Leanda de Lisle's ably executed biography of the unlucky Grey sisters starkly illuminates the perils of being a princess in sixteenth-century England. Although at the time few people disputed that it was undesirable for a woman to rule the kingdom, the Tudor dynasty's dearth of male heirs meant that these three great-nieces of Henry VIII were candidates for the throne. In an age when ferocious power struggles were envenomed further by religious animosities and uncertainty surrounding the succession, they were, perhaps predictably, destined for destruction.
The eldest of the three, Lady Jane Grey, is the most famous. At the age of just sixteen she was proclaimed Queen in preference to Henry VIII's daughters, only to be deposed nine days later and condemned to death as a usurper. Within months she was beheaded, along with her