Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Virgin's Daughters

In the Court of Elizabeth I, The Virgin's Daughters is a compelling and good read. It is like two books in one, the first one is about Katherine Grey. She is the sister of Jane Grey, who was Queen for 9 days and then was beheaded on the orders of Queen Mary. Her mother was not a very loving woman, and her father was away at Court most the time. She was starved for affection, and was also a threat to Queen Elizabeth because she had royal blood. Many thought that Queen Elizabeth would name her her heir, but she would never admit to it. Katherine seems to detest the throne, and has no desire to be Queen. This probably stems from the fact that her poor sister was used ruthlessly by the family, and later killed for that ambition.

While serving at Court, she meets the Earl of Hertford and falls in love with him. He is a good friend to Robert Dudley, the Queen's favorite, and so they hope with his help to get the Queen's permission to marry. Obviously their love is risky, because Katherine could be next in line to the throne, and has royal blood. Plus for royals to marry without the consent of their sovereign, the Queen, is treason. They could be put into the Tower, or worse, beheaded for their love. Queen Elizabeth is known as the Virgin Queen, because she never marries or has children. Her children are her ladies in waiting, and her country her husband. Her ladies in waiting, like Katherine, are constantly being reprimanded by the Queen for their secret affairs or love. If any get pregnant, they are instantly banished from Court and disgraced. It is as if Queen Elizabeth denies any of her ladies love, because she denies it of herself.

Lady Katherine Grey secretly marries Ned in a hasty ceremony, then they bed together. They go back to court, while Ned is sent to serve at Calais to try and gain it back. While he is gone, she discovers she is pregnant. Somehow she is able to disguise it until the 8th month, when she is finally discovered by Robert Dudley. He goes to tell the Queen, thinking perhaps his words will soften the blow, but she immediately sends Katherine to the Tower, and orders Ned to be sent there as well from Calais. They end up imprisoned there for a year, where Katherine gives birth to 2 sons. Now they are even more dangerous, because she if fertile and has produced 2 sons that could rival the Queen's throne. Even though Katherine and Ned have no desires for the throne, no one cares.

The Queen banishes Katherine away into the country, and her husband and their 2 sons away to his manors. They are never to see each other again. Despite many years and pleadings and letters, they are denied their love and companionship. Lady Katherine dies of a lung disease years later, alone without her husband and sons. Now we go the second book, which is about Mistress Mary Rogers, a lady who had grown up and been taken care of by Lady Katherine Grey. She comes to Court with her grandfather, hoping to serve the Queen. She is now 20 years old and has always desired to serve her Queen. She perhaps learned a bit from Katherine Grey about the ways of the Queen, so she was more prepared. She knew to be obedient and to avoid men at all costs, and to meekly serve her Queen. The Queen was known to have many different tempers, especially since she was now in her 60's.

While at Court, Mary meets Sir John Harington, and is intrigued by him. She tries to avoid him, but eventually they fall in love and try to keep it secret. They cannot meet often, because Mary is busy with her duties. The Queen seems to observe their love, and warns them against it. Quite a few years pass as they try to keep their love a secret, with the Queen always watchful. Finally upon her death, they are free to marry and be together. The major difference between the two romances, is that Mary and Sir John were much more discreet, keeping their passions at bay for many years, somehow until they could be together and be safe. Historically most of the details of the time are true, although of course conversations and such are made up to fill in the gaps. I enjoyed this book because I've always been intrigued by Queen Elizabeth. It showed her many tempers, her determination to serve her country, and the love she always fostered for Robert Dudley, even after he passed away. Queen Elizabeth's reign was known as The Golden Age; she still remains the most popular Queen and most read about.

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