Friday, December 2, 2011

The Queen's Handmaiden

The Queen's Handmaiden by Jennifer Ashley was good, a story mostly familiar already to me. It is about Elizabeth and her governess Kat Ashley in the early years of Elizabeth's life when she was without a mother and had been declared a bastard. Kat basically raised her from a young age, through the years of being a ward of the queen Katherine Parr (Henry VIII's last wife) and her husband Thomas Seymour. She was with her through the scandal while Thomas Seymour tried to court her under his own wife's nose and Kat's, and was then sent elsewhere to live. She raised her through her brother Edward's short reign, and then her sister Mary's rise to the throne after a tumultuous and short reign by their cousin Jane Grey. Kat was there for her through everything, basically her mother.

Kat Ashley is a person I've read about, but this book introduces a niece of hers named Eloise Roussell. She was to live with Kat because her mother's new husband did not want children around. Kat raised both girls and taught Eloise how to be useful and sew. She was soon a very talented seamstress and made most of Elizabeth's clothes. Kat and Eloise were with her through her many tempers, moods, and the tumultuous years of Mary's reign. Kat was sent to the Tower for a time to be questioned for Elizabeth's behavior- Queen Mary believed her half sister Elizabeth to have been part of a plot of Wyatt to overthrow Mary from the throne. Many in England were not happy when Mary took the throne and turned things back to Catholicism and the pope. She was soon burning many people for heresy and for not attending Mass or saying the proper things. She constantly pestered Elizabeth to follow her faith, and when she did not, she sent her away or to the Tower.

Finally, after many years of being a bastard, or being suspected, Elizabeth is made Queen at last. Her half sister Mary passed away, leaving her the throne. Kat was there for it all, and Eloise too. Eloise during this time becomes her main seamstress and becomes successful and designs all her gowns. She marries a man also trusted by Elizabeth and they have children together. England is relieved at being Protestant again, and having a young and beautiful queen on the throne. Kat Ashley passes away, and many say Elizabeth took care of her with her own hands and shed many tears over her. She was the only mother she had ever known, and had always been there for her. I liked the book because it shows the many facets of Elizabeth, while showing the depth of love and devotion her governess Kat had towards her. I don't believe Eloise was a real historical character, but it was nice to tie her into the story as well to see every one's points of view. If you are interested in the Queen Elizabeth, two of the main people in her life were Kat Ashley and Robert Dudley. This book is a good read to learn more about both.

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