Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Behind the Mask: The Life of Queen Elizabeth I

Behind the Mask: The Life of Queen Elizabeth I

Jane Resh Thomas
For ages 12 and up
Clarion, 1998   ISBN: 978-0395691205

From a very early age Elizabeth, daughter of a king, had to learn to watch what she said and did. She could not be herself; she could not let her guard down. On the few occasions when Elizabeth had let her mask slip she had almost lost her life. She learned that she had be obedient, discreet, she must appear submissive, and she must be as unobtrusive as possible. Drawing attention to herself was not wise. At least this was true during the reigns of her father, her stepbrother Edward, and her stepsister Mary.

When Elizabeth came to the throne she allowed herself a little more freedom. She was also able to set aside the quiet white and black clothes that she had always worn. Now, as Queen, she wore the bright colors she loved, the ropes of pearls, the diamonds and other jewels. Now Elizabeth did not hide her intelligence and her wit, she played her music, and she danced with vigour. Now she could shed the quiet "little sister" role and she took on a new part, a great part which she would play to the best of her ability for the rest of her life; Elizabeth became "Good Queen Bess", "Gloriana", "The Virgin Queen." She became the all powerful mother of her country who took care of all her people. Very early on Elizabeth was determined that no man was going to take the throne from her - she would rule as Queen and as King. If this meant that she would have to remain unmarried and alone then that was the price she was willing to pay

In this book Jane Resh Thomas beautifully explores the inner life of one of the world’s most fascinating women. Today it is hard to imagine how Elizabeth was able to survive her incredibly hard childhood to emerge such a strong and forceful woman. Unable to confide in anyone, always in danger, and always having to be aware that those around her might not be trustworthy, Elizabeth was a queen who shaped her world and whose name will never be forgotten.