Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

From the dust jacket: Acclaimed historian and New York Times bestselling author Alison Weir turns her masterly storytelling skills to the early life of young Elizabeth Tudor, who would grow up to become England’s most intriguing and powerful queen.

Even at age two, Elizabeth is keenly aware that people in the court of her father, King Henry VIII, have stopped referring to her as “Lady Princess” and now call her “the Lady Elizabeth.” Before she is three, she learns of the tragic fate that has befallen her mother, the enigmatic and seductive Anne Boleyn, and that she herself has been declared illegitimate, an injustice that will haunt her.

What comes next is a succession of stepmothers, bringing with them glimpses of love, fleeting security, tempestuous conflict, and tragedy. The death of her father puts the teenage Elizabeth in greater peril, leaving her at the mercy of ambitious and unscrupulous men. Like her mother two decades earlier she is imprisoned in the Tower of London–and fears she will also meet her mother’s grisly end. Power-driven politics, private scandal and public gossip, a disputed succession, and the grievous example of her sister, “Bloody” Queen Mary, all cement Elizabeth’s resolve in matters of statecraft and love, and set the stage for her transformation into the iconic Virgin Queen.

This book was another pick for the Facebook historical Fiction book club moderated by Jennifer from the Literate Housewife. I enjoyed the book. I imagine each of Henry's wives is probably interesting enough to merit their own books but I would never have the patience to read that many so this provided an interesting overview of the procession of wives! One of the more fascinating parts for me was the way the Queens each handled their straying husbands - first the Queen with the Admiral and then later Mary with Philip. That resignation to their husbands' straying seems so incongruent to their position of power. I would have liked a little more of Robert Dudley - he was a character that I liked. And, grimly enough I would have liked to have heard in more detail about the carnage that provoked the nickname "Bloody Mary".

I was startled that the book ended when it did. I assumed it would proceed through Elizabeth's reign. Because I am such a historical fiction novice, I have no idea what happened! I guess I'll have to Google it. And I did think the toddler Elizabeth age 2-3 years old was too precocious. But the author in the notes at the end assures that some of the quotes are factual - attributed to the young Elizabeth - so she must have been amazing for her age.


Jenny said...

I too, wanted more Robert Dudley!!! Alison Weir wrote a fantastic biography if Henry's wives called The Six Wives of Henry the VIII. It is fantastic. It reads like her fictional work and is a breeze to make it through. It gives a lot more detail than "The Lady Elizabeth", especially about the reign of Bloody Mary. If you want more historical fiction about this era, check out Weir's other historical fiction work, The Innocent Traitor. Also, Phillipa Gregory has an entire series of historical fiction novels focused on the Tudors. They are all wonderful, some of my favorites.

Beth F said...

I liked this one too. I wished we had more of Robert Dudley, but the book stopped too soon!