The Waiting Game: The Untold Story of the Women Who Served the Tudor Queens by Nicola Clark - review by Suzannah Lipscomb

Suzannah Lipscomb

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The Waiting Game: The Untold Story of the Women Who Served the Tudor Queens


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 380pp £22

‘This is not a land to stop in unless necessary,’ María de Salinas, a gentlewoman in the service of Princess Katherine of Aragon, wrote to her brother-in-law. It was 8 March, probably 1507 or 1508. Prince Arthur had died some years earlier and Katherine was now a widow, kept in gilded penury by Henry VII. ‘I want my departure so much,’ María added. She could not bear to contemplate the joy of returning home since ‘I cannot receive it except as a mockery’. ‘I am as Spanish as the first day I came to this land,’ she insisted in another letter. But there was a problem: ‘the princess is not yet married, nor do we know when.’ And so María waited.

In fact, even after Katherine married Henry VII’s successor, María remained in England. In 1516, she married one of Henry VIII’s barons, William, Lord Willoughby de Eresby. Through their daughter, Katherine, who married the first Duke of Suffolk, María eventually became step-great-grandmother to a queen of England (albeit a disputed one), Lady Jane Grey.

María is one of the many figures brought out of the shadows of the Tudor court and into the light in Nicola Clark’s The Waiting Game. As the subtitle indicates, the book’s subjects are the women ‘who served the Tudor queens’ or, more precisely, Henry VIII’s queens consort. Ladies-in-waiting are

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