Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle
Let’s begin simply… this was a great read. It’s got love, battles, family rivalries and Elizabeth I all mashed together so, for me, it was a hit.
It centers around a lady named Penelope Devereux. Penelope was beautiful, clever, well-loved and also skilled in politics… a dangerous but winning combination. Penelope is mainly known in history because she was also the muse of the poet Philip Sidney, who wrote love poems about her, so this was a nice way to learn more about her life.
Unfortunately, Penelope’s married was unhappy. The book hints at a number of reasons why, but it was commonly known that Penelope was openly having an affair with Charles Blount. In Elizabeth’s court this happens all too often, with lots of nobility all marrying ‘in secret’, which becomes less secret when children are involved!! Although *plot twist*, the fact Penelope’s husband never took action against his wife through the affair and illegitimate children, suggests their marriage was not as it seems! Dun dun dun. So, Penelope rules her own household.
In complete contrast, Penelope’s mother, Lettice Knollys, who married the Queen’s favourite Robert Dudley in secret, was hated by the Queen. Lettice was banished from court, all because of her marriage, which meant her children had to make their own way… Penelope did exactly that. She was close to the Queen, putting her in a powerful position in court and then, after her step-father Robert Dudley dies, Elizabeth becomes equally obsessed with Penelope’s handsome brother, also called Robert (Earl of Essex). Essex, was a bit of a wild child. He falls in and out of favour of the Queen, which all ends in a very climatic way (no spoilers here!). Yet, Penelope keeps her scheming and influence cleverly at a distance.
There is also one more key person in the book, called Robert Cecil. Unlike Penelope and Robert, he was not beautiful and was noted to have a slight deformity. However, he too holds a lot of influence with Elizabeth. He quickly becomes an enemy of the brother and sister duo, even though he might secretly fancy Penelope.
So he stage is set and all the young members of court compete for Elizabeth’s attention. In a court of lies and love affairs, with no obvious heir to the throne, who is going to win the game?
I would definitely give this book a read, a five stars from me!
If you want to read more about the Tudors, have a look at my best reads for the Tudor period.