In 1551 the population of England and Wales was a meagre three million and, more than in any other period of English history, patronage by the nobility, and particularly by the King, could infinitely transform the life of an educated and opportunistic young man.
In April 1551, the arrival of Lady Jane Grey, together with her parents and two sisters, to the family property, Shute House, offers Richard Stocker this precious opportunity. As a reward for courageously saving his daughters in a storm, Lord Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset, takes Richard into his employment. Richard embraces the rare chance he has awarded and ascends within the family to become the Duke’s personal secretary, encountering royalty along the way.
In 1553 Richard’s unwavering loyalty to the Grey family in tested when Lady Jane Grey is imprisoned in the Tower of London, having had her claim to the throne overturned by the ferociously Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor.
The book traces the impact on the life of an unassuming young man who gets caught up in a tide of religious and social conflict and a passionate and volatile romance.
Richard Stocker is an under steward for a small country estate owned by the Grey Family. One day they decide to come and stay at their new estate Shute House. Right before the family arrives, the cattle escape and as the under steward it is Richards job to round them up but of course it isn’t that simple. On the way back to the house the heavens open up and Richard gets drenched so Richard is in no state to met and greet the family. He goes in the Kitchen next to the big fireplace to dry off and there his life changes forever.
Richard describe the sea to the Grey Daughters and Catherine the middle daughter really wants to go see the sea so Lord Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset allows all three daughter to go with Richard. Once at the sea Richard soon realises that there is a big storm brewing and he must get the sister back home before any one gets hurt. On the way back they have to cross a small creek and he slowly guides Jane and Mary across the river but when it is time for Catherine to cross the creek has become more like a river and Catherine finds herself being pulled down the river but Richard saves the day and Catherine life and becomes a permanent back of the Grey household shortly after.
Richard soon finds himself taken in by Lord Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset, later Duke of Suffolk and becomes his Secretary. Which means he accompanies Lord Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset to King Edward the VI court and soon becomes very good friend with a close servant and friend to the King. Richard soon finds out that this friendship becomes more and more important as the Kings life draws to a close. Within the Grey household Richard falls in love with Catherine though they soon realise that no matter how high Richard moves up the ladder it will never be high enough for them to marry. He also develop a very strong and powerful friendship with Jane. Jane takes time to teach Richard many things about religion and languages and many other things. But it through Mary that Richard really learns how to behaviour and what is happening within the household, because while Mary may be the youngest and the smallest she has a very keen eye and notices everything and through this she is wise beyond her years.
Once the King dies everything changes within the Grey household. On his deathbed Edward nominated his Aunt, Frances Brandon who then pass the crown to her daughter Jane. And this is when everything falls about for poor Jane. Lady Jane never wanted to be Queen as far as she was concerned Edwards sister Mary was the rightful heir to the throne, but as was the way Lady Jane had no choice in the matter. She was told it was God will and she must accept. So Lady Jane takes Richard as part of her household because she knows that he will be honest with her and not treat her as the Queen but as Jane. We all know what happens next Mary takes her crown, keeps Lady Jane as a prisoner and is later forced to executed her because of The Duke of Northumberlands, Lady Jane’s father in law actions.
I really enjoyed this book, I found the fact it was told through a Male Point of View refreshing often Tudor novels are told through the women point of view which I also enjoyed, but haven’t it told through a male point of view gave an insight into the more political events and other male bonding events. Richard Stocker is also featured in a new novel by Edward Charles called Daughter of Doge and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for that one. The more I think about this novel the more I like it, I found the character relatable and really interesting even though I knew Lady Janes fate I kept hoping that some how I was wrong and everything would turn out ok. I have had a look around the author website and it shows that the novel was really well researched not only did he make sure that is was possible for the Grey family to be in Devon at the time but he also look into family in the area so while Richard is a fictional character the Stocker are a real farmer family who had a son called John the oldest and could have had many more children and also Richard friend Doctor Thomas Marwood was a real character. I think all of this research really shows and makes for an excellent read.