This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: Elizabeth, Captive Princess

Elizabeth, Captive Princess, Margaret Irwin
3 roses

After reading and reviewing the first novel in this trilogy, Young Bess, I was looking forward to the second. This is not a "new" trilogy but a wonderful reissue from Sourcebooks. This was a very easy and pleasant read.

Picking up at the very beginning of her half-sister Mary's reign, this novel follows Elizabeth through the first couple of years of Mary's dangerous time as England's Queen. We see her through Mary's triumphant entrance into London, her gradual slide from favor, and her time as Mary's prisoner in the Tower. The novel ends with Elizabeth's first meeting with her sister's new husband, Philip of Spain and that is where the last book in the series will pick up.

This novel was originally published by Ms. Irwin in the late 1940s and so many historical fiction readers today could be a bit surprised by some of the ideas put forth here but as the author was writing with what was known at the time that is completely acceptable to this reviewer. Even keeping that in mind, there really was nothing glaringly inaccurate that made me scratch my head and wonder "Did they actually believe that when this was written?" Ms. Irwin presents a very elegantly written story that is full of emotion and I feel that is the real draw to this book and this author. While there were no "new" ideas or information introduced here, the portrayal of Elizabeth and her way of dealing with the extremely dangerous and stressful years she lived through are brilliantly displayed. It is very easy to feel the stress, tension, and fear she probably suffered while Mary was on the throne. Ms. Irwin does a marvelous job of showing just how intelligent and quick witted Elizabeth was as she navigated the traps of Mary's reign and kept her head quite literally on her shoulders. The story shifts between Elizabeth and Mary's perspectives at points during the novel but I didn't feel that this interrupted the flow of the narrative and actually did a good job at showing the very powerful emotions and tensions that both sisters endured. Some novels focused on Elizabeth will portray Mary in such a way that you can't help but dislike her and feel that she should never have been Queen, but Ms. Irwin does a good job of showing Mary as very human. While she did make some wrong decisions, in this novel you can easily see the stress she was under and her reasoning behind her choices and she does come across more sympathetic. There are some lovely descriptions that make it easy for a reader to picture the scene they are reading about (especially the scene where Elizabeth is holding a dance in her rooms right across the courtyard from Mary's windows!) and this author is not going to overwhelm you with tons of facts and dates. The characters were all true to form and none of them really did anything that seemed unbelievable or "out of character." I felt the ending was wonderful and very full of suspense as Elizabeth meets her brother-in-law Philip for the first time and the instant attraction between the two is recognizable.

This was a good read and one I enjoyed. While I was not blown away it was certainly a nice Tudor historical fiction to pick up and loose one's self in for a few hours. I would recommend this to any reader interested in Elizabeth's earlier years. I am anxiously awaiting the next book in this series Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain.

*Thank you to Sourcebooks for the advanced reader copy and the opportunity to review this book!


  1. Great review! I am going to be starting this book soon. Having not read young Bess, I am curious to find out if this book stands alone well. I am sure the wealth of knowledge about Elizabeth's life that is widely known should make it easy to pick up quickly.

  2. I think it will stand alone well. There didn't seem to be many references to what happened in the first book (beyond the T. Seymour escapade). I think most readers are already very familiar with Elizabeth's early years and know what happened leading up to this book.