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"We are two of a kind, Bessy. We do our duty against our greater desires."

  • Apr 28, 2008
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The imperious Elizabeth Tudor intuits her destiny long before the crown is delivered to her hands in 1558. In 1536, the tiny red-haired princess is but three years old, already acutely aware that she is her father's beloved daughter. As step-sister to Mary, daughter of Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, Elizabeth is much like her own intelligent, curious and driven mother, Anne Boleyn. Through separated by a number of years, the half-sisters retain an affectionate relationship; but with the birth of Edward, Henry's son by Jane Seymour, a gradual rift develops that is exacerbated by various court factions that view one sister as a threat to the other. Suffering a constant procession of step-mothers, Elizabeth relies of her father's affection, emotionally devastated by his death. Addressing these seminal years in Elizabeth's development, Weir delves deeply into her psychological makeup, both sisters destined to rule England, but divided by Mary's fanatical devotion to the Catholic cause and Elizabeth's refusal to stray from the tenets of the Reformed faith.

The author describes a child attuned to the dangers of court life, frequently chastened by her changing fortunes, sometimes nearly undone by an uncertain fate and no one to trust, save a few loyal souls. Surviving this crucible of uncertainty, Elizabeth develops a second sense for the particular dangers of her position as third heir to the throne after Edward. Joining in like cause when they are illegitimized after Edward's birth, the emotional ties between the sisters are as profound as they are disturbing, veering from deep affection to threat, depending on the circumstances in the court. Elizabeth's unique sense of self-preservation is honed during these years. After Edward's death and Mary's coronation, the new queen forcefully reinstates her religion, fortified by a marriage to Philip of Spain. Elizabeth barely escapes the ambitious plans of those who would unseat Mary in Elizabeth's name, religion once more thrusting England into turmoil, Mary determined to validate Katherine of Aragon's belief in the True Faith. Again and again their fierce wills collide, Elizabeth's subtle responses to her sister's bullying rebuffed by a thwarted Mary.

Certainly, Elizabeth can be forgiven a thoughtless plunge into romance, albeit with the dashing husband of her benefactress, Henry's last queen, Katherine Parr. The older, sophisticated Thomas is irresistible to a girl on the cusp of womanhood. Once more Elizabeth receives a lesson in treachery, paying dearly for her brief flirtation with the passions of the heart. By the time Mary dies and Elizabeth embraces her destiny, it is abundantly clear that her whole life has been in preparation for this great challenge. Weir's portrayal of this child who lives for a time in the glow of her father's love, only to be cast aside by circumstances, who learns early the danger of ambitious men and their schemes, who loves injudiciously and suffers the consequences of her actions, is amazingly insightful. A foreshadowing of the monarch she is to become, the Lady Elizabeth cuts her baby teeth on court intrigue and survives impossible obstacles to embrace her fate. Luan Gaines/ 2008.

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More The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel reviews
review by . June 16, 2008
The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir begins with a not quite three year old Elizabeth being told by her older sister Mary that Elizabeth's mother is dead at the hands of their father, the King. This shattering event becomes a shadow that will hang over Elizabeth throughout her life and shape the wily young woman and future queen that she will become.     Ms. Weir takes us through Elizabeth's life from the time of the death of her mother, Anne Boleyn, until the day she ascends the …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #110
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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Weir (Innocent Traitor) lends her considerable historical knowledge to the early years of England's famous queen in this absorbing second novel. The tale chronicles the life of Elizabeth I from her early childhood to her coronation, through the final years of her father, Henry VIII, and the brief reigns of her siblings, Edward VI and Queen Mary. Renowned for her "mercurial temperament" and "formidable intelligence," in Weir's account Elizabeth spends her childhood shuttling between royal estates and preparing for life as a "great lady" after she is stripped of her position as successor to the British throne following the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. As Elizabeth grows, her progressive views on women's roles, religion, and politics take shape-including her legendary vow never to marry, forged through observation of others' relationships as well as a painful first-hand brush with romance at age fourteen. Weir's Elizabeth is nuanced and enchanting, and the author lends a refreshing perspective to well-known characters and events in British history, such as the fates of her father's six wives and the brief reign of Lady Jane Grey, the subject of her first historical novel. History buffs will enjoy this entertaining look into the rarely explored early life of one of England's most fascinating characters.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0345495357
ISBN-13: 978-0345495358
Author: Alison Weir
Publisher: Ballantine Books

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