One of the few women to sway the iron will of Henry VIII is his sister, Mary Rose, whom he holds most dear. Mary displays the same Tudor arrogance and singleness of purpose that defines Henry’s early personality, the siblings in love with their own beauty and place in history.
A virile, handsome young man on the cusp of claiming the throne from an ailing father, Henry’s best friend and jousting partner since youth is the equally impressive Charles Brandon. The three form a triumvirate of youthful exuberance.
By the age of sixteen, Mary balks at her betrothal to Charles of Castile, a boy younger than herself, her life increasingly complicated when she falls in love with the charming Brandon, who is always at her brother’s side.
Both are spoiled, accomplished and beautiful, but even Mary senses the danger in her infatuation with Charles Brandon. Unfortunately, love respects no such logical restrictions; when Mary realizes Charles is equally enamored, she is determined to make him her husband, first manipulating the dissolution of her betrothal to Charles of Castile.
Recently crowned king, when Henry learns of planned Spanish treachery, he breaks off Mary’s betrothal to Charles of Castile, setting plans in motion to marry his sister to the ageing Louis XII of France, binding the two countries together in alliance against Spain.
Having recently noted Mary’s attentions to Brandon, Henry will not be dissuaded, no matter how much Mary begs: “I would give up all… if I could leave the court with the man I love.” Promising his sister freedom of choice in her next marriage, Henry cajoles Mary into agreement.
The die is cast, Mary sailing into the longing arms of an old man grasping at an opportunity to beget an heir. In France, Mary is attended by the charming and handsome Duc de Valois, the Dauphin in line for the throne should Louis die without issue from his new bride. Francois captures the new queen’s interest and she indulges in a merry, if dangerous, flirtation while wed to Louis.
Upon Louis’ death, both Henry and Francois are busy making plans for Mary’s next marriage, but she is determined to wrest her future into her own hands, luring Francois, now King of France, to her cause. With his aid, Mary secretly weds Charles Brandon, the newlyweds returning to England to face Henry’s wrath.
Over the years the strong-willed Tudor brother and sister face off in a battle of wills, but Henry has become an unpredictable despot, finally distracted by his quest for a healthy male heir.
Perhaps the last woman to charm the increasingly irascible king, even the former Queen of France quakes at his demeanor, the young, exuberant Henry of memory disappearing only to be replaced by a petulant, demanding bully who will have his way no matter the cost to the women in his life, beloved sister forgotten along with all the rest.