NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

3.0 out of 5 stars -- Absolute and sovereign mistress of her people...

History tells us many facts about Elizabeth I so the reader is aware from the start that the Queen of England (1558 to 1603) ascended the throne at age 25 and died at age 69 having never married. Throughout her reign, her Privy Council and closest advisers, varied relatives, and friends urged her to marry and she steadfastly prevaricated, ultimately refused their counsel and presented herself as "The Virgin Queen." Though long the subject of debate regarding Elizabeth I being an actual virgin, it would seem that she believed that of herself if only in the most technical sense of the definition with rumor and speculation from several sources indicating that she had engaged in intimate relations just short of actual intercourse with Robert Dudley. The entirety of this novel focuses on that relationship and Elizabeth I entertaining proposals of marriage from the crowned heads and royalty of other countries arranged through her Privy Council. Defying convention, she ultimately refuses to share her throne while trying to preserve alliances and foster good relationships with Spain and France while fighting off the claims of Mary, Queen of Scots and her supporters.

I suppose that, although I've never been an Elizabeth I fan, I've always been fascinated by the Tudors. Unfortunately, this book does not present her in a favorable light. She is manipulative, capricious, and cruel, especially in her treatment of Lord Robert Dudley (her Robin) who gives up everything for her and to whom she lies again and again rewarding his loyalty and love with money, titles, and properties while continually turning down his suit of marriage. When people refuse to do what she wants, she punishes them. Jealous, mercurial, and vain -- she is a controlling mistress and an imperious Queen though she insists she loves her people more than any monarch ever has. Just not her man. Not enough to release him from a life of bending to her will. Though I know she presided over a time of relative peace and growth in her country, stopped the religious persecution after the bloody reign of her sister, Queen Mary, and forwarded the likes of William Shakespeare (they don't call it the Elizabethan Age for nothing), I am unsympathetic to her self-delusions because of the way she treated others who displeased her, did not meet her expectations, or fulfill her emotional needs. There is also the question of exactly why Elizabeth I seemed to be almost fearful of marital relations and childbearing and a hint of past sexual abuse though it is not substantiated.

I had to force myself to finish this book as the focus on the marriage games wore thin quickly. I find I much prefer reading a biography to historical fiction about such a well known figure. None can know the truth about things that were said to another in total privacy and speculation is only that. Primary source material was included here and it's obvious the author has done meticulous research on Elizabeth I, but this novel did not provide me with any new insight or further understanding of the true motivations behind her choice to live as she did, I would guess this book would appeal to those who like romance and want MORE details about the life of this unusual Queen.

Amazon Vine ARC.

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