Raven Queen by Pauline Francis
Raven Queen tells the tragic, true story of Lady Jane Grey, who’s life was cut short when she was just sixteen years old, from her beatings from her parents, to getting betrothed and married to Guildford, falling in love with her soul-mate, Ned, and eventually becoming Queen before Queen Mary took the throne after. Then, if follows her right up to her death, from Ned’s point of view.
I have always felt sorry for Jane – no one deserved to be beheaded, especially for not having committed a crime, and not for one so young. I liked Pauline Francis’ version of Jane – the spirited, witty girl, with a very devout love to her God. I am not a religious person myself too much – I do not know what I believe – but Jane’s love has showed me even more how and why religious people believe, and how much they will do for their love. Although the idea of loving a God that much scares me a bit, I think that it is divine to have someone whom people think they are looking out for them.
As the title suggests, ravens play a part in Raven Queen. At the start of the book, Jane saves a raven who is caught in a trap; ravens peck at the dead outside Traitor’s Gate; and, right at the end, not one raven comes to peck at Jane. Ravens are often thought of in bad luck and death, and I think that this book changed that – they are just birds, trying to survive, much like the rest of us.
Jane’s relationship with Ned was a heartfelt one – she loved him, but not his faith, as he was Catholic whereas she Protestant. But still, she loved him, and he her, more than his own faith. Their love was there until her death day, and I think that their love was a really astounding one.
The cruelty of Jane’s parents made me feel sorry for her – they were cruel, whipping her when she simply disagreed, and they gave her to Guildford when her greatest fear was being Queen. I do not know any parents who would do such a thing, and the idea of it scares me.
Jane knew – in the book, at least – that becoming Queen would ‘bring [her] to [her] knees’. Although she was young, she was not naïve, and I admired her for that. She was brilliant, really intelligent, and her teacher, Doctor Aylmer, was brilliant also, helping her with her studies and overcoming the shock of finding out Ned’s faith.
And the plot twist at the end – in which we discover that Ned is, in fact, the executioner for Lady Jane – nearly made me cry. Jane’s biggest fear of being executed was how many blows it would take for her head to be off – she was terrified of a botched death. And Ned knew that the final gift he could give her would be having a clean death, with one, simple swipe of the axe. Although it would be taking his one love’s life, it would also being saving her from a painful death, and I think that that is a great love – for, if you cannot be together in life, but one must die, you should live for the lost love.
Finally, I found the dual point of view very interesting – how Jane’s side of the story was told in past tense, whereas Ned’s in present. It brought even more feeling into the story, how Jane had written it down before she died she that she may be remembered as more than just a line, whereas Ned was still alive. However, I thought that, right at the end, when Jane says, “One day, I may just be sentence in a history book,” it was a bit much. I understand Pauline’s reasoning for writing this book, but I do not think that Jane would have said that, and it made it a bit cheesy, whereas the rest of the book had been brilliant. On the other hand, this is just a line, and I felt that the rest made up for it.
Overall, I really enjoyed Raven Queen. It has made me think, and I know that Lady Jane Grey and her fictional Ned will stay with me for a long time.