Margaret George writes about Queen Elizabeth I of England and the last years of her reign.
I think most people are aware that Elizabeth’s father was Henry VIII and the tumultuous going’s on that preceded and then ushered in her reign. But fewer are aware of what happened during the later years of her life.
The last years were still exciting and dangerous, filled with invading Spanish armadas (more than one) and power hungry lords. That’s what this book is all about.
I confess: I am a major fan of both Elizabeth I and Margaret George.
“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble women, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and of a king of England, too- and think it foul scorn that Parma or any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm.” pg 41.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Westminster Abbey and seeing the tomb of Elizabeth I. The crowds were such that I couldn’t linger by the effigy but was forced into constant motion, rushed past.
I burst into tears as I exited the area of the church that contained her tomb and I was completely overcome with emotion. My husband led me through the throng again, just so I could spend a moment more near one of my favorite historical figures.
What do I love about Elizabeth I? Let me count the ways!
First of all, she insisted that she was a ruler in her own right, not because she was married to a royal. Elizabeth used the game of courtship to increase her power. That’s hard core.
“Francois had been my last, and in many ways my only, serious marriage possibility. I had been wooed by twenty-five foreign suitors over the years. I never intended to marry any of them, but it was my best tool of diplomacy.” pg 72.
Second, she smart with her power rather than greedy. She navigated a world in which she had few allies because of her religion. And she never accepted defeat. “For my own part, I swear that my heart has never known what fear is. In ambition of glory I never sought to enlarge the territories of my land. If I have used my forces to keep the enemy from you, I have thereby done it for your safety, and to keep dangers at bay.” pg 145.
She was well-learned, charismatic and always knew what to say in public situations.
“It is not possible to see a woman of so fine and vigorous a disposition both in mind and in body. One cay say nothing to her on which she will not make an apt comment. She is a great princess who knows everything.” pg 363.
And finally, she was honest and true to the end of her life to the responsibility of leading her country. Elizabeth I loved her people.
“There will never queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects, and that will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety, than myself. … And though you have had and may have many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had or shall have any that will love you better.” pg 608.
My quibble with this book was not with the research or the story, which were both fine in my opinion. It was the fact that George split the narrative- most of the chapters are told from Elizabeth’s point of view, but some are from Lettice’s point of view, the mother of Robert Devereux.
I understand Lettice’s narrative was used to explain Devereux’s motivations and unexplained behavior, but I felt as if it slowed the story down. Coming in at 662 pages, this was a book that needed to stay at a fast clip. I didn’t feel as if it achieved that.
That being said, George provides an amazing escape from the world and unparalleled historical fiction, with this story.
The weekend I started this book, my mother had an unexpected heart attack and nearly died. She was in good health and relatively young. It was quite a shock.
Some people spend hours worrying, others in conversation or watching TV to wile away stressful hours.
I picked up Elizabeth I by Margaret George and transported myself to Elizabethan England. There was worry, danger, intrigue… and when I needed to put down the book and attend to family concerns, I could. By the time the weekend was over, I had completed this book and my mother was discharged from the hospital.
It looks as if she will make a full recovery. And I learned quite a bit more about Elizabeth I.
If you are looking for distraction from every day life, this epic tale could fit the bill. Recommended for historical fiction lovers, of course, but also for anyone who desperately needs a way to pass the time.
Thank you, Margaret George, for providing that for me, just when I needed it most.
Thanks for reading!