Bestselling historian Alison Weir brings Elizabeth I to vivid life in a novel of intrigue, sex, plots, mysteries and tragedies, amid all the colour and pageantry of the Tudor court.
'[Weir] gets right inside the head of the Virgin Queen. The reader has a blissful sense of seeing history as it happens.' - Kate Saunders, The Times
It was an affair that shocked the world.
Elizabeth I is the most sought-after bride in Europe. But though she is formidably intelligent, brave and tempestuous, she is desperately insecure. The tragic events in her past mean she cannot give herself to any man, and yet she relishes the thrill of the chase, the lure of forbidden fruit.
And so, using sex and high-powered diplomacy, she plays what becomes known as the 'Marriage Game', dangling suitors to keep them friendly to her kingdom, while holding them off indefinitely.
But playing this tantalising game with the married Robert Dudley, the son and grandson of traitors, could cost her the throne…
Weir deftly follows The Lady Elizabeth, her 2008 novel about the young Elizabeth I of England (1533 1603). Here Weir trains her spotlight on Elizabeth's equivocations over marriage from her accession to the throne in 1558 until the death of her most persistent suitor, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 30 years later. Weir posits that Elizabeth, deeply scarred by early experience, never intended to marry and had numerous personal and political reasons to avoid it. Yet her council pressured her repeatedly to provide an heir, while innumerable Catholic and Protestant courtiers and royalty sought her hand, hoping to cement an alliance. Elizabeth exasperated everyone with promises, flirting, impossible demands, and prevarication. Lively bedroom scenes and discordant council meetings reveal Elizabeth's complexities, depicting her as a wily coquette determined to rule England alone. Mindful always of England's interests and the vulnerability of her throne, Elizabeth made several anguished decisions regarding both "the marriage game" and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. A nuanced portrait of Dudley, whose love for Elizabeth remained steadfast despite her vacillation and his other marriages, balances Weir's sympathy for her subject. Weir's credible characters and blend of the personal and political will sweep up readers of this engrossing behind-the-scenes psychological portrait of Elizabeth.