Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rival to the Queen

I just finished this book by Carolly Erickson and I really liked it. This book is about Queen Elizabeth and her cousin Leticia Knollys. They are both redheads and they fight for the love of Robert Dudley. They also share the same blood, that of King Henry VIII. Leticia's grandmother was Mary Boleyn, the mistress of Henry VIII. Although her mother was a bastard, they still had royal blood in them.
The book starts out in Mary Tudor's reign, also known as Bloody Mary. Leticia in the first chapter witnesses a burning of a beloved tutor of hers. Since he didn't conform to the Catholic faith like Queen Mary ordered, he was put to death. The family moves from London to Frankfurt when Elizabeth was in the Tower. Since their family was associated with her they fleed to avoid any punishment. While growing up there, they witness even more cruel religious treatments of the Anabaptists.
Leticia witnesses one dark night a woman being tied up to be drowned. Her baby is left by the river and Leticia runs to save it. She donates the baby to a nearby abbey that takes in foundlings with no questions. She is discovered by the local Consistory (ministers) and they are upset that she saved a baby. Especially one from a Anabaptist mother. They order her and her family to leave immediately. They move back to London where her father proceeds to make their marriage arrangements.
Leticia is betrothed to Walter Deveraux, although she likes him not. When she goes to court she sees Robert Dudley and falls in love with him. He was so witty, charming and handsome compared to her betrothed. She wishes she could marry him, but has to do as her father commands. She marries Walter and they have 2 daughters in quick succession. Leticia serves at Court several months out of the year and serves her Majesty cousin Queen Elizabeth. She is around Robert more and notices the close relationship he has with the Queen. She wonders if they will marry.
Queen Elizabeth was often volatile and could be mean to those around her. She liked to tease and had many mood swings. She often feared assassination attempts, and kept Robert close to her to protect her. Some say they were lovers, but who knows....? Robert tries to marry her but she fears marriage like the plague. Her mother Anne Boleyn, was beheaded by King Henry VIII. Elizabeth also fears she is not fertile and so doesn't wish to marry and be humiliated. She is so independent and doesn't want any of the power given to a man. So she continues to flirt and tease Robert, but never makes him her King.
Leticia watches them enviously while trying to endure her boring marriage. She has a son that dies within a few months. Then they have a son named Rob who thrives and does well. While her husband Walter is away in Ireland, he gets the bog fever and passes away. Leticia is a widow with 3 children. In secret she marries Robert Dudley, for they had become lovers for the past year or so. Queen Elizabeth doesn't find out for a few months. When she does she gets so upset that Leticia fears for her life and Robert's.
It seems that Queen Elizabeth sends Robert on many diplomatic missions to keep them apart as much as possible. During their marriage Leticia has a son and they are ecstatic. By age three he didn't walk or talk and she knew something was terribly wrong. He passed away not long after that and it changed their marriage. Leticia and Robert became depressed and despondent. He was gone much of the time on business for Queen Elizabeth. He also gets sick while in Scotland and comes home and dies. On his deathbed he kept asking if Queen Elizabeth had come to say goodbye, and Leticia had to keep saying no. Robert kept holding on hoping she would come. Finally Leticia had to lie and tell him she stopped by so he could let go. He passed away from the gout soon after that.
Leticia remarries a third time to Chris, who is many years her junior. She seems to have a penchant for attractive young men. He is friends with her son Rob and they hang out very much. Her son Rob talks Leticia into going back to court to serve Queen Elizabeth. She dreads the idea and doesn't want to see her again, especially since she never said goodbye to Robert. She goes back to serve her, and soon discovers her purpose. She is there to keep her son in check, and also to serve as a pawn for Queen Elizabeth. If Rob doesn't behave, the Queen can threaten to hurt his mother, and vice versa.
To Leticia's dismay, she discovers that Rob is trying to take the throne. He believes he deserves to be named as Elizabeth's heir. Elizabeth is on to him and uses him cruelly and plays and mocks with him, much like she did with his stepfather Robert. While on business in Ireland he ignores a command from the Queen. He did the right thing by leaving; it saved thousands of lives. But Elizabeth views it as treason and has him beheaded. Leticia pleads with the Queen but to no avail. The jealousy between the two was too deep to mend. So she loses her only son.
The book pretty much ends there, although it mentions that Leticia lived to be over 92 years old. I thought this book was interesting because it showed a powerful rivalry between Queen Elizabeth, who you would think had everything, and her cousin Leticia. Leticia was said to have been very beautiful, more so than the Queen. She also had children and married Robert. The Queen could never forgive her for marrying her love. And for being more beautiful. From many accounts I've read or seen, Queen Elizabeth sounds like she had her father's temper. She could be ruthless, even abusive to servants. This was an easy read, so if you want something quick and entertaining without too much detail or facts, this is a good one.

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