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*** The Author ***
This is the 10th book in Jean Plaidy's Tudor series. There are over 100 historical fiction books written by Eleanor Burford using this pen name. Other pseudonyms she used included Victoria Holt, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Ellalice Tate, Anna Percival and Philippa Carr. She used different names for varying styles of novels.
*** The Dudley Family Background ***
The book opens with the crowds at Tower Hill shouting for the death of extortionists. King Henry VII, whose people thought him a miser that imposed cruel taxes, is dead, and they are hopeful of better times now Henry VIII has succeeded him.
The young king has condemned some of those loyal to his father. This includes Edmund Dudley, who from a humble start, rose to become Henry VII's chief advisor.
Edmund was the grandfather of the man in this book's title. Edmund's son, John Dudley, aged 9, was among the crowds at Tower Hill the day his father was executed.
We then briefly learn more about the Dudley family history, which prospered or declined, depending on the mood of the reigning monarch, until Robert was born in 1532.
The detailed tale then begins, and continues until after the 1558 Spanish Armada.
*** Robert and Elizabeth ***
Although this book is titled Lord Robert, it is as much about Elizabeth Tudor as it is Robert Dudley, as their lives were interwoven from a young age.
Robert played with Elizabeth (who was just one year younger than him), her sister, brother and cousins in the royal nursery. Then as young adults, they were both imprisoned in the Tower of London, under the orders of her sister, Queen Mary I.
Although they were in two different parts of the Tower, captive for different reasons, this book suggests that they did see each other, when the opportunity permitted. These meetings are the first disputed fact that I have noticed in any of the many Jean Plaidy historical novels that I have read.
Their relationship waxes and wanes through political and religious conflict, possible alliances through marriage, and uprisings that threaten the throne.
The very different sides of Elizabeth's character are clearly shown. Her weaknesses regarding her personal likes and dislikes as an individual, contrasting greatly to the person she becomes when she looks at the world through her Queen's eyes.
William Cecil's constant wisdom through all these events is always available to Elizabeth. On some things these two important men in her life agree and in others they don't, but when it comes to the crunch she knows which one of them is the wisest.
*** TWO Sisters called Mary? ***
At one point there seemed to be one too many Marys in the plot. There was only two, but Elizabeth called both "sister". The first Mary was indeed her half-sister and became Queen Mary I of England.
The second Mary became Queen of Scots. As she was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's older sister, she was Elizabeth's cousin. I think that the author should not have assumed the reader knew the genealogy of the English and Scots royal families and therefore explained the family relationship.
However, it seems that it was the custom for monarchs to call other monarchs brother or sister.
*** Alternative ***
If you are already familiar with much of the relationship between Robert Dudley and his Queen, and want to explore possible alternative twists to the gaps in the historical facts, you will probably appreciate Philippa Gregory's The Virgin's Lover more. I think this alternative is slightly better than the Jean Plaidy version and a five star read.
I would, however, recommend that you read Jean Plaidy's version, or something else based on accepted historical facts, before you read The Virgin's Lover, which only covers two controversial years in detail.
*** Relevant Places to Visit ***
This novel tells the story of Robert Dudley's varied life, including imprisonment in the Tower of London and entertaining Queen Elizabeth I in his grand home at Kenilworth Castle (Warwickshire).
I have enjoyed visiting both of these properties, so this added another dimension to the tale for me
My most recent visit was to Kenilworth last month, where the recently restored Tudor gardens are now a great draw, after being the subject of a TV programme about English Heritage. The rest of the estate is now mostly in ruins, but there is also a tower preserved well enough to hire for special occasions such as weddings.
*** Recommendation ***
While this book is reasonably well written, it is not up to the author's highest standard, as found in her Queen Victoria series.
Read this novel if you would like a comparatively easy read, mostly based on fact, about the intertwined lives of Elizabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley, showing how the bond between them developed.
However, if you already know the accepted facts about this relationship, you may, like me, find Philippa Gregory's novel, The Virgin's Lover, a more interesting, 5 star read.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New edition (7 Jun 2007)