In 1558 Elizabeth inherits an empty treasury and a country racked by political and religious tensions. In her first two years as Queen she must maintain her tenuous grasp on power in a country where half the populace want a Catholic on the throne, and not all of the Protestants support her. To complicate matters further there’s a distraction on hand - the handsome and charming Lord Robert Dudley. He is utterly unsuitable, being not only married but tainted by his father’s treason, but Elizabeth just can’t help herself. Meanwhile his wife Amy is being shunted around the countryside to one set of friends after another, and Sir William Cecil is plotting Dudley’s second downfall....
I’m always interested in Tudor history, but this book took a bit of effort to stick to. Elizabeth was horribly indecisive, vacillating endlessly about whether to go to war against the forces of Mary of Guise and prone to sudden changes of mind. She also was scarcely able to function without Dudley to guide her. I found myself wondering how she ever managed to hold on to power, and now have a strong desire to read a proper biography of her, to see if she really was that dependent on Dudley. And I just wanted to shake Amy. I know doormat wives were the fashion back then but her slavish adoration of him was as wearing as it was puzzling. I could see looks and charm but not much else to recommend him.
The discovery of the mystery surrounding Amy’s death was one of the good things about this book. Gregory offers a possible explanation, but it’s one of several and I’d definitely like to learn more. But the real highlight was all the scheming that went on within the court. Cecil and his spies, Dudley and his spies, Elizabeth playing off the emissaries trying to secure her hand for their employers ... the Queensland Parliament looks almost tame in comparison.