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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Elizabeth's Bedfellows by Anna Whitelock

Did Elizabeth 1 sleep with Robert Dudley?  Did she fall in love with any of her suitors?  Was she involved in Amy Robsart's death? Anna Whitelock covers all of these questions in her enjoyable analysis of the scandals surrounding the great Queen.  She also discusses Queen Elizabeth's relationship with her 'bedfellows' - her ladies-in-waiting.  These included Mary Sydney and Katherine Grey.

Queen Elizabeth was quite tough on many of her ladies-in-waiting.  Poor Mary Sydney, for example, nursed the Queen when Elizabeth was ill with smallpox, and caught it herself.  She never recovered her former beauty.  Instead of being sympathetic, the Queen didn't want to see her, and treated her badly.

The Queen always hated it when her ladies married without her permission - a punishable offence.  She would ban them from court, and sometimes send them to the Tower.  She became especially vicious when the beautiful Lettice Knowles, her cousin, married her beloved Robert Dudley.

I enjoyed this book, but I felt that Anna Whitelock did rely a lot on the gossip that surrounded the Queen at the time, and there was too little emphasis on Elizabeth 1's religion which was deeply felt.  She gives the impression of being rather unsympathetic to this Queen.

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