The Lady Elizabeth is devoted to Elizabeth Tudor’s early years from 1536 when her title is changed from Princess to Lady upon the death of her mother. The first strength of this novel is its author; Alison Weir, a reputable historian who has a reputation for staying close to the facts (of course, that being said there is one controversial plot line within The Lady Elizabeth). The second strength is Weir’s intriguing characterization of Elizabeth that I felt was compellingly authentic. Finally, by focusing the novel on the years from childhood to coronation, Weir gives her readers a glimpse into the formation of the personality of a woman who would ultimately become one of the most successful and enduring monarchs of English history.
Elizabeth is known for her strong personality. In The Lady Elizabeth the reader is taken from a precocious child to a fiercely independent and passionate adult. Weir places emphasis on the constant stream of step-mothers and her father’s renunciation of her legitimacy and the death of her mother as the foundation of Elizabeth’s character. She is further shaped by her time in the Tower, during the reign of her sister, Mary I, which both strengthens her and creates a sense of her own mortality that leads her to fits of anxiety, anger and indecision as she matures.
It is easy to forget that this remarkable woman led a lonely isolated life. Clearly, she created a family for herself and held onto them with all her might, especially Kat Ashley, her childhood governess who remains a constant source of care and trust throughout Elizabeth’s life. During her teens Elizabeth becomes the chameleon, perfecting her response to intrigue, threats and danger and crafting the perfect excuse to avoid many situations altogether.
In The Lady Elizabeth, Weir has crafted an alluring and intriguing protagonist. Weir guides her reader through Elizabeth’s growth from child to woman against a backdrop of treachery and intrigue, plots and uprisings. Elizabeth successfully navigates countless dangers, betrayals and disappointments to become England’s Queen, a role she seemed born for.