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I, Elizabeth: The Word of a Queen

I, Elizabeth: The Word of a Queen

4.1 55
by Rosalind Miles

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A spellbinding novel about Elizabeth I from the internationally bestselling author of the Guenevere and Tristan and Isolde trilogies.

Publicly declared a bastard at the age of three, daughter of a disgraced and executed mother, last in the line of succession to the throne of England, Elizabeth I inherited an England ravaged by bloody religious


A spellbinding novel about Elizabeth I from the internationally bestselling author of the Guenevere and Tristan and Isolde trilogies.

Publicly declared a bastard at the age of three, daughter of a disgraced and executed mother, last in the line of succession to the throne of England, Elizabeth I inherited an England ravaged by bloody religious conflict, at war with Spain and France, and badly in debt. When she died in 1603, after a forty-five year reign, her empire spanned two continents and was united under one church, victorious in war, and blessed with an overflowing treasury. What’s more, her favorites—William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Walter Raleigh—had made
the Elizabethan era a cultural Golden Age still remembered today.

But for Elizabeth the woman, tragedy went hand in hand with triumph. Politics and scandal forced the passionate queen to reject her true love, Robert Dudley, and to execute his stepson, her much-adored Lord Essex. Now in this spellbinding novel, Rosalind Miles brings to life the woman behind the myth. By turns imperious, brilliant, calculating, vain, and witty, this is the Elizabeth the world never knew. From the days of her brutal father, Henry VIII, to her final dying moments, Elizabeth tells her story in her own words.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Popular historian ( The Women's History of the World ) and novelist ( Return to Eden ) Miles brings deep research to this iconoclastic but only partially successful fictional life of England's ``virgin queen,'' Elizabeth I. Miles traces, through the queen's own voice, Elizabeth's turbulent years as a princess in Henry VIII's court, her uneasy status during the brief reigns of her brother Edward and sister Mary and her decades on the throne. The author leaves no event unreported, describing in detail the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth's struggles with Mary, Queen of Scots, and the rise and fall of Essex. In a genre that often uses passionate love scenes to temper the drier affairs of history, a novel about the world's second most famous female virgin presents a challenge. There are love scenes aplenty, however, since Miles depicts the young Elizabeth as being as sexually obsessed as she is frustrated, her interest in men overshadowing affairs of state, religion and the succession to the throne. Miles is at her best in describing everyday Elizabethan life--religion, food, dress, illness. But her Elizabeth lacks the charisma to carry this lengthy chronicle, which is weakened by the device of having the queen, in italicized passages, comment from a pallid, distant hindsight on her past actions. As an entertaining look at Reformation England, this novel succeeds, but it fails at the more immediate task of creating memorable fictional characters from the leavings of history. Literary Guild and Double day Book Club selections; author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Historian Miles, who has written books on Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and women's history, here gives a portrait of Elizabeth I that is rich in historical detail. More importantly, her Elizabeth has an authentic voice. Raised by turns as princess, bastard, and potential traitor, Elizabeth does anything she must do to keep her head from the block except renounce her faith (which makes it odd that we get no sense of her as a spiritual person). Having achieved power, she will do whatever it takes to retain it, including denying her powerful sexuality and executing traitors, even her beloved Earl of Essex. Forthright, salty, sensual, regal, and occasionally foolish, this is as real as a character created by words can be. For all historical fiction collections. [Doubleday and Literary Guild selections; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/94.]-Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, Ia.
Mary Ellen Quinn
Historian Miles' novel is in the form of a memoir that Elizabeth I is writing near the end of her long and amazing life. Through Elizabeth's eyes, the reader sees the life-and-death court intrigues, the religious conflicts, and the prerogatives as well as the high price of power. In addition to being faithful to historical fact, Miles presents a wealth of colorful detail. The personalitiesElizabeth's father, Henry VIII, her sister, Bloody Mary, her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, and the restare vividly portrayed, as are the sights, sounds, and smells of the Tudor era. Miles also interprets the inner woman, from the frightened girl called away from the security of her exile at Hatfield to present herself at court, to the mature queen: scholarly, vain, shrewd, deeply attuned to such things as the language of dress, capable of great passion, but learning never to let her passions rule. Miles weaves Elizabeth's passions throughout, as various courtiers attempt to marry her off, and the men she loves betray her, prove inadequate, or must be sacrificed for the political good. Miles answers in her own way the question of whether the Virgin Queen was really a virgin. Despite its length, this convincing novel never falters.

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He was a man in his prime and a stranger to the word "no." He had looked upon the world for forty years, over twenty of them as a king. His tall body had filled out with age, indulgence, pleasure and action to give him a huge and powerful frame, on which his rich velvet coats and satin doublets, puffed, embroidered and slashed, hung like the royalty he was.

In every group he towered above other men. He bestrode the world, straddling the earth foursquare, as if he owned it, his jeweled dagger swinging carelessly beside the thrust of his great curving codpiece, and in his green and gold, purple and white, scarlet, silver and fox, outshone them all.

I speak of him like a lover, no, my father as I first remember him? His splendor, his danger, his might? Perhaps I was--in spite of everything--at least a little in love with him then, for so all the world was too.

Now I was ten years out of my nurse's arms, and he ten years nearer his grave--years that had dealt him a hard hand of suffering, sickness and betrayal. Yet was he looking, as he stood at the altar, magnificent in gold and rubies, in furred crimson surcoat and plumed hat, as handsome, as glorious as ever--and as cheerful as any man may, for what he was about to do.

The occasion was his sixth adventure into wedlock, his sixth attempt to make a marriage that would withstand wind and weather, to find a woman who would please him, and a pleasure that would last. The bride was Dame Katherine Parr, rich, religious, and comely in cream brocade, the three months' widow of the late Lord Latimer, and of another rich and aged husband before him. Squinting at the couple between my fingers as I knelt at prayer, I pondered on the mystery of marriage, and why my father still chanced his fortune on such rough seas.

This was the only one of my father's weddings to which I came invited. The first, to Katherine of Aragon, the Infanta of Castile and pride of Spain, was long before my time, when Henry himself was only eighteen. At his second marriage, to my mother Anne Boleyn, I have to own I was present, though unbidden and unallowed; indeed, I was the cause of the hasty and secret ceremony celebrated hugger-mugger in that January of 1533, for Anne had found herself, like many a maid before, with a child in her belly before she had a husband for her bed.

The third of the King's weddings, to plain Jane Seymour, was like-wise a private affair. The fourth, to the Princess of Cleves (another Anne), was pitched as low as decency permitted, since the King, disliking her on sight, wanted to be as little married as possible to the woman he called "the Flanders Mare," with a view to unmarrying himself as soon as possible, as he was shortly to do. The fifth, another Katherine, his girl Queen of the Howard clan, the King could not wait to wed and bed--another costly lesson on the old text, Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

Only with this marriage to Madam Parr, the most motherly of all his women, did the King decide to make it a family affair. Beside me in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court that day knelt the oldest of his children, my sister Mary, surrounded by her women. By her white knuckles and pale mumbling lips, Mary was praying hard enough to satisfy both God and man--but not, as all there knew, to satisfy the King, since she clung with all the fury of her nature to the old Catholic faith of her mother Katherine of Aragon. How would she fare, the Court whispered, under the new Queen, Katherine Parr, a woman as devout in the Reformed Religion of our Protestantism as Mary was absolute for Rome?

On my other side knelt the son for whom Henry had broken with the Pope and Rome, my brother Edward, whose pale, over-solemn face flushed with smiles as he caught my eye. He wriggled his small body nearer to mine with a confidential air.

"Shall we have comfits after, sister, and candy-things?" he whispered hoarsely. At once he was silenced by his governor Lady Bryan, while mine, my trusted Kat, though all ears, winked a blind eye and continued serenely with her prayers, confident that at my great age of ten, I for one was better schooled than to chatter in church. But I gave Edward a secret smile and a nod, for I longed for him to be more like any other child of six summers, instead of the infant Solomon all expected of the heir to the throne.

Within the chapel it was as cool as a cave, though high summer blazed outside. Here the only radiance came from bank upon bank of rich wax candles, the only sound from a small cluster of the King's Music sighing away sweetly in the shadows behind the reredos. At an unseen signal, silence fell like a cloud. The Bishop of Winchester approached the altar and the ceremony began.

". . . to join together this Man and this Woman in Holy Matrimony, which is an Honorable Estate, ordained for a remedy against Sin, and to avoid Fornication, for the mutual Society, Help and Comfort that the one ought to have for the other . . ."

My child's mind wandered, drifting away with the fine white smoke of the candles, high above the humbled heads of the tiny congregation.

Where were my father's other wives now? Were their spirits here with us, to hear him make again the selfsame vows that he had made to them? And why, since he was all-powerful, so fine, so wise, so good, had they all failed him?

I bowed my forehead to my hands and with all my young heart earnestly besought God the Father to bless this marriage for the King my father's sake.

Afterward in the King's privy apartments, at a reception for the closest of his courtiers and councillors, there were all the comfits and candy-things, jellies and quinces, possets and peaches and pigeon pies that my dear Edward's six-year-old heart could desire.

A visit to Court, the chance to see my father and the great ones, was a rare treat, and not to be wasted clinging to my governor Kat's skirts. Strange how men full grown pay no heed to a child, especially a girl. I had slipped away from Kat for once, she being deep in conversation with Lady Bryan on the trials of caring for the royal young.

I was standing now by the arras in a corner of the chamber near a group of the King's lords. In truth, I was lurking there to pluck one special lord by the sleeve, since well I knew that whether he was Archbishop of Canterbury or no, Thomas Cranmer was the kindliest man at Court and would always have a fair word for me. With him in conversation were two lords of the Privy Council, Sir Thomas Wriothesley and Sir William Paget, its Secretary.

Wriothesley was a short, angry, strutting man, shifting his weight restlessly from foot to foot as he spoke. "So our lord the King plays the farmer, going to market one more time!" He laughed unpleasantly. "And fetches back neither Flanders mare nor hot young Howard filly but a fair old English cow!"

"Not so old, my lord," interjected Paget smoothly, swirling the thick golden wine reflectively round his glass. "Our new Queen has seen but thirty-odd summers--"

"--and with God's grace may see many more," added Cranmer gently.

"Well may she see another thirty before she brings home what we most need!" said Wriothesley fiercely. "Money and land she brings him, I grant you, from her former husbands, a dower fit for a queen. But not a child from either of them--never has she cropped, though the earth twice tilled! I fear my lord King will get milk enough from this cow, yet never a calf--the golden calf we pray for, the god of our idolatry--another prince, to make all sure!"

"We are blessed with one prince, my lord," said Cranmer, looking fondly across the Presence Chamber to where Edward sported with the Queen's lapdogs under the care of his uncle the Earl of Hertford. The Earl looked sad, I thought--as how could he not, remembering on a day like this the King's marriage to his sister Jane Seymour seven years before, and her death giving birth to Edward so soon after?

"Hertford looks sour!" put in the sardonic Wriothesley with a greedy gulp of wine, waving for a passing servant to recharge his goblet. "As well he might if the new Queen's kinsmen are to be grabbing for places as fast as he and his brother did!"

"Truly, the Earl is not the only one of the Seymours to feel his nose put out of joint by this marriage," added Paget with a faint smile. "I hear that brother Tom had caught the widow's eye and thought to have her--or her wealth!--before the King popped in between him and his hopes. And now the rogue finds it politic to travel abroad until her heart returns to its rightful place in her new husband's bosom!"

"Yet Dame Parr may surprise us," said Cranmer reflectively, covertly studying the new Queen's ample frame as she moved about the chamber. "There looks to be no hindrance to childbearing on her side. Remember she has only ever before had aged men as bed partners--something that smiles not on the work of generation."

"And now--how is the difference?" came Wriothesley's sharp sneer. Together the three men turned their eyes to the King where he sat on his chair of state, leaning heavily on his gold-topped staff of ebony, the only wood, his master carpenter had told him, that could now support his weight. Even then I could read their delicate silence as it hung in the air. The King is old . . . in his embraces Madam Parr will not bear nor bring forth . . .

Now they were looking at Edward with a scrutiny I could not read.

"Take heart, my lords," rallied Cranmer gently. "God is love. Our Prince is forward for his years and likely to thrive."

There was no reply. My attention wandered. Across the chamber my sister Mary was locked in conference with a group of clerics around the Bishop, still robed in his ceremonial finery after conducting the wedding. With them stood the Duke of Norfolk, a dark-faced man of policy I had always feared, even though I knew he was distantly kin to me, and his son, a young warlord a mile above my head, the Earl of Surrey.

As if she felt my gaze, Mary twisted her small body toward us and peered shortsightedly in our direction. "Sister?" she called, for if she could not see me, she could make out my bright new scarlet gown. "Elizabeth, come and know my lord--my lord Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester!"

As I moved away, Wriothesley's last gibe traveled with me: "If Popish Mary cleaves to Gardiner now, he will bear watching . . ."

Behind Mary, dominating her low form, stood a weighty figure, a bishop's cope and cross distinguishing his rank. Behind him a bevy of lesser clerics fanned out in silent ranks awaiting his command.

"Is this the child--the Lady Elizabeth?" Bishop Gardiner's air as he glowered in my direction was one of unspeakable arrogance, and his deepset eyes did not deign to meet mine. His face was swarthy, his nose hooked like a buzzard's, and his rough demeanour more that of an alehouse brawler than a man of God. His ragged frowning brows and pitted skin gave him an ugly fearsomeness, but the red mouth beneath his coarse mustache was as soft and spiteful as a woman's.

He must have known who I was! Why, then, this rude pretense? But Mary was gazing at him with an admiration that left her oblivious to anyone else. With difficulty she now gave her attention to me. "My lord Bishop has been instructing me, sister, on . . . on many matters . . ." Again the glance of adoration, which the proud prelate received as nothing more than his due. "Know him, Elizabeth, I beg of you, for your soul's good!"

"Souls, madam?" snapped the Duke of Norfolk, his left hand angrily gripping the hilt of his sword. "All was well enough when the care of souls was left to His Grace the Bishop here and his people. Our business is with bodies! If the King means to make these wars on France, we must have men--men and money! Or else the Netherlanders . . ."

I moved slowly away, so that no one would notice me. My father's marriage, my new stepmother's chance of childbearing, Mary's love of God--or was it for the Bishop?--I had food enough for one day, and more than enough for a ten-year-old mind to digest. Much of it, I confess, I laid by to think of later, and forgot. Soon afterward I was sent from Court once more and returned with Kat and my women to my quiet life at Hatfield, deep in the Hertfordshire countryside. And there did the Fates, knowing what was to come, let me sleep out the last of my childhood, the sleep of innocence from which we all too soon awake.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Rosalind Miles, Ph.D., is a well-known and critically acclaimed English novelist, essayist, and broadcaster. Her novels, which include the Guenevere trilogy and the Tristan and Isolde trilogy, have been international bestsellers. You can visit her at www.rosalind.net.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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I, Elizabeth 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The author is an amazing storyteller. I loved her other books as well. I own them in paperback and will put them on my Nook as well so i always have them with me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fanastic from beginning to end. I might have to read it again.
ZebraStripe More than 1 year ago
Rosalind Miles is an amazing author; she manages to write in Elizabeth's point of view without flaw. Most of this is due to her research on Queen Elizabeth I, for, this novel is historically accurate. The other reason for her success is her ability of thorough writing, which allows the reader see Elizabeth's world. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys the English Renaissance. Enjoy!
pagese More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because Queen Elizabeth I fascinates me. I've read many different historical fictions about her. I really liked the first part of the book. Most things I've read start were her half-sister Queen Mary has her in the Tower of London. So, I haven't read much concerning her childhood and when her father was still alive (at least were she was the focus of the story anyway). I felt that reading about that time period helped me better understand some of her actions as an adult. I also liked reading about her relationship with her half-brother, Edward. But, sadly the later part of the story started to really drag down. I found myself skimming parts. But, I don't blame it on the book really. As stated above, I've read a lot about her. This book really just did not have anything new to add. It focused on the facts and more on Elizabeth the Queen, not Elizabeth the person. So, if you haven't already read some historical fiction about Queen Elizabeth, you might like this one. But, if you already have a lot of information concerning Queen Elizabeth I, you might want to find something else.
Honor_Girl More than 1 year ago
This is one of the finest pieces of historical fiction I've ever read. You will walk away feeling as though you've had a conversation with Gloriana herself -- beautifully written in the first person. I loved this book so much that I bought two copies; one to lend, and one to hoard for myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was well written. It captures nicely the thoughts that Elizabeth I has throughout her life. The scenes are described beautifully and very descriptive and the drama between the characters is well documented. All in all, this book is worth a read. Some of the historical points are a bit off, but other than that its a good novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down - even knowing the chain of events in history, I couldn't wait to turn the page. It was also great insight to see Elizabeth the woman going through the dreaded aging process - trying to rule as a queen, but giving insight to the woman as well. Rosalind Miles' description of every detail - be it the event, the Court setting, the attire being worn by the Court - it was just wonderful. I've read many books set in this time period, but never one so detailed and descriptive of the chain of events. Highly recommended.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of my favortie books about the Tudors- I couldn't put it down. I, Elizabeth is an excellent story of Elizabeth's life from her early childhood until just before her death. Although a history lesson, Miles tells Elizabeth's story in a fascinating way. Very enjoyable and higly recommended for anyone interested in Tudor England.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a wonderful book. I enjoyed it very much. It was full of depth of her thoughts and feelings and problems that plagued her rule and her steps towards becoming queen. I recomend it to anyone who enjoys read and learning about this incrediable monarch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I throughly enjoyed this book. I'm married to a Scotsman and have heard much about Mary Queen of Scots. This book gives the reader an interesting insight into the workings behind Elizabeth's struggle to retain her crown and her England. Also provides an insight into the struggle between the Catholic and Protestant religions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was an amazing book as well as a little challenging. I couldn't put it down, very witty.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I do not usually enjoy historical fiction. This book, however, is different. Told from Elizabeth's point of view, it reads as if it is her autobiography. Drawn into court intrigues, listening in on plots, and walking with a heavy heart when the infamous tower is put into use, the book folds you into its story. Although the outcome is known, it still offers heart pounding suspense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent book! Elizabeth is cast in a darker mold for this historical novel. It's nice to see this book being re-released, although the title is a variation of others used for the same book. It is NOT a new novel, by any means...just a reprint of a good, solid read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is wonderfully written and highly recommended. Historically accurate down to minute details, it is easy to get lost in the story of Elizabeth I. Ms. Miles has done an outstanding job by conveying Elizabeth I as both a woman and a Queen.
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Charlottes-son More than 1 year ago
History told as a story, historically accurate, but given the license to do more that dry facts. I understood so more about the people and times that most other sources.  
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Longtime favorite on Elizabeth1
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