Sunday, December 04, 2005
My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt
Lettice Knollys is a person from history who I was initially introduced to in Philippa Gregory's book, The Virgin's Lover. She is perhaps a footnote in history, but in this book she is brought back into prominence as the woman who married Robert Dudley, long considered to be the love of Queen Elizabeth I's life, and apparently one of the greatest, and best looking men of his generation. The picture below is of Dudley, so we can each judge our thoughts on this one!
This book starts with Lettice coming to court alongside her mother Catherine Knollys, and becoming one of Queen Elizabeth's ladies, sharing confidences and entertaining the queen with her quick wit. Lettice was however one of the most attractive women at court, something that the vain queen did not like having to compete against so before long she was married off to Walter Devereux and sent off to the country.
Eventually Lettice returned to court and in due course caught the eye of Robert Dudley (Earl of Leicester amongst other titles) and the two begin a risky clandestine affair. No matter that Lettice's husband might catch them but what would happen should the Queen find out.
Lettice is once again sent from the court to her country house, and there is plenty of speculation that the Queen may have had some idea of what is going on and wants to have no rival for Robert's affection.
Before too long, Lettice's husband is dead and there are accusatory fingers pointing towards Robert Dudley, who has previously been accused of murdering his former wife. Then Dudley and Lettice are married in secret, and when the Queen finds out they are both banished from court. Dudley is soon forgiven but Lettice is excluded from Court by the furious Queen, who calls her the She-Wolf.
Whilst a little dry at the time, this book is a fascinating look at the rivalry between two confident, strong women and their battle to win and keep the love of the same man. Lettice often tries to decipher if Dudley loves Elizabeth or just her crown, and sees the fact that he married her as a personal victory.
In later life, Elizabeth chose Lettice's son Robert Essex as one of her favourites, and the lives of Elizabeth and Lettice are further entwined with devestating results.
This was a highly entertaining read, and well worth the effort that it took to track down this book that was originally published in the 1970's.
This is one of the many pseudonyms of the prolific historical fiction author Eleanor Hibbert, who also wrote as Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr amongst other names.
There is a lot of information on the net about Robert Dudley in particular including here