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  • Queen of This Realm
  • Written by Jean Plaidy
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  • Queen of This Realm
  • Written by Jean Plaidy
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307497451
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Queen of This Realm

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Written by Jean PlaidyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jean Plaidy

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On Sale: January 21, 2009
Pages: 480 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49745-1
Published by : Broadway Books Crown/Archetype
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Synopsis

In this "memoir" by Elizabeth I, legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy reveals the Virgin Queen as she truly was: the bewildered, motherless child of an all-powerful father; a captive in the Tower of London; a shrewd politician; a lover of the arts; and eventually, an icon of an era. It is the story of her improbable rise to power and the great triumphs of her reign--the end of religious bloodshed, the settling of the New World, the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Brilliantly clever, a scholar with a ready wit, she was also vain, bold, and unpredictable, a queen who commanded--and won--absolute loyalty from those around her.

But in these pages, in her own voice, Elizabeth also recounts the emotional turmoil of her life: the loneliness of power; the heartbreak of her lifelong love affair with Robert Dudley, whom she could never marry; and the terrible guilt of ordering the execution of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. In this unforgettable novel, Elizabeth emerges as one of the most fascinating and controversial women in history, and as England’s greatest monarch.

Excerpt

WHEN I LOOK BACK OVER THE FIRST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS of my life and consider the number of times I was in danger of losing it, I believe--as I have since that wonderful day when I rode into my capital city in a riding dress of purple velvet, beside me my Master of Horse, Robert Dudley, the most handsome man in England, and listened to the guns of the Tower greeting me, and saw the flowers strewn in my path--yes, I fervently believe that my destiny was to be a great queen. I swore to God then that nothing should ever stand in the way of my fulfilling it. And I have kept that vow.

I could rejoice in those early twenty-five years--and indeed all through my life have done so--because during them I learned many a bitter lesson and it has been my endeavor never to forget one of them. I was young, lacking experience in the ways of men and women; and over my defenseless head--as dangerously as it ever did over that of Damocles--hung the sword of destruction. One false step, one thoughtless word, even a smile or a frown and down would come that sword depriving me of my life.

I was not quite three years old when I had my first encounter with adversity and my fortunes changed drastically. I cannot say with truth that I remember a great deal about my mother though sometimes I fancy I do. In my mind I see the most brilliantly fascinating person I have ever known. I sense the soft touch of velvet and the rustle of silk, long perfumed dark hair and a wild sort of gaiety born of desperation. But there is one image of her which remains vividly in my mind and as long as I live I will never forget it. I am in a courtyard and my fascinating mother is holding me in her arms. At one of the windows there appears a glittering figure--large, imposing, red-bearded. It is the King and she is trying to say something to him through me. She is holding my hand and waving it at him, appealingly, desperately. For a brief second he regards us with exasperated indifference before he turns away. That actually happened. Later I discovered it took place three or four days before she was arrested and taken to the Tower. The memory of her desperation and his cruel indifference stays with me forever, and I vowed that no man should ever do to me what my father did to my mother.

Before that she had been a presence of power, and my governess Lady Bryan, who was a kinswoman of hers, was overwhelmingly anxious to please her as was Mr. Shelton who was also a family connection. My mother looked after her own when she had the power to do so. But there came that bewildering sadness . . . the end of her visits . . . the days when I asked for her, and Lady Bryan turned away to hide her emotion.

My father was a more tangible presence. I thought he was the most powerful man in the world. He certainly was in England. I was fourteen when he died so I could say I knew him fairly well. He was one who inspired fear and yet affection with it, and despite all his cruelty and all his ruthlessness he never lost the love of his people. That was one way in which I intended to emulate him. I learned from my studies of our history that it is a foolish monarch who loses the esteem of the common people.

Lady Bryan told me that my father had once been very proud of me and used to stroll in the gardens at Hampton Court or Windsor--wherever the Court happened to be--holding me in his arms. I liked that picture--myself magnificently attired swinging high in the arms of a splendid king as his courtiers walked with him exclaiming at my perfections.

That ended with an executioner's sword which severed my mother's beautiful head from her willowy body.

What I do remember clearly is catching Lady Bryan by the skirts and demanding: "Where is my mother? Why does she never come now?"

And when she tried to run away to weep in silence, I refused to relinquish her and insisted she tell me. She took me onto her knee and said: "My Lady Princess, you have no mother now."

"Everybody has a mother," I said, for I was logical as soon as I was old enough to reason.

"Your mother has gone to Heaven," she said.

"When will she come back?"

"People do not come back from Heaven."

"She will come to see me."

Lady Bryan held me to her and wept so bitterly that she bewildered me.

Then I began to realize that something terrible had happened but it was a long time before I gave up hope of seeing my mother again.

I talked of her with Lady Bryan and made her tell me about my birth.

"It was in Greenwich Palace," she said, "a beautiful palace and one of the favorites of the King and Queen. You first saw the light of day in the Chamber of Virgins. It was given that name afterward, but before you arrived it was just a chamber the walls of which were lined with tapestry and this tapestry depicted the lives of the holy virgins."

"Did my mother want a boy?" I must have heard some whisper of a servant to put that into my head. It was important, I knew, for Lady Bryan turned pale, and for a moment or so did not answer.

Then she said: "She wanted a boy. The King wanted a boy. But as soon as you were born they knew that you were just what they wanted."

I was soon to discover how false that was, but I loved Lady Bryan for telling the lie. My mother's life had depended on her giving birth to a boy. If I had been a son, they would not have sent to France for that sword which cut off her head. She would have been an honored queen instead of a corpse lying in her grave in the Church of St Peter ad Vincula.

"The Queen said," went on Lady Bryan, "people will now with reason call this room the Chamber of Virgins, for a virgin is now born in it on the vigil of this auspicious day on which the Church commemorates the nativity of the Holy Virgin."

"Was that what she said?" I asked wonderingly.

"It was. You were born on the eve of the Virgin Mary's birth. Just think of that."

My dear governess did so much to comfort me, but even she could not keep the truth from me. I could not but know that I who had been the important Lady Princess was now of no consequence and few cared what became of me. My mother was dead, executed for treason against the King because she was accused of taking five lovers--one her own brother, my uncle George Boleyn. Her marriage to the King had been proved by Thomas Cromwell--the King's influential minister--to have been no marriage at all, and because of this I was branded illegitimate. And naturally bastards of the King were not of the same importance as his legitimate offspring.

I began to notice the change when my gowns and kirtles grew thin and threadbare and Lady Bryan spent long hours trying to patch them.

"I don't like this old dress," I grumbled. "Why cannot I have a new one?"

At which the good Lady Bryan turned away to hide her anger against somebody--certainly not me, for she took me in her arms and said I was her Lady Princess and always would be.

She was very angry with Mr. Shelton, who had a high place in my household, because he insisted that I should sit at table in some ceremony and would give me wine and help me to highly seasoned dishes. I heard Lady Bryan quarreling with him. "It is unsuitable to let the child eat such foods," she said.

Mr. Shelton replied: "This is no ordinary child. Remember she is the King's daughter."

"Oh, he still acknowledges her as that, does he?" Lady Bryan spoke angrily. "I am glad of that! Do you know, Mr. Shelton, it is months since that child had new garments. I cannot go on patching forever."

"I repeat she is the King's daughter and we should never forget that. Who knows . . ."

"Just what is your implication, Mr. Shelton?"

He did not reply. I kept my eyes and ears open and because I knew strange matters were being decided outside my nursery I began to realize that for some reason Mr. Shelton was trying hard to win my good graces and wean my affection from Lady Bryan. He never denied me anything that he could and he was always most obsequious.

At first I thought what a nice man he was and then when I discovered that Lady Bryan restricted me and meted out her little punishments because she felt it was her duty to do so, I did not like Mr. Shelton so much; and whatever disagreement there was between us I always turned back to Lady Bryan when I was in need of comfort.

Mr. Shelton, like Lady Bryan, was related to my mother, and that was the reason why they were at Hunsdon in my household. Those two were in constant conflict. Once I heard Lady Bryan declare to him: "You want to keep my Lady in royal state as long as you can, do you not, Master Shelton? But I tell you this: it will avail you little. There has been a new Queen now ever since the death of Queen Anne, and she is with child, and if that child should prove to be a boy . . . what of our lady then?"

"But what if it is not a boy eh?" demanded Mr. Shelton. "What if Queen Jane goes the way of Queen Anne."

"Hush," said Lady Bryan. "Such words are treason and should never be spoken. All I ask of you is not to indulge the child. Do you not understand that these highly seasoned foods are bad for her digestion? I believe you give her sweetmeats outside meals, and if you do not desist from such I shall be forced to make complaints where they could come to the ears of the King."

Mr. Shelton was unimpressed and I learned later that she did write to Thomas Cromwell himself, telling him that I had neither gown nor kirtle, nor any manner of linen, and begging him to send something for me to wear. She also complained of Mr. Shelton's insistence that I sit at table where spiced foods were served and suggested that I have plain wholesome food served in a way suitable for a child of my age.

I did get some new clothes but I think that may have been due to the intervention of my sister Mary. She was twenty years of age at that time, which seemed very old to me. She was pleasant-looking and very serious, spending a great deal of time on her knees. An example to me, said Lady Bryan, for I was far less dedicated to my religious studies than Mary had been as a child. (Lady Bryan had been her governess, too, so she could speak with conviction.) I was interested in so many things and asked too many questions, I was told. "There are matters which must be accepted without question," said Lady Bryan. "One's faith for one, loyalty to the King for another." Even at that stage I was beginning to have doubts of sustaining either.

Lady Mary's mother, Katharine of Aragon, had died a few months before my own, and my sister was stricken with grief because they had been especially devoted to each other. Before her mother's death Mary had not liked me at all. On the rare occasions when we had met, young as I was, I had sensed that my presence angered her. Now it was different. We had both lost our mothers; both had died outside the King's favor; we were both branded bastards. It was because of her uncertain position that Mary was not married, and it was strange for a King's daughter to reach the age of twenty without having a husband found for her. But now she was quite tender toward me and since I tried to please her we were becoming friends. When one has no mother and one's father is a king whom one rarely sees, it is very pleasant to have a sister. I hoped Mary felt this too.

I was very sad when Mary left Hunsdon but she was delighted to go, for Queen Jane had asked for her to go to Court. Much of this I learned later. Because of my extreme youth I must have been very much in the dark at this time. It was when Katharine Champernowne came to be my governess that I made my discoveries through her. Katharine--I was soon calling her Kat--was the most indiscreet and delightful person I had ever known and I grew to love her dearly.

It appeared that the King could deny his new wife nothing; fair where my mother was dark, docile where she was vivacious, Queen Jane was the greatest possible contrast to Queen Anne for whom out of the white heat of his passion had grown a burning hatred. Moreover Jane was almost immediately pregnant after her marriage, which took place, most shamefully, ten days after my mother's death by the sword.

Queen Jane, it seemed, asked the King if Mary could come to Court and be with her during her pregnancy.

"She shall come to thee, darling," Kat told me he said; and so gladly Mary went.

I missed her, but like everyone else I wanted to hear of the birth of the child.

When Lady Bryan took me to her own private chamber, I knew I was going to learn something important. She put her arms round me and drew me close to her.

"The Queen has given birth to a son," she said. "The King and the whole country are very happy."

I felt my face go hard as it did when I was angry. Lady Bryan had told me of it many times. "A bad habit," she said, "and one which can bring you no good." I tried to curb it but on this occasion it was difficult, for how could I prevent the resentment which rose in me when I heard another than my mother called the Queen? Moreover this new Jane had given birth to a boy--the son which I should have been.

"The bells are ringing all over the country," said Lady Bryan. "The King is so happy. This little boy will one day be King though, God willing, not for a very long time. His Grace the King has sent word to Mr. Shelton and to me that you are to have the very special honor of carrying the chrisom at the christening. There! What do you think of that?"
Jean Plaidy

About Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy - Queen of This Realm
JEAN PLAIDY is the pen name of the prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. More than 14 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Visit www.CrownHistorical.com to learn about the other Jean Plaidy titles available from Three Rivers Press.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. One of Elizabeth’s earliest memories is of being used as a bargaining chip. She is three years old, and her mother—the doomed Anne Boleyn—waves her little hand at her father, who looks down from a palace window. The action is Anne’s last-ditch attempt to placate Henry’s wrath and appeal to his sense of family. It fails, and Anne is executed. What lesson does Elizabeth learn—or think she learns—from this macabre memory?

2. Elizabeth’s stepmothers Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr fare very differently in the delicate position of wife to Henry VIII. What does Katherine Howard’s demise teach Elizabeth about the male-female dynamic? What subtle gift distinguishes Katherine Parr, and eventually saves her life? Does Elizabeth share this gift?

3. Of her servants Kat and Parry, Elizabeth notes: “They were a pair of scandalmongers and I was often exasperated with them both. But they so obviously loved me, and I believe I was more important to them than anyone else; and for that reason I could never be annoyed with them for long.” This leniency with anyone who adores her informs Elizabeth’s later reign as queen—especially in regard to handsome men. When, if ever, does this soft-heartedness spell disaster for Elizabeth? Does this character trait change as she ages?

4. As her brother Edward lies dying in Greenwich, young Elizabeth stays in Hatfield to await the outcome of the succession. “It is necessary to remain at a safe distance from great events, until one has decided what is the best way to act,” she muses. This becomes her motto in many situations she faces as Queen, from signing death warrants to joining international wars. Does it serve her well?

5. When Elizabeth arrives at the Traitor’s Gate in the Tower of London by orders of Queen Mary, her entrance is so dramatic, well-rehearsed and sympathy-inducing that some of the guards burst into tears. Where else do you see Elizabeth shining in the limelight? Is she sincere, or is she a consummate actress? Does this dramatic flair ever undermine her ability to rule effectively?

6. At Mary’s funeral, Dr. White, Bishop of Winchester, refers to Mary as a “dead lion,” and to Elizabeth as a “live dog,” prompting Elizabeth’s first public display of fury. She promptly sends White to the Tower. What pithy argument does Cecil make against executing White? What larger issue does Cecil gently reference with this argument?

7. “The sexual act was a symbol of domination on the part of the male, I had always thought, and I had no intention of being dominated for one moment even by the most attractive man I had ever known,” insists Elizabeth. Or, as she more succinctly puts it: “when the fortress is stormed and brought to surrender, the battle is lost.” Do you read Elizabeth’s obsession with her own virginity as powerful or fearful? What spin does Plaidy put on this matter? Do you think Elizabeth’s legacy would have been significantly different had she succumbed to her desire for Robert?

8. Elizabeth is haunted by her father’s personal and political legacy. Where do you see her consciously avoiding his tactics? Where do you see her imitating them? Which of Henry’s successful tricks of the trade does Elizabeth elevate to an art form?

9. What is the significance of Father Parson’s Green Coat? What advice does Burghley offer Elizabeth in terms of dealing with it? What does he mean by the expression “a galled horse when he is touched will wince”?

10. “I was as good a statesman as any of my men,” states Elizabeth, “but in addition I possessed a certain insight which was entirely feminine. It was not merely intuition—but that might have been part of it; it was an immense interest in people, which most men lack. They are too absorbed in themselves to bother much with other people’s motives. Women want to know what is going on; they are insatiably curious. This gives my sex that extra knowledge of how people’s minds work; it help us to assess how they will act in certain circumstances.” Do you buy this? If so, do you find any examples in modern-day statecraft?

11. What priceless and unusual gift does John Aylmer offer the queen? Why does Plaidy include this anecdote in the narrative?

12. When Mary Queen of Scots is found guilty of treason, Elizabeth agonizes over the signing of her death warrant. She has always been simultaneously fascinated and infuriated by Mary. Why does she find this queen so compelling? What alternative plan does she suggest for Mary’s punishment, and why does it go awry at the hands of William Davison?

13. While serving as commander of the English expedition to the Netherlands, Robert accepts an honor of sovereignty without consulting Elizabeth—a major faux pas. Furthermore, Elizabeth catches Lettice preparing to join Robert in the Netherlands amidst great pomp and ceremony. After all these two have put her through, Elizabeth is primed to snap. Why is it politically shrewd for her to avoid publicly humiliating them for their rash actions? What price do they pay in private?

14. At Robert’s death, what small “victory over the she-wolf” does Elizabeth achieve?

15. Essex is a vulgar, disrespectful, tantrum-throwing brat who is chronically unfaithful to his queen. Elizabeth’s first impression of him reads: “He was very raw—and I saw at once that he had no political sense. He was the sort of man who spoke before he considered the effect his words might have—so he lacked the first quality of a courtier.” When Elizabeth entrusts him with a political campaign in Ireland, she admits, “he ignored my instructions…He would go his own way, which was the wrong one. He was defeated everywhere.” Yet despite all this, she tolerates him, even loves him. Explain why the event that finally ruins Essex in Elizabeth’s eyes is a brief, innocuous meeting between the two in Elizabeth’s chamber. What does she mean “he destroyed a dream and with it himself”?

16. Why is Amy Robsart’s death riddled with scandal? Why does Elizabeth say, “the death of Robert’s wife was the greatest lesson I was ever likely to learn and if I did not take advantage of that, I deserved to lose my crown”? Are you convinced of Robert’s innocence?


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