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Elizabeth I: A Novel    by Margaret George order for
Elizabeth I
by Margaret George
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

Margaret George, bestselling author of The Memoirs of Cleopatra and The Autobiography of Henry VII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers, has chosen England's greatest monarch, Elizabeth I, as the topic of her latest book.

The novel, narrated by Queen Elizabeth and her cousin Lettice Knollys, begins in 1588. King Philip II of Spain has set his sights on England and war is imminent. Elizabeth, however, is no longer the young red-haired princess who delivered her country from the bloody religious persecutions of her sister, Mary I. As the aging monarch realizes that her reign must one day come to an end, she has still to face danger not only from Spain, but also from within her own kingdom.

As the novel begins, Elizabeth and her childhood friend, Robert Dudley, continue to suppress their forbidden love. When Dudley dies, Elizabeth is not only devastated but also enraged after discovering that he had secretly married her cousin, Lettice Knollys. In a jealous rage, Elizabeth banishes her cousin from court. Lettice comforts herself in the country by engaging in numerous love affairs. Lettice's son, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex remains in Elizabeth's court and soon replaces Dudley's ghost as the Queen’s favorite.

In Elizabeth I: A Novel, the queen struggles to deliver England from Spain's unrelenting power. Philip has laid his claim on the New World and is now determined to add England to his empire. Elizabeth must rely on her most trusted advisors - William Cecil, Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Earl of Essex - in order to save England from Spain's Catholic dominion. Rivalry and self-interest, however, create a breach among the most important men in court, with disastrous consequences for England.

Elizabeth must not only face Spain's repeated attacks, but she must also continue to battle those who question her legitimacy, the unruly Irish, and secret enemies who linger in her court. As the years pass and the queen's most beloved friends and advisors slowly die, Queen Elizabeth must face her own mortality. Her haunting memories of her mother and the realization that she is no longer the young and vibrant princess England fell in love with, slowly replace Elizabeth's zest for life with a sense of impending doom.

Margaret George never disappoints. I especially enjoyed the double narration by Queen Elizabeth and Lettice Knollys. The novel accurately describes Elizabeth's turbulent later years, especially the concern over the lack of a named successor. The Queen's longing to remember her mother, Anne Boleyn, was a wonderful addition to the novel. Anne Boleyn was executed when Elizabeth was quite young, but she must never have been far from her thoughts. Elizabeth I: A Novel is a must read for those who enjoy Tudor history.

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