The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

I have read a couple of books about the life of Elizabeth I and I feel confident about many details about her background and her reign as Queen. This stems from a deep-set admiration for this incredible woman. She managed to rule England unmarried, without the rule of a man, in a man’s world on one of the most dangerous thrones in the world in one of the most dangerous periods in history. She never allowed men to rule her and she never allowed her destiny to rule to be taken from her. She showed incredible bravery when lesser men would have crumbled and, To me, she is undeniably the best monarch England and – argue if you will, I won’t budge from this – the rest of the world has ever had. Suffice to say, I love her. I cannot help but admire her and I can openly admit to happily stocking up on books about her – both fictional and non – in order to learn as much about this incredible woman as possible. This happened to be one of those novels.

The book opens with Elizabeth as but a small child and it briefly recounts important things that occur from her point of view. we see through Elizabeth’s eyes the change in the relationship of Henry with her mother, the day she famously commented on a gentleman’s changing of title from ‘Princess’ to ‘Lady’ toward her and how she copes with the eventual death of her mother. As she grows, she watches her father move through each of his wives and regards each as a new potential mother for herself. Her intelligence blooms and she comes to understand how beautiful she really is. Through her eyes, we watch Henry go from wife to wife and as each goes to her grave. We watch her build up a relationship with her older sister, Mary and come to love her younger brother Edward. After the death of her father, she lives under her younger brother who is now King and becomes embroiled in conspiracies because of one man’s selfish desires for her. As she grows, she becomes locked in an endless tide of being accused of treason and at every turn there is a threat of death for the wrong word here or the wrong word there. We watch, through her eyes, as she becomes wise, as she fears her life and as all of her hopes are seemingly taken from her and we watch as she becomes one of the most amazing women in history.

I was literally enthralled in this novel. I loved reading about Elizabeth I because of my sheer interest in her and her life. Weir has also brought a completely new type of novel to the table – to see Elizabeth’s world through her eyes rather than through a narrators as I have read in the past was unique and it allows for a much greater level of intimacy and understanding between Elizabeth and the reader. Though I am fully aware that this book is fictional, Weir based it on fact and through she invented some ideas or made some conspiracies or conversations more than they may or may not of been, it was nevertheless extremely interesting. Unfortunately, we cannot know every detail about Elizabeth’s life and thus we have to rely on historians to attempt and fill in the gaps. Though I believe some of the choices Weir has made for this novel are deliberately much more dramatic, I am aware of the mistakes or exaggerations but nevertheless, I don’t count this novel as fact, its entertainment. Watching the succession of members of Elizabeth’s family before her is very original – I knew little of her early life so it was refreshing to learn some accurate details even if some weren’t. Seeing things from her eyes from being but a child was new, original and that made it enjoyable. The only flaw in this novel is that it lulls a bit towards the end as little real action is occurring but considering its meant to be recounting history, I cannot really complain about that.  A brilliant novel which I would highly recommend reading.

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