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A stunning account of Elizabeths earlier life
The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir
Member Name: thehonesttruth
The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir
I'm a huge fan of history - both factual books and historical fiction, but somehow Alison Weir passed under my radar somewhat. It wasn't until I saw this book, 'The Lady Elizabeth' on my mums coffee table and decided to borrow it that I'd read any of her works.
Having done a little research into her (love wikipedia!) I cans see that she has published numerous factual accounts of historical events, and that this book is her second foray into historical fiction .
This book covers Elizabeth's life from when she is three, and informed of her mothers execution by beheading on the charge of adultery, until the moment she learns that she is Queen . We therefore get a detailed account of her earlier life, a life that perhaps we don't know as much about, seeing as she was so rarely a figure at court .Before I go too much into the book, I'll point out that Alison Weir does mention she has used a fair bit of artistic licence in filling in some of the gaps of Elizabeth's younger years.
As mentioned, the book begins when Elizabeth is a mere toddler, and is written., at least at the start, in small sections that pop in and out of Elizabeths life at turning points in her childhood - her mothers death, her fathers many marriages (and seperations) after that, and her relationships with her elder sister Mary (daughter of Katherine of Aragon) and younger brother Edward. It also deals briefly with issues of faith, which of course were hotly debated at the time. At the start of the book, one of the things that utterly charmed me was small passages that allowed us into the mind of the young Elizabeth, giving us a chance to truly see her as a child with a lot going on around her that she wouldn't have understood . We get to see into her child mind, something we do not get with dry factual accounts, and I have to confess that in the earlier chapters of the book, I found myself giggling, especially at the following passage :
'Why would her father want to mount the French ladies ? That was what you did to horses - you mounted them .........she was too busy trying to imagine her father riding the French ladies,much as she would ride her hobby horse, round and round Calais. The images this conjured up made her giggle under her breath - adults did the silliest things!'
Its also nice to get a glimpse into Elizabeths early relationships with Kat Astley and Blanche Parry, characters who also have featured in many accounts of her older life that I have read . It really is refreshing to get an in depth glance into their characters , especially Kat who comes across as really quite silly and na´ve, yet genuinely caring towards Elizabeth.
As the book progresses, we also get brief introductions to all of Henrys wives, although the only ones that make a big impact on the story are Katherine Parr, and to a lesser extent, Anna of Cleves . Elizabeth's well documented flirtation with Thomas Seymour, the husband of Katherine Parr, is delved into in this story, although I do feel the certainly some guesswork has gone into this element of the story - not that this is a problem, as to be honest, nobody really knows what happened then!
We get to see the breakdown in relationship between Mary and Elizabeth over religious issues, and the way Elizabeth unfortunately had her name dragged through the mud with every plot against her sister - whether she was involved in these plots or not, she was certainly a rallying point for protestant England.
It's odd, but despite me knowing exactly how thing turn out at the end ( we all know Elizabeth got safely through her sisters reign and became Queen) the book still managed to be exciting and suspenseful - and that is the sign of a good historical writer, to keep you guessing in spite of your own knowledge . There were some unnecessary scenes in the book - whilst I felt the scenes with Elizabeth's mothers ghost were a bit far-fetched, they did add a certain amount of sentimental vulnerability to her character .
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book - the writing flowed effortlessly from one event to another, maturing as Elizabeth herself got older, and perfectly capturing the atmosphere of fear and tension in which Elizabeth must have lived most of her life. It was fast paced and exiting, without feeling rushed, and I couldn't put it down!
5 stars .
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