Friday, December 11, 2009
Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman
There are more than a handful of books to be found about Elizabeth I but Borman has offered up some interesting and fresh details (for me anyway) about this ruler. The fragility of relationships is a thread that runs through Elizabeth's life. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded and four step-mothers followed, although only one other left the marriage in the same manner. Jane Seymour favoured her half-sister Mary, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard favoured Elizabeth, Katherine Parr treated both equally. Imagine being a child and trying to find your place in yet another woman's heart. As an adult, is it any wonder that Elizabeth was reluctant to be joined to a man in holy wedlock. The Queen had many of her family, ladies-in-waiting, members of council and friends held by puppet strings and quite often stamped around and yelled in fury if they didn't live their lives according to her plan. Marriages within the royal circle and court had to be sanctioned by Elizabeth as there was fear that a strong alliance could jeopardize her position as Queen of England. On more than one occasion she had newlywed couples sentenced to the Tower for treason, simply for marrying without her permission. When women would become pregnant and give birth to sons due to the blind-eye of a guard, Elizabeth would be incandescent with rage. Fearful for her position or jealous? You cannot help but be in awe of the power, bravery and intelligence of the woman herself. At a time when women had very little in the way of entitlement or rights, Elizabeth had a long and fairly successful reign of 44 years. Towards the end of her life, people were ready for change and welcomed their new King, James I, but the fascination with Elizabeth never really subsided. Most of us are quite familiar with her parentage, the love of her life, Robert Dudley, and the turmoil of having her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, executed, the thorn in her side that was Arbella Stuart. In Elizabeth's Woman, Tracy Borman paints a slightly clearer picture of a remarkable ruler and I think, a lonely woman who paid a great price for crown and country. Although, with dynastic Tudor blood coursing through her veins, something tells me that Queen Elizabeth I wouldn't have had it any other way. If you love historical non-fiction, this is one to look forward to and I thank Fiona, from Random House, for sending me such a great read!