The relationship between Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, is one of the most complex, tempestuous and fascinating in history. United in blood but divided by religion, the two women were in some ways uniquely close; in others, poles apart. Championed by English Catholics as the rightful Queen of England, Mary was nevertheless given protection by her cousin after she was deposed amid outrage at her immoral behaviour. Rumours of papist plots involving Mary were rife and Elizabeth was put under extreme pressure to be rid of this dangerous threat to her sovereignty and to the Protestant church in England. After much reluctance and procrastination Elizabeth finally signed Mary's death warrant. Alison Plowden shows how political fear brought out the worst and yet the best in these women, and how history was overshadowed for centuries afterwards.
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(198mm x 127mm x 10mm)
Sutton Publishing Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
It is 400 years since the death of Elizabeth I, and this is one of a slew of books being released or reissued to cash in on the occasion. However, Plowden's book takes a slightly unusual angle on Elizabeth I: while all the usual stories are dutifully rehearsed (was she really a virgin? what was the nature of her relationship to Robert Dudley? how did she cope being a woman in a man's world?). Plowden's main focus is on Elizabeth's relationship with the enigmatic Mary Queen of Scots. In fact, Mary is rather the star of the book, and from Plowden's telling it is at times difficult for the modern, secular reader to imagine why anyone would want to be ruled by the dour, serious Elizabeth rather than the seductive, passionate Mary. This is really the tale of the decidedly vexed question of the succession during Elizabeth's lifetime. Mary (the grandchild of Henry VIII's sister Margaret) was Elizabeth's closest blood relative and therefore strictly speaking first in line to the throne after Elizabeth. However, she was detested by most of England for her Catholicism, her strong links to France and her decidedly dubious role in the notorious murder of her second husband. Even while in 'protective' custody in England following an uprising against her in Scotland she continued to scheme against Elizabeth with the help of Catholic sympathisers and the King of Spain. Despite her best (and somewhat incomprehensible) attempts to save Mary from the calls for execution from her advisors and parliament, in the end Elizabeth had to recognize that Mary would continue to be a threat as long as she remained alive. Elizabeth rather reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant, but displayed quite a surprising amount of guilt and grief over the death of a cousin she had never met. Plowden's gossipy style of history is perfectly suited for the labyrinthine intrigues and plotting of this particular era, and at times this reads more like a novel than a work of non-fiction. There are some small irritants in this book, not least Plowden's apparent inability to reference her sources properly: a considerable portion of the text is in inverted commas, and yet the reader has no way of telling what the author is quoting. Having said that, this is a well-written account of a fascinating period of English history, and is to be recommended for its rather unusual take on the reign of Elizabeth I. (Kirkus UK)
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