Book Review: Queen of Martyrs by Samantha Wilcoxson

Jane Seymour (24)

Author Samantha Wilcoxson recently released the third and final installment of her Plantagenet Embers series with “Queen of Martyrs – The Story of Mary I” and it is a marvelous representation of the lady that will go down in history (whether unfairly) as “Bloody Mary”.


Here is a brief synopsis of the book from its Amazon page:

God save the Queen! God save our good Queen Mary!’

When these words rang out over England, Mary Tudor thought her troubles were over. She could put her painful past – the loss of her mother and mistreatment at the hands of her father – behind her.

With her accession to the throne, Mary set out to restore Catholicism in England and find the love of a husband that she had long desired. But the tragedies in Mary’s life were far from over. How did a gentle, pious woman become known as ‘Bloody Mary’?

The thing I enjoyed the most from this book was that Wilcoxson made Mary a real person through her story telling. This book doesn’t focus on Mary being a victim as we are so accustomed to reading. It shows a strength and naivety in Mary that makes her as human as you and I.

From young on Mary had an extreme desire to be loved and to be close with her family.

While her brother Edward was king of England Mary felt like a young mother to her even younger brother. She felt a need to protect Edward from those around him. Unfortunately, Mary’s visits with her brother eventually became few and far between when those closest to him discovered that the young king respected the opinion of his Catholic sister.

Not long before the death of Edward Mary paid visit to her cousin Lady Jane Grey – the former ward of Thomas Seymour and his wife dowager queen, Katherine Parr. Both Mary and Jane had spent time in the home of Katherine at Chelsea and had shared memories of a great lady who treated them fairly. Mary felt that Katherine had treated her so well that when she discovered that Katherine’s funeral was done in the new faith she felt betrayed by her step-mother. However, visiting with Jane allowed Mary to share memories her happy memories of Katherine with her.

Sadly, unbeknownst to Mary, Edward has declared Lady Jane Grey as his heir. This surprise was told to Mary by Jane’s mother ?(and Mary’s cousin), Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk.

The story continues showing Mary as a merciful queen. Not only did she attempt to spare Jane twice but she also publicly ?pardoned hundreds of men who rose up against her in Wyatt’s Rebellion. ?Regrettably, Jane’s father fought against the queen which cost him, his daughter and son in law their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about Mary Tudor and the workings of the Tudor court. I cannot say enough nice things about this book.

Five out of Five Stars!


About the Author:

Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer with British roots. When she is not reading or travelling, she enjoys spending time at the lake with her husband and three teenagers.

The Plantagenet Embers series debuted with ‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York’. It has been selected as an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society and long-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award.

‘Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole’ is the second novel in the trilogy, continuing the story of the Plantagenet remnant in Tudor times. This novel has received 5-stars from Readers’ Favorite and a Discovering Diamond award.

The recently released final installment in Plantagenet Embers, Queen of Martyrs, features Queen Mary I and her story of the counter-reformation in England.








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Mary and Reginald: What could have been?

Guest post by Samantha Wilcoxson for Tudors Dynasty

Queen Mary I has gone down in history as ‘Bloody Mary’ thanks to her persecution of Protestants and rebellions against her choice of husband. We may think that marrying the man of her choice is the lesser crime through our modern worldview, but sixteenth century Englishmen were far more concerned about having a Spanish ruler than returning to Catholicism. What if Mary had made a different choice?

When Mary became queen, one of the first issues that she was required to address was her marriage. Though several betrothals had come and gone throughout her thirty-seven years of life, neither her father nor her brother had wished to legitimize her position by giving her a spouse. Finally, the decision was up to Mary herself. She chose Prince Philip of Spain, which turned out to be a disaster.

Philip was the son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and nephew of Catherine of Aragon. The family connection and shared faith made the match desirable to Mary, and she refused to listen to any advice to the contrary. She was warned that people would not accept Spanish rule, but Mary insisted that she herself would rule England and the child she was hoping to bear would follow her.

Of course, Mary failed to bear an heir and Philip led English troops against the French, just as had been feared. Mary had lacked the foresight and political acumen to discern how poor of a choice Philip was for her. But who else could she have chosen?

One popular candidate for Mary’s hand was Edward Courtenay. This York cousin had been imprisoned since the Exeter Conspiracy of 1538 but was released upon Mary’s accession in 1553. Mary was hesitant to marry a man who had spent his formative years in prison and was a decade younger than herself regardless of how much Bishop Gardiner, who had been imprisoned at the same time, encouraged the match. Courtenay was found flitting around the edges of conspiracy often enough to be sent away to Padua where he died in 1556.

Another possible suitor was brought from Italy to assist with Mary’s counter-reformation. Cardinal Reginald Pole was another distant cousin of Mary’s on the York side of the family. His mother, Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury, had been Mary’s governess and a close friend of Catherine of Aragon. The mothers had proposed that the two be betrothed when they were much younger, but Henry had not been interested in making the match. He had likely seen the pairing as too much of a threat to his son’s rule, but, with Edward dead, Reginald could have been the ideal choice.

Had Mary been wed to Reginald, the counter-reformation could have gone on much as it had, but without the sideshow of rebellions against Spanish rule. Englishmen expected Mary to return her kingdom to the old faith and rid it of heretics. They would have known it when they supported her against Lady Jane Grey, but they had not expected her to marry a foreigner. With Reginald at her side instead of Philip, the 284 burnings would have been a footnote in history, no more notable than actions taking place throughout Europe as rulers struggled to cope with the Reformation.

That being said, it may be assuming that history would change too much because of one wedding instead of another to say that Mary could have born a son with Reginald as she failed to do with Philip. Instead, the couple likely would have died childless, and still on the same day, November 17, 1558. England would have been saved events such as Wyatt’s Rebellion but would still see the accession of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. Sometimes, there is no way of avoiding fate.

About the Author:

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Samantha Wilcoxson is the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, she lives in Michigan with her husband and three teenagers. She lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. You can connect with Samantha at or on Twitter @Carpe_Librum.

Purchase her newest book, Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I (Plantagenet Embers Book 3) on

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