Thomasin Drew was 13 years old when she went to stay with her uncle in the country. This is where she first meets a young Lady Elizabeth, the daughter of King Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn. Befriending Lady Elizabeth sets Thomasin on a path that she will follow the rest of her life, that of friend, confidant and attendant to a royal. Lady Elizabeth would one day become Queen Elizabeth I, the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. In this piece of historical fiction as told by Thomasin, we get an up close and personal view of Queen Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth was born a princess but when her mother was beheaded by the King, she was declared illegitimate and sent away. Cast off and out of favor, she lived with her stepmother, Catherine Parr. This is the time period when Thomasin first encounters Elizabeth. She describes Elizabeth as a person who often found the world to be enchanting and full of excitement. But beneath her smiling and giggling exterior she was often a sad and lonely person. She had no true friends until she met the forthright Thomasin. Thomasin could always be relied on not to flatter and fawn over her as others did.
Maureen Peters skims through the years of young Elizabeth’s life leading up to her reign. Her father, King Henry VIII had taken a total of six wives, creating quite a stir and leaving behind many potential successors to the throne. The years that lead up to Elizabeth’s succession to the throne were often turbulent, filled with religious conflict, wars, beheadings and political maneuvering. King Henry VIII had designated his 9 year-old son, Prince Edward, the son of former wife Jane Seymour, to be his successor. King Edward VI’s reign ended after only 6 years due to a fatal illness. Though he attempted to have his half sister Mary removed as his successor, she seized the throne from the proclaimed Queen, Lady Jane Grey after only 9 days. Queen Mary I was crowned in 1547 and would rule 5 years. The stiffly Roman Catholic Queen would become known as Bloody Mary due to her many executions of Protestants. When Queen Mary becomes pregnant, Lady Elizabeth is called to her side to attend her. However, the pregnancy is a false alarm and as it turns out Queen Mary is actually dying, and so the Elizabethan era begins.
This is the core of the story. Yes, politics and the realm are a big part of Elizabeth’s story but what about the story behind the scenes? Why didn’t Elizabeth ever marry? Elizabeth’s story is oftentimes a sad and heartbreaking one. She seemed to be full of exuberance for life yet unable to live it. She had many men try to woo her but unable to marry for love, she could not bear to marry at all, and she died being known as “The Virgin Queen.” Every overture made toward Elizabeth was possibly tainted, whether with fear or betrayal. Her siblings, cousins and all those surrounding her could not be trusted, for there was an ever present threat that they might try to usurp her throne. Elizabeth had to rule with her head instead of her heart and she has gone down in history as a powerful and politically savvy monarch who managed to rule for almost 50 years. Many of the facts surrounding her reign are skimmed over here with the story concentrating primarily on Elizabeth’s many dramatic moods, her strong determination, her trials with love and friendship and her inner qualms over her decision to imprison her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. This is what might have been a side of Elizabeth I that the public never got to see. It’s a fascinating and decidedly human side, filled with tragedy, yet spoken with the tenderness of a longtime companion.
I want to thank the publisher (Endeavor Press) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.