From Anne Barnhill, the author of At the Mercy of the Queen, comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I's young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court
Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth's favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The British queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.
Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he's a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant in England. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen's own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth's wrath knows no bounds.
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About the Author
Anne Clinard Barnhill has published short stories, poetry, a memoir, and hundreds of articles and book reviews over the past twenty years. She has taught writing in a variety of venues and has been a keynote speaker for numerous events. Her first novel, At the Mercy of the Queen, was published by St. Martin's Press in 2012. She lives in North Carolina with her husband.
Anne Clinard Barnhill has published short stories, poetry, a memoir and hundreds of articles and book reviews over the last twenty years. At the Mercy of the Queen was her first novel, followed by Queen Elizabeth's Daughter. Barnhill has taught writing in a variety of venues and been keynote speaker for numerous events. She lives in North Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
Queen Elizabeth's Daughter
A Novel of Elizabeth I
By Anne Clinard Barnhill
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Anne Clinard Barnhill
All rights reserved.
After eleven years under the rule of Queen Elizabeth, the England of 1569 found itself prospering, due mainly to the peace brought by the queen's foreign policies. Through cunning use of her status as an eligible young woman seemingly eager to be wed, the queen had been able to walk a thin line between maidenhood and marriage, leading to the security and, for the most part, happiness of her people. When France threatened, she pretended to entertain the possibility of marriage to the Duke of Anjou. When Spain became menacing, she turned her romantic attentions to her former brother-in-law, King Philip. She pleased the Protestants by flirting with the royalty of the German states. By balancing her numerous suitors, Queen Elizabeth kept the rich jewel that England had become from the entanglements of war. As a result, she was able to refill the coffers of the crown, which had been emptied by her sister's previous reign when Queen Mary I had supported her foreign husband's fruitless war efforts. Elizabeth took great care not to fall into a similar trap. She refused to make war and she refused to make a domestic match.
Though she had kept her country safe from foreign entanglements, there were still problems on English soil. The religious struggles between the Catholics, who lived mostly in the rural, northern parts of the land, and the stronghold of Protestants around London continued, though the queen was lenient in her dealings with recusants as long as they kept quiet and obeyed English law. However, this delicate balance was now beginning to teeter because Mary, Queen of Scots, had been deposed by her Scottish lords due to the mysterious death of her husband, Lord Darnley, a death in which Mary herself had been implicated. Then Mary had been carried away by the Earl of Bothwell, who, it was said, kidnapped and raped her. In response to this gross insult to her person and dignity, and much to Elizabeth's horror, the Scottish queen married the man.
Such events proved too much for the lords of Scotland to endure, and Queen Mary lost her crown. In desperation, she turned to her cousin Elizabeth for shelter. Elizabeth quickly recognized the threat posed by this Catholic queen, who had as much right to the English throne as did Elizabeth, in the minds of many. Elizabeth immediately placed Mary under guard and limited her access to the outside world. However, this did nothing to stop Catholic conspiracies from springing up, intricate plans to place Mary on the throne, thereby returning the country to the rule of Rome. These plots gave Elizabeth and her guardians many sleepless nights. But few were aware of the threat, except the queen herself, Master Cecil, and Robert Dudley.
For Mistress Mary Shelton, now fifteen, the world seemed safe and secure; she attended to her studies, danced and played the virginals, embroidered clothing for the poor, chattered with the queen in the royal bedchamber, and ate as many gooseberry tarts as she could sneak past Mistress Blanche Parry.
Mary had lived at court since her parents' deaths within a fortnight of each other in November 1558. Elizabeth had become queen that very month, a young, vibrant woman of twenty-five. At that moment, she had met the three-year-old orphan and taken the child into her care. Because Mary's father had received his knighthood from King Henry VIII, any of his offspring underage at the time of his death would become royal wards. But Mary was the only one of his children under the age of fourteen; the rest had reached their majority. Mary's future was at the queen's disposal.
Mary was not only a ward, she was also Elizabeth's cousin. Mary's grandfather, Sir John Shelton, had married Anne Boleyn, sister of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Elizabeth's grandfather. They were tied by bonds of kinship and, because of their long association, bonds of love.
Mary had not yet blossomed into the promised prettiness of her childhood. Her dark hair, thick and lustrous, was her best feature, along with her eyes, the same shade. Her mouth was set too primly and her nose was too long and sharp to make her breathtakingly beautiful. Though she had not fulfilled the high hopes the queen had had for her looks, she had that fresh allure reserved for the young. With her deep brown eyes and the smile that played around her mouth, she was beginning to feel her power as a woman. Her figure was shapely and she saw how the courtiers watched her taking delicate steps in the galliard on the rare occasions she consented to dance. She could see how her smile brought the same, answering response to the lips of even stodgy old men like Master Cecil.
Being brought up as the queen's favorite had given Mary an imperious air, and when she spoke, it was to command. She was the queen's cousin and royal ward. She was no shy flower waiting to be plucked. Rather, she was almost as forceful as the queen and often at odds with Her Majesty — they argued about the low cut of Mary's gowns, the bit of rouge she put on her cheeks, and the way she flounced into a room. Few people at court had the courage to disagree with the queen. Mary Shelton was one who dared.CHAPTER 2
The spring had been unusually cold and rainy; Mary Shelton was happy to have a sunny day at last. She walked quickly across the meadow behind the Hampton Court knot gardens in pursuit of her dog, Tom, a large, red Irish hound she'd been awarded on her tenth birthday — a gift from the queen for excellent progress in Latin and Greek and, of course, penmanship. She'd named him Tom after the devilish Tom Wotton, the boy who continued to plague her at her lessons with Master Cecil's wards. Even now, Tom Wotton would hide her quill, steal her books, and laugh at her for no reason. She despised him, though he had grown handsome and filled out his doublet nicely. She enjoyed giving her dog, Tom, commands. She pretended she gave such orders to the real Tom Wotton.
Though she'd had the dog for five years, Tom still enjoyed a romp in the woodlands and Mary took him there almost every day. Already, she'd loosed his leash, allowing him to run and leap until he exhausted himself. She struggled through the still-damp ground to keep pace.
"Hey-ho! Tom! Wait for me, fellow! You run too fast!" Mary panted as she lifted her skirts to trot after the dog. Mary was well made, with dark hair that had escaped her lace caul, long curls bouncing as she ran. Her face was flushed with her efforts, giving her a pretty blush. But it was her eyes people noticed — large and brown with long, dark lashes. They were hypnotic and, though she had a resemblance to her cousin the queen — the same small, slender frame and a similar zest for life — Mary looked more like the queen's mother, Anne Boleyn. Everyone said so, though never within earshot of Her Majesty. It had become quite clear, early on, that Elizabeth wanted no talk about her mother at court.
The dog paused, looked back at his mistress, then bolted for the nearby trees. Mary sighed. "Cursed hound! I will not give chase!" She stopped where she was and turned to gaze down the slight slope toward the castle. She was glad to be away from the doings at court and the smelly confines of the queen's chambers. Hampton Court was beautiful to look at, but after a time, the air became contaminated with horrible smells from the refuse of people and animals, not to mention the garbage and wastes from the grand kitchens. Mary understood why the queen insisted on at least one daily walk. And why she moved from castle to castle with some regularity — she was driven to it by the offensive odors of her court. Mary smiled — her queen seemed to be more sensitive in this regard than most. Yet, no one would dare mention the smells; like the queen, they pinned flowers to their clothes and pretended the air was filled with the scent of roses and chamomile blossoms.
"Now what could be passing through your addled brain to make such a pretty smile?" said a young man who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
"Oh! Tom Wotton, you gave me a start!" said Mary, turning to him. "How dare you creep up on me! What are you doing here?"
"Same as you, I warrant. The sun is out and so am I — bleak winter lasted past his welcome. I have been gathering the first flowers of spring!" said Tom. He handed her a posy of daffodils and purple hyacinths.
"Humph. Stolen from Her Majesty's garden, no doubt," said Mary, sniffing the blossoms.
"Not so, milady. I found them growing of their own accord at the edge of the forest. Do you like them?" said Tom.
"Of course I like them. But such a gift is a bit odd coming from the likes of you. You don't usually do kind things —" said Mary.
"Maybe the sun has brought my humors into balance ..." Tom said. He rocked back and forth on his feet, his hands pulling on his doublet and fiddling with a strip of velvet that had come loose.
"Here comes Tom, my dog. Are you tired now, boy? Do you want some food?" said Mary, rubbing Tom's fur roughly.
"Tom? Your dog is named Tom?" said Master Wotton.
Mary felt her cheeks grow warm. She and Wotton were not friends. She remembered when she'd first gotten her pup, Tom, the boy, had been tormenting her relentlessly during Master Nowell's classes. He made fun of her Latin pronunciation; laughed when she erred in mathematics; poked her when she tried to copy her poems, ruining countless parchments; and tripped her when they were partnered together for dancing. Worst of all, he berated her for being a girl; after all, she was the only female ward to take such strenuous courses — and Tom would not forgive her for being a quick study.
"Well, yes," said Mary, her face growing more and more warm.
"You named that wretched cur after me?"
"Um ... well, um ... yes! Yes, I did," said Mary, meeting his gaze.
"That's quite an honor ... I suppose you did it because you have always thought highly of me — even when we were but children. I'm charmed, mistress. Do you still hold me in such high esteem?" Tom said.
"Well, no, I ... um, rather, I did not honor you, sir ... you have mistook me ..." said Mary.
"I see, I see. It's plain as old Nowell's preaching — you hold me dear in your heart. I confess, mistress, I would not have guessed it — you have kept such feelings buried deep — but now that I am recovered from my surprise, I admit to a certain inevitability about your love. I am, after all, a bit older and wiser — I am by nature more intelligent. No, no, do not try to concur — I know already. It is said by the serving wenches that I am the handsomest of all the wards and, I daresay, when I look into the glass, I am not unhappy with what I see ..." said Tom, smiling down at her.
"This goes beyond the Pale, sir! You have tormented me for years. It was not for love I named my dog after you — it was so I could call your name and be obeyed. So I could scold you and swear horrible oaths using your name! Say all the things I wanted to say, like 'Hush, Tom, quiet!' Or 'Sit, Tom!' Or 'No, Tom!' And now, you think I admire you! Your head is bigger than that cloud and more full of airs as well. The serving wenches may think you pretty, but one of my breeding and station does not look at you twice! I am the queen's cousin — and you? You are the ward no one will purchase because of your insufferable arrogance!" said Mary, leashing her dog once more and heading toward the castle. A ward was a child who had lost his father; his lands and any monies collected reverted to the queen at the time of the father's death. The queen was then able to sell or give away the wardship as she desired.
Tom followed her, grabbed her arm, and spun her around.
"What do you mean, the ward no one will purchase? Has the queen been made offers? Have I been denied? In truth?" said Tom, his face suddenly pale and his grip tight.
"God's blood, let me go! Yes, there have been offers, but not one has come to anything. No one wants you!" said Mary. She watched as his face filled with sorrow. He looked as if he might cry. Mary's heart moved at the odd sight. She suddenly hoped to assuage the hurt she'd caused.
"Perhaps the reason has more to do with where your lands lie. If the queen had wished to give your wardship to one of her men as an honor, if your lands lie too far, he might request a different gift," said Mary.
"Do not try to soften it, Mary. I am unwanted. My own mother has not been to London to visit me in all these years; at Christmastide, I get a letter filled with the news of the year and all the records of my holdings. She does not send kisses or warm wishes. Truly, my flaws must be manifest if my own mother detests me," said Tom.
Mary watched him and their eyes met. She was overcome with sympathy. After all, she was a most fortunate girl — the queen loved her, Mistress Blanche loved her, Kat Ashley had loved her before her death — and this boy, this poor, stupid boy, was all alone in the world. He had no one.
Mary continued to stare into his cool blue eyes until she could not tear her gaze away. He was handsome and had grown tall and straight. She thought of how strong his grip had been on her arm. She wanted to soothe the hurt she had done him. Before she quite knew what was happening, she reached up to him, caressed his cheek with her hand, and pulled him to her.
They kissed, a very soft, gentle touching of the lips, brief as a candle flicker.
"Do you seek to strike, then kiss away the hurt, mistress? That is a perversion of love ... and to tarry with one so far beneath you — that, too, marks a cruel mistress. But come, let us kiss again, for I have many wounds that need soothing," said Tom, his arm still encircling her waist.
"I am not cruel. Let me go! I will not kiss you again, though truly, I did not mean to hurt you. If you would allow your gentle side to peep out once in a while, it would be as welcome as the sun shining through the clouds ... You should try it more often," said Mary as she disengaged herself and continued to walk toward the castle.
Tom swept the cap off his head and bowed to her backside.
"For you, mistress, I shall endeavor to do so," he said, watching her go.
* * *
"Oh, Eleanor, I was stunned by the kiss! I have never even liked Tom Wotton — he has tormented me all these years. He has hated me and I, him. I am not even sure how the kiss came about!" said Mary, sitting on a pillow near the window in the queen's private chambers. She held an embroidery hoop in her hands and pulled the bright blue thread up and through, up and through. The flowers Tom had given her lay at her side, slowly wilting.
"That is often the way with kisses — I have no idea what overtook Sir Anthony when we walked in the gardens one evening. I was pointing out the beauty of the moon that night, and before I knew what had happened, I was in his arms. Perhaps Tom has loved you all this time. You know how boys are — they tease because they do not yet know the language of love. Once they learn that silent speech, the teasing becomes something else," said Eleanor Brydges, newly appointed lady of the Privy Chamber.
"Perhaps ... I cannot rid my mind of the feel of his arms ... so strong. And his mouth, so soft. His are the first lips to touch mine — I shall never forget this day!" said Mary, putting down her sewing and picking up the small bouquet. Mary walked to the queen's bed, reached under it, and pulled out a box. She carefully placed the flowers Tom had given her within, then closed the lid and returned the box to its hiding place.
"What in the name of heaven is that?" said Mistress Eleanor.
"My treasure box — Lord Robert gave it to me when I was but a child. Yet, even now I keep my dearest things in there, but please do not tell anyone. I would be ashamed, for some items are childish — a pretty rock from the river, a butterfly wing. The others would laugh at such trifles," said Mary.
"Have no fear — we are friends. I shall keep any secrets you tell me, if you will do the same for me," said Mistress Eleanor. "Even though you keep his flowers, you must blot Master Wotton from your mind. Have you forgotten our most recent lecture from Her Majesty? 'My ladies are to be above reproach. You represent me, and as my representatives, you will be chaste and guard your honor with your life. The unmarried state is best. However, if your carnal lusts force you to coupling, be certain you do so after I have given my blessing to your marriage. Anything otherwise is treason!'" said Eleanor, mimicking the queen's pose and facial expressions.
"Oh, stop! You are making me laugh and I shall ruin my stitches," said Mary, shaking and wiping tears from her eyes.
"'I know full well the temptations to be found at court — young ganders prancing around in their finery! But you, my ladies, are not geese! You serve the queen, who remains married to England. I have found this a most satisfactory union — give your allegiance to me and I shall find you all good husbands, those of you foolish enough to want them!'" continued Eleanor, now strutting with long, authoritative steps, moving exactly as the queen did.
Excerpted from Queen Elizabeth's Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill. Copyright © 2014 Anne Clinard Barnhill. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a Brit and lover of all things Tudor, I was super impressed with Ms Barnhill's convincing and authentic period voices. And she gives us a fresh perspective on Queen Elizabeth--which is even more impressive. Although the heart of this story belongs to young Mary Shelton, the queen's voice captivated me from the first page. She was a multi-dimensional, tortured character struggling between competing desires as a woman and as a monarch. Hard to imagine Queen Elizabeth I in the role of mother, but Ms. Barnhill certainly achieves that. The attention to detail brought this story alive for me: the taste of the gooseberry tarts, the stench of the rushes on the palace floor, the two-hour performance of dressing and coiffing the queen. I was blown away by the level of the author's research especially for the clothes. I highly recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys Philippa Gregory.
Just when I think I might have come to the end of what I could possibly learn from fiction about Elizabeth I, there comes a book that really brings to light a character that I don't know much about. I admit, I probably have read Mary Shelton's name many times before. But, she blends into the background to the point that I knew nothing about her. I really wondered for the first little bit if this was a completely fictional character. I think it was the diary type entries that had me. They didn't completely feel like Elizabeth and the known documents by her hand. However, as I learned more about their relationship and Mary herself I was swept up into the story. I loved how Mary could tell it like it was to the Queen. There were very few people who were comfortable enough to do that. I'm curious how much she was treated as nobility and how much she was dismissed as just a lady in waiting. Was it well known that she had the Queen's ear and how much influence did she have? This book doesn't really address that but more about Mary falling in love and the Queen's desire to control every aspect of her life. While I've long known that the Queen had a particular habit of keeping her ladies close to her side, this book really showed how far she was willing to go. Despite all her talk about wanting Mary to have an advantageous marriage, I don't think anyone would have come along that would have persuaded her to give up her Mary. Even her instance on Oxford I could have seen falling through. It must have been hard for Mary to make the decision to marry Sir John. The Queen had expressly forbid it many times over. To further complicate matters, Sir John was a Catholic in a time period were they were not trusted much. It's those occasions that I hope this was a love match for Mary to endure so much. As painful as a broken finger was...I'm sure it was preferably to being locked in the tower. I really enjoyed this book. It had all the right elements and I always love learning about a new figure in history. I especially love learning about the women who surrounded the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth's Daughter tells of the forbidden love story of Mary Shelton and John Skydmore. I thought this grabbed my attention from page one. Though, I did find myself a little bored and did some skimming in the middle. But it did pick back up and became a page turner again. I thought it was a good, entertaining read. 4 stars.
This is the first book I have read by this author and I really enjoyed it. Elizabeth I has interested me so for me I was really looking forward to this book. I for some reason did not realize Mary was her ward so it was nice to learn something as I was reading this book. The author did a very good job developing the characters and the setting of this book so that I felt as if I was right there. I highly recommend this book to fans of the Elizabethan time period especially if you are looking for a book that you will not be able to put down. I look forward to finding more books by this author.
If you love the Tudor period, Queen Elizabeth's Daughter should be on your reading list. This book provides a very different view of Elizabeth's reign, through the eyes of her ward, Mary Shelton. (though part of the story is told from the Queen's viewpoint too) Mary is a character you will love because she is very much a teenager as the book starts out. She's spoiled and a little rebellious and she wants to do her own thing, but you do watch her grow as a woman. But for me, the real star of this book is Elizabeth I. Queen Bess was always my favorite of the Tudors. I loved Anne Clinard Barnhill's portrayal of her in this book. She is shown with her flaws. This woman was very paranoid, but after having Henry VIII for a dad, who wouldn't be? I liked the maternal side we see here. It makes Elizabeth more human and easier to like, even though she's wasn't a woman that you could really warm up to. Queen Bess is one that so many author's paint as a hard woman. Wouldn't she have to be to hold her thrown? This book gives her softer side, showing her as a woman who loves her Robin and her "Fawn," but also a ruler with a bit of her father's temperament. Mary brought out the good in her. I really came to love her and Lord Skydemore and their relationship. I felt terrible that because of the Queen they were never together enough for them to have a family of their own. (John had 5 children from his first marriage) If you love Tudor fiction, this is a great book and a must read.
I liked the part where Old Catspaw, the laundry woman, caught Mary when she came back to court to beg the Queen's forgiveness for marrying without her permission and agreed to help her.