This book is the long-awaited sequel to historian Alison Weir's 2008 novel The Lady Elizabeth. It takes up where that book left off, in 1558, shortly after Elizabeth I learns that she is now Queen of England after the death of her sister Queen Mary. The book covers the rest of her life, and focuses on the political machinations concerning a marriage for her, the most eligible woman in the world.
Yet Elizabeth did not want to marry, for reasons hinted at in The Lady Elizabeth. The violent deaths of her mother and a stepmother, the deaths in childbirth of two other stepemothers, and her sister Mary's experiences in marriage also contributed to her reluctance. She also recognized that marriage (and giving birth to an heir) would leave her in a far less powerful position than what she had as the "Virgin Queen."
But was she really a virgin? Weir hints at some hanky-panky between Elizabeth and her favorite courtier, Robert Dudley, her friend from childhood. Most of the book is written from her viewpoint, but some is written from his, and the reader can see his frustration at being constantly toyed with (on the issue of marriage) by Elizabeth, ultimately frittering away much of his life waiting on her.
The story mostly ends in 1588 with Robert's death. Elizabeth is 55 and no longer a prize in marriage, but has come to her glory in her own right with the defeat of the Spanish Armada. A short epilogue briefly describes her death in 1603.
At times this book became rather tiresome, as Elizabeth overplays her hand in marriage over and over - promising her all-male council that she will marry this duke or that prince to ally their two countries, then going back on her promises. It's no wonder men felt women were indecisive and unable to rule alone! After a while, I couldn't tell one potential foreign suitor from another.
© Amanda Pape - 2015
[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]