family and their ties to Henry VIII, showing how Lady Jane was fourth in line for the throne. Lady Jane’s life is skillfully narrated through her unusual childhood education, her forced marriage into the Dudley family, the horrible plot which gained her the throne but left her friendless, and then her tragic death at the hand of Queen Mary. Cook finishes the book by telling how each member of Lady Jane’s family died in disgrace throughout Mary’s reign and the opening days of Elizabeth. The faith of Lady Jane Grey can be clearly seen throughout the whole story of her life.
Faith Cook supports her thesis satisfactorily. About two-thirds of the book discusses the historical events surrounding Lady Jane’s lifetime while the remaining third details the specifics of the young girl’s life. The book draws an emotional appeal for readers as they read the sad tale of a young girl who is victimized by the political leaders of her day. The telling of Lady Jane’s story is inspiring and convincing, and it gives a realistic view of her struggles and steadfastness in her faith.
The appendices of the book are excellent. Faith Cook includes a family tree with a detailed explanation of how each individual is connected. She also adds the full debate between Lady Jane and Dr. John Feckenham as well as Lady Jane’s final letter to her sister and her dying prayer.
The quality of research for the book is lacking. Cook admits in her preface that she relied heavily on only her local library to secure out of print books for study. She also confesses to using the history she learned at Bradgate Park which was Lady Jane’s ancestral home, but a study of historiography would prove to any historian that park histories are normally very biased and sometimes incorrect. Cook’s bibliography for this book includes only thirty works; the best biographies will include over a hundred works.
Faith Cook is a fair author but not remarkable or even really good. Because she struggles to incorporate all of the facts together, the book seems to be illogical at times. Cook starts with Lady Jane’s background, but she jumps back and forth between past events and present day views in an awkward manner. Some of the historical facts which Cook includes are insignificant for this biography and are not necessary since the facts are not fully developed or incorporated. Because of these unnecessary historical facts, Cook ends up skipping back and forth between Lady Jane’s personal life and the historical events surrounding her at the time.
The layout and typography of the book is inadequate by modern standards. The book has many pictures, but their layout is poorly arranged. The main font is distracting since it is more cursive in style. The inserted texts and picture captions are a sans-serif font in even bigger print. The resulting effect is jarring to the eyes. Overall the book has too much frilliness to it. A simpler style would be more appealing, especially to male readers. The book is currently appropriate for only female high school readers since few teenage boys would care to read it. A revision of this book would be appreciated.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Cook, Faith. Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England. Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2004.