by Alison Weir
While her mother was alive, Elizabeth Tudor was the apple of her father’s eye. Now that Anne Boleyn is dead, Elizabeth’s title of “princess” has been taken from her. Known as the Lady Elizabeth, she is removed from the line of succession and shuffled from one palace to the next. As the years pass, Elizabeth focuses on her education, and grows into an intelligent young lady. Her father’s constant turnover of wives teaches Elizabeth to be wary of men and marriage, but when she develops a crush on handsome Thomas Seymour, the young royal struggles to control her passion.
The Lady Elizabeth focuses on the early years of Elizabeth’s life, from her beginnings as a precocious toddler to her ascension to the throne of England. The formative years of Elizabeth’s adolescence are ripe for exploration, but most of the books I’ve read about her tend to glide quickly through them. But here, Weir explores Elizabeth’s relationships with each of Henry’s queens, her secret fascination with her mother (whom no one will speak to her about, for to do so is to risk the wrath of the king), and the growing divide between herself and Henry’s older daughter, Mary. In her governess, Kat Ashley, Elizabeth finds a surrogate mother, but blinded by her own ideas for Elizabeth’s future Kat’s advice is not always sound.
Elizabeth’s refusal to marry and insistence on becoming the “Virgin Queen” is well-known, and the cause for her unorthodox position is a source of much speculation. Weir creates a very traumatic event in the novel that convinces Elizabeth once and for all about the perils of allowing a man into a position of power over her. Weir admits in an author’s note that the incident is highly controversial, and if she were writing a biography she would have ignored it. But in a work of fiction, things that may have happened can be explored, and Weir takes advantage of that license to infuse even more drama into her tale.
Generally, I enjoyed the story. There are times when it’s not quite believable – “toddler” Elizabeth is far too mature for her age, even by Tudor standards – but overall I think Weir succeeds in charting out a course that could have led a pretty young girl with a passionate, even lustful nature to turn her back on marriage. I don’t know if Weir plans to write a sequel covering the years of Elizabeth’s reign, but if she does I look forward to reading it.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012: Romeo and Juliet
2011: Off to Ashland for a few days!
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: Vacation in Yosemite