Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544

Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544

Kathryn Lasky
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 1999   ISBN: 978-0590684842

Though Elizabeth was the daughter of a king and was therefore a princess, she was not a happy person, for hers was a life full of uncertainty and not a small amount of danger. Elizabeth describes herself as being a "forgotten Princess" for very often she is out of favour with her difficult and temperamental father. Not only does she risk displeasing her father by her words and actions but she is also a constant reminder of the ill-fated second wife of the king, Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. Anne was executed when Elizabeth was just a small child and Elizabeth seems to live almost permanently in Anne?s dark shadow. Anne was accused of being a witch and Elizabeth cannot help wondering if she is to be given the same name.

Because of this state of affairs Elizabeth has created several personas for herself. Each one helps her in a different aspect of her life and together they make her life manageable. There is the "respectful daughter-of-the-court" persona, a girl who is very careful of what she says and does, a girl who knows that her very life may depend on her discretion and tact.

Then there is the girl who loves to play silly games and who delights in going out on a May morning with the villagers. This is a lively, vivacious Elizabeth who is still young at heart.

Finally there is the Elizabeth who writes in her diary and who seeks solace there for it is the only place where she can be herself and speak her mind. This Elizabeth has periods of great loneliness, and unhappiness. This is the girl who craves her father?s love and who values a pinch on the cheek from him more highly than any other gift.

Through Elizabeth?s words we can clearly see what it must have been like to be a royal child in Tudor times, and how odd it was in many ways. For example, each of the royal children had their own house and establishment and they only came together when their royal parents wished it.

We also see how dangerous and volatile court life could be, filled with people who had petty arguments, rivalries, and where scandals were rife. It was also a horribly uncomfortable life for the palaces were dirty, smelly, unhygienic places. So bad did they get that every few months the whole court had to be moved to a new palace so that the old one could be cleaned and fumigated.

The overall picture of Elizabeth that Kathryn Lasky shows us in this fictional account is one of a girl who was isolated and desperately in need of someone stable to love. We also see how much she was a victim of her father and of the confusing standards of the period. There is no doubt that this is a very powerful and moving account of Elizabeth?s life and times.