Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beware Princess Elizabeth

Beware Princess Elizabeth

Carolyn Meyer
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Harcourt, 2001   ISBN: 978-0152045562

Elizabeth is in a very difficult position. Her father, the great and sometimes terrifying Henry VIII, has died and she does not know what is to become of her. Third in line for the throne she does not think much about the possibility of becoming queen. After all, her little brother is now king and surely he will grow, prosper, and have children. Then she and her sister Mary will be even further from the throne than they are now. All she can do is to sit and wait to see what happens.

It is at this time, early in her brother’s reign that Elizabeth has some trouble staying out of trouble. Being young, quiet lovely, high-spirited, and a very normal young woman in some ways, Elizabeth falls in love for the first time. The man is none other than the new and very handsome husband of the dowager queen, Thomas Seymour. Luckily the ‘affair’ does not progress and Elizabeth is soon learning how to live, and enjoy living, quietly in the country with her tutors and her ladies-in-waiting.

Unfortunately the young King Edward does not thrive and soon is racked with consumption. Still a young man he dies a mere six years after coming to throne. Edward was never able to really take the reigns of government into his hands as he was always by greedy, powerful, and ambitious men who had their own agendas. At the king’s death there is a power struggle which Elizabeth does her best to stay away from. She learned at a very early age that it was best to keep herself separate from the politics and intriguing that was rife in the palace.

This lesson came to be an especially important one when her sister Mary comes to the throne. Initially Mary is supported and loved by the people, but she soon becomes unpopular. Mary is determined that England will once more be a catholic country and if English men and women have to die by fire to achieve this aim she is willing to persevere. Many are horrified but they are unable to stop her and thus it is that Mary comes to acquire a new name, "Bloody Mary."

The Protestants are not the only ones in danger. Elizabeth too finds herself being victimized by her sister. Mary is terrified that Elizabeth will remove her from the throne and she does everything she can to ensure that Elizabeth is not a threat; everything short of killing her that is.

This is a dreadful and frustrating time for Elizabeth. What does emerge from her time of imprisonment and privation is a determination to survive, and what’s more, to become the queen of England herself. All she has to do and wait patiently, for Queen Mary is clearly ill and may not survive much longer. Furthermore Elizabeth decides that she will not, ever, get married. For her, marriage is a terrifying and degrading institution. If she marries she will simply be someone’s wife and not a person in her own right. No, for Elizabeth there is only one thing that will suit; she must be queen, and queen on her own.

Beautifully written and with a superb attention to detail, Carolyn Meyer has created yet another of her excellent books in the "Young Royals" series. We are plunged deep into the intrigues and dangers of life in the royal palaces in England in the mid 1500’s, and the personality of Elizabeth, who was to become one of England’s greatest and often most enigmatic queens, is revealed to us in the most astonishing way. We can understand why she should decide to remain unwed, the "Virgin Queen" to the end of her days. We can sympathize with the characters in their trials, and get a real feel for the times and for the personalities of the men and women who shaped the history of the World.