Synopses & Reviews
In this "memoir" by Elizabeth I, legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy reveals the Virgin Queen as she truly was: the bewildered, motherless child of an all-powerful father; a captive in the Tower of London; a shrewd politician; a lover of the arts; and eventually, an icon of an era. It is the story of her improbable rise to power and the great triumphs of her reign--the end of religious bloodshed, the settling of the New World, the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Brilliantly clever, a scholar with a ready wit, she was also vain, bold, and unpredictable, a queen who commanded--and won--absolute loyalty from those around her.
But in these pages, in her own voice, Elizabeth also recounts the emotional turmoil of her life: the loneliness of power; the heartbreak of her lifelong love affair with Robert Dudley, whom she could never marry; and the terrible guilt of ordering the execution of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. In this unforgettable novel, Elizabeth emerges as one of the most fascinating and controversial women in history, and as Englands greatest monarch.
Jean Plaidy was one of the most beloved and successful historical novelists of the 20th century. In Spiring 2003. Three Rivers Press began publishing a series of 10 reissues of Plaidy's most popular novels. Their success (more than 72,500 copies of the first four books in print) exceeded all expectations and whetted the appetite of historical fiction readers for more novels from this master of the genre. Here, then, art the fifth and sixth novels in the series. Jean Plaidy presents Elizabeth I, England's greatest monarch, in the many stages of her dramatic life a bewildered, motherless child of an all-powerful father, a captive in the Tower of London, a consummate politician and statesman, a would-be lover frustrated by the exigencies of politics and power, and eventually, the icon of her era who launched England into the time of its greatest glory.
Plaidy presents Elizabeth I, England's greatest monarch, in the many stages of her dramatic life a bewildered, motherless child of an all-powerful father, a captive in the Tower of London, a would-be lover frustrated by the exigencies of politics and power, and eventually, the icon of her era.
About the Author
JEAN PLAIDY, one of the preeminent authors of historical fiction for most of the twentieth century, is the pen name of the prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. Jean Plaidys novels had sold more than 14 million copies worldwide by the time of her death in 1993.
Reading Group Guide
1. One of Elizabeths earliest memories is of being used as a bargaining chip. She is three years old, and her mother—the doomed Anne Boleyn—waves her little hand at her father, who looks down from a palace window. The action is Annes last-ditch attempt to placate Henrys wrath and appeal to his sense of family. It fails, and Anne is executed. What lesson does Elizabeth learn—or think she learns—from this macabre memory?
2. Elizabeths stepmothers Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr fare very differently in the delicate position of wife to Henry VIII. What does Katherine Howards demise teach Elizabeth about the male-female dynamic? What subtle gift distinguishes Katherine Parr, and eventually saves her life? Does Elizabeth share this gift?
3. Of her servants Kat and Parry, Elizabeth notes: “They were a pair of scandalmongers and I was often exasperated with them both. But they so obviously loved me, and I believe I was more important to them than anyone else; and for that reason I could never be annoyed with them for long.” This leniency with anyone who adores her informs Elizabeths later reign as queen—especially in regard to handsome men. When, if ever, does this soft-heartedness spell disaster for Elizabeth? Does this character trait change as she ages?
4. As her brother Edward lies dying in Greenwich, young Elizabeth stays in Hatfield to await the outcome of the succession. “It is necessary to remain at a safe distance from great events, until one has decided what is the best way to act,” she muses. This becomes her motto in many situations she faces as Queen, from signing death warrants to joining international wars. Does it serve her well?
5. When Elizabeth arrives at the Traitors Gate in the Tower of London by orders of Queen Mary, her entrance is so dramatic, well-rehearsed and sympathy-inducing that some of the guards burst into tears. Where else do you see Elizabeth shining in the limelight? Is she sincere, or is she a consummate actress? Does this dramatic flair ever undermine her ability to rule effectively?
6. At Marys funeral, Dr. White, Bishop of Winchester, refers to Mary as a “dead lion,” and to Elizabeth as a “live dog,” prompting Elizabeths first public display of fury. She promptly sends White to the Tower. What pithy argument does Cecil make against executing White? What larger issue does Cecil gently reference with this argument?
7. “The sexual act was a symbol of domination on the part of the male, I had always thought, and I had no intention of being dominated for one moment even by the most attractive man I had ever known,” insists Elizabeth. Or, as she more succinctly puts it: “when the fortress is stormed and brought to surrender, the battle is lost.” Do you read Elizabeths obsession with her own virginity as powerful or fearful? What spin does Plaidy put on this matter? Do you think Elizabeths legacy would have been significantly different had she succumbed to her desire for Robert?
8. Elizabeth is haunted by her fathers personal and political legacy. Where do you see her consciously avoiding his tactics? Where do you see her imitating them? Which of Henrys successful tricks of the trade does Elizabeth elevate to an art form?
9. What is the significance of Father Parsons Green Coat? What advice does Burghley offer Elizabeth in terms of dealing with it? What does he mean by the expression “a galled horse when he is touched will wince”?
10. “I was as good a statesman as any of my men,” states Elizabeth, “but in addition I possessed a certain insight which was entirely feminine. It was not merely intuition—but that might have been part of it; it was an immense interest in people, which most men lack. They are too absorbed in themselves to bother much with other peoples motives. Women want to know what is going on; they are insatiably curious. This gives my sex that extra knowledge of how peoples minds work; it help us to assess how they will act in certain circumstances.” Do you buy this? If so, do you find any examples in modern-day statecraft?
11. What priceless and unusual gift does John Aylmer offer the queen? Why does Plaidy include this anecdote in the narrative?
12. When Mary Queen of Scots is found guilty of treason, Elizabeth agonizes over the signing of her death warrant. She has always been simultaneously fascinated and infuriated by Mary. Why does she find this queen so compelling? What alternative plan does she suggest for Marys punishment, and why does it go awry at the hands of William Davison?
13. While serving as commander of the English expedition to the Netherlands, Robert accepts an honor of sovereignty without consulting Elizabeth—a major faux pas. Furthermore, Elizabeth catches Lettice preparing to join Robert in the Netherlands amidst great pomp and ceremony. After all these two have put her through, Elizabeth is primed to snap. Why is it politically shrewd for her to avoid publicly humiliating them for their rash actions? What price do they pay in private?
14. At Roberts death, what small “victory over the she-wolf” does Elizabeth achieve?
15. Essex is a vulgar, disrespectful, tantrum-throwing brat who is chronically unfaithful to his queen. Elizabeths first impression of him reads: “He was very raw—and I saw at once that he had no political sense. He was the sort of man who spoke before he considered the effect his words might have—so he lacked the first quality of a courtier.” When Elizabeth entrusts him with a political campaign in Ireland, she admits, “he ignored my instructions…He would go his own way, which was the wrong one. He was defeated everywhere.” Yet despite all this, she tolerates him, even loves him. Explain why the event that finally ruins Essex in Elizabeths eyes is a brief, innocuous meeting between the two in Elizabeths chamber. What does she mean “he destroyed a dream and with it himself”?
16. Why is Amy Robsarts death riddled with scandal? Why does Elizabeth say, “the death of Roberts wife was the greatest lesson I was ever likely to learn and if I did not take advantage of that, I deserved to lose my crown”? Are you convinced of Roberts innocence?