by Alison Weir
In The Lady Elizabeth Alison Weir explores the early life of Elizabeth Tudor as she grows up from beloved princess and after the execution of her mother by her father, The Lady Elizabeth. As a young girl she endures four stepmothers, her declaration as a bastard and emerged battered but not broken. Life had given Elizabeth a deep strength that would later become her most formidable asset.
Weir follows Elizabeth through her guardianship under the Dowager Queen Katherine though her brief exposure to a semblance of family life is shattered with Katherine’s marriage to Thomas Seymour who pursued the young and impressionable Elizabeth relentlessly until they were caught in an uncompromising embrace and Elizabeth was sent away from Katherine forever. Weir gives her reader into Elizabeth’s thoughts and fears during these early formative years. However, I could not believe that Alison Weir, the author of respectable non-fiction on Elizabeth, included the pregnancy tale in the novel! I understand that this is a work of fiction and Weir is free to pursue whatever insane plotline she chooses, but really why lend her name to this ridiculous rumor that Elizabeth gave birth to Thomas Seymour’s child, assisted in labor by a blindfolded midwife. I think we can all agree this was an attack on Elizabeth’s character by anti-Protestant factions and nothing more.
Why would Weir, a respected author and historian, include such an outlandish rumor in her fiction? Perhaps it was an effort to explain Elizabeth’s refusal to marry? If Weir felt compelled to find a definitive event in the life of Elizabeth to explain her refusal to have no master there are other events that are equally as plausible as explanations. I cannot think of a reason why Weir included this unsubstantiated rumor, and thereby added some credibility to it, and sadly throughout the remainder of the novel I was distracted with trying to find a reason for Weir inclusion of this far from historical fact, one that is damaging to the reputation of her subject, in her novel. I could not think of one and sadly was distracted for the remainder of Weir’s account.
As one would expect Weir’s prose was well written and flowed well. I thought that the stand out account was the description of Elizabeth’s time in the Tower during the reign of her sister Mary. Her fear was palpable and Weir effectively communicated the enormous effect this imprisonment had on the Elizabeth. I felt that Weir did an excellent job in describing Elizabeth’s torment as she lived under fear of execution within the same walls where her mother met that same fate and lay buried in an arrow quest. One can only imagine how, with her own mother’s death as an example, how Elizabeth must have felt so very close to death herself.
So while I would recommend The Lady Elizabeth as a well-written fictional account of the life of a remarkable woman I hesitate to do so without reservations. While I respect the creative license that fiction affords I feel that Weir, a respected historian and writer of non-fiction, owes her own reputation more than a sensational account for the masses.
This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #25
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #21