In the US, the book is now published as The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"
This book dispels many popular conceptions about Mary Tudor, the first woman to rule England in her own right. It reveals the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon as a cultured renaissance princess, proud of her dual Tudor and Habsburg heritage. Educated to be a queen, her vision of England and its place in Europe has long been misunderstood. The Mary Tudor who emerges is a courageous survivor of the violent power struggles that characterised the reigns of her father, Henry VIII and brother, Edward VI. She learned politics in a hard school and, far from being easily-led, had a strong will and a noble vision for her country as a key player in a revitalised Catholic Europe. Her own personal religion was a straightforward but deeply-rooted observance of the traditional Catholic Mass. The burning of heretics, still the only aspect of her life that is well-known, met with little criticism at the time. The epithet "Bloody Mary" was coined well after her death by Elizabethan propagandists.
The real Mary Tudor had many endearing personal qualities and talents. She was a competent Latin scholar and outstandingly talented musician. Her love of dancing was matched by a keen eye for the latest fashions and the sumptuous clothes that went with them. Only gambling was, for her, a greater passion. But Mary was not merely frivolous. She was a caring employer and loyal friend. Until the end of her father's reign, when circumstances and intrigue drove them apart, she was a loving sister to Edward and Elizabeth. An important aspect of the book is its exploration of her relationship with Elizabeth, with her Spanish husband, Philip, and with the other major figures of a colourful, violent age. Her reign was short but significant, and not just for the well-known aspects such as the execution of Lady Jane Grey and the loss of Calais to the French.
Her successes foreshadowed the achievements generally associated with Elizabeth. She encouraged commerce and exploration, overhauled the tax system and saved England's navy from rotting in the country's ports. Had she lived longer, she might have achieved still more. Only her premature death, at the age of 42 made it easy for her critics to represent her reign as an aberration. Still the most maligned and misunderstood of any English monarch, the book restores the reputation of a brave but often unhappy queen who chose the supremely ironic motto "Truth, the daughter of time."