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The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir
Member Name: i_am_joy
The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir
Date: 24/10/08, updated on 24/10/08 (161 review reads)
Advantages: A compelling and interesting tale woven around the life of Lady Elizabeth
I am not the quickest reader in the world, but I found this novel so interesting and enthralling that I managed to get through this thick 483 page hardback in just under a week. I found myself dipping into it when I had a few minutes to spare, I read long and hard through the night and took it into the bath with me. I couldn't seem to put the book down.
The Lady Elizabeth tells the true story of Queen Elizabeth I from the point of the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn, when she was just three years old right up to the moment of her succession to the English throne following the death of her elder half sister the Queen Mary. What Alison Weir has done is cleverly picked out the pivotal moments in young Lady Elizabeth's life and based her story around these, giving a real voice to this extremely important English historical character.
I found Lady Elizabeth to be a very educated and clever woman; her intelligence was known throughout Europe in her lifetime and the author has made much of this in her story making the reader look upon this young princess with an element of awe. I doubt she would have survived her teenage years without her amazing wit and intelligence, certainly older and wiser people would have liked to have seen her face the same death as her mother and from this book I understand that it is only the fact that she was able to outwit them that she lived long enough to take her crown.
I felt myself warming to Lady Elizabeth right from the outset, and I think this was achieved because the first few pages dealt with her as a toddler with Princess Mary breaking the news of her mother's death. The child was so distraught and vulnerable that from here on in I felt she needed protecting as her fragility and loss is uncovered early on. I thought this was a clever move from Alison Weir as she gave her character real emotions so early on in the story that I could watch Elizabeth growing mentally as the book went along.
Princess Mary, later to become the fervent burner of Protestants resulting in the nickname Bloody Mary, features quite heavily in the book. As she becomes Queen roughly halfway through the story, much of Elizabeth's day to day life revolves around the whims and laws of a prematurely aging Queen who has led a miserable and pious existence since the ousting of her mother, Queen Catherine of Aragon, by Anne Boleyn.
Although Mary is kind and motherly to Elizabeth as a child, as she grows up and starts to assert her own authority as heir to the throne Mary begins to feel threatened by her more vibrant and much more desirable younger sister. This results in a long spell in seclusion both in the Tower, under constant threat of death, and at Woodstock House for the Lady Elizabeth. It is during these times that Alison Weir gathers our sympathy and grudging love for this piteous yet spirited young lady, I could feel her anger at being cooped up with snobbish Lords to keep an eye on her and sensed boredom in her every action.
I was surprised that the author made much of a suspected miscarriage that the Virgin Queen had aged 14 years; the child is widely believed to have been the result of a brief flirtation with Admiral Thomas Seymour, then husband to Queen Katherine Parr, and I found myself hating this dashing noble for his blatant misuse of Elizabeth at such a tender age. No-one is quite sure if Lady Elizabeth really did dishonour herself with the Admiral, but this miscarriage certainly added a depth of character to Elizabeth and shaped her later desire to remain unmarried and untouched by any man.
The relationship between the Lady Elizabeth and Kat Champernowne, later to become Kat Astley, was beautiful to read. That a high ranking noblewoman like Elizabeth should feel such warmth and love for her lowly governess was unheard of in those times, but these two women had a firm bond which stretched beyond friendship with Kat becoming almost a mother to the girl. She was determined from the outset to enlighten Elizabeth about her much admired mother, daring to inform the girl that common opinion was that Anne Boleyn was innocent of the crimes she was put to death for. This was traitorous talk in those tumultuous times so Kat showed great bravery and loyalty to Lady Elizabeth to discuss her mother in these kind terms.
I found this book to be dramatic, exciting and true to the events I am aware of really happening in the life of Lady Elizabeth. The author brought her to life for me and made me hope for the very best outcome for her, I found myself sympathising with her during a crisis and willing her on when it came to times of joy. Alison Weir writes extremely passionately about Elizabeth and has an rapport with this long dead woman that almost makes me believe I am reading about someone who lived much more recently.
Her vivid and colourful descriptions of the sumptuous royal palaces and stately homes are truly wonderful and I could picture the various players in this tale walking through the castle gardens, or winding their way to the scaffold for their imminent execution. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the dress of the time and again could picture Elizabeth in her maidenly white gown, while Mary dressed in the more ornate Catholic style with rich fabrics threaded through with hundreds of tiny precious stones.
I truth I cannot fault a single word in this novel. Alison Weir has fleshed out the myths surrounding Queen Elizabeth and produced a well rounded, unbiased and thoroughly enjoyable book.
I loved this book so much that despite borrowing it from the library I have just ordered myself a hardback copy from Waterstone's which cost a very reasonable £7.79. It will not only look fantastic on my bookcase but also I think will be a novel that I will refer to time and again.
Summary: One of the best historical Tudor novels I have read in a long time.
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