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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review and ARC Giveaway: Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain by Margaret Irwin

A beautifully written historical portrayal of the political and personal conflicts of the royal half sisters.
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781402229985
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402229985
     Genre: Historical Fiction
     My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0
    First published in 1946, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain continues the “vivid, psychologically brilliant” (Times Literary Supplement) journey begun in Young Bess and Elizabeth, Captive Princess. Philip, Prince of Spain, the unwilling bridegroom of Queen Mary, has been warned about the young Elizabeth. According to all reports, she is a heretic, a rebel, and a potential enemy—but she’s also alluring. Accused of treachery by Mary, Elizabeth finds herself teetering between Mary’s vengeance and Philip’s uneasy ardor, with her life in the balance.

    I found this a bit slower to read but still engaging and interesting.
    This is the concluding book of the trilogy which included Young Bess (which I did not read) and Elizabeth, Captive Princess: Two Sisters, One Throne which I did read and review.

    As I noted in my review of Elizabeth, Captive Princess, the writing style is unusual as if flows yet twists in a puzzling fashion that seems to fit Princess Elizabeth. The thought process presented is almost frenetic as Elizabeth tries to maintain such a fine line between her fierce independence and her need to show submissiveness to Queen Mary and Prince Philip. There is already political tension between Queen Mary and the imprisoned Elizabeth due to their respective claims to the throne and due to their religious differences. Queen Mary has brought England back to the Catholic faith as the only true religion which is supported by Rome and Prince Philip. On the other hand, Elizabeth was raised with their father's less formal ritual in the Protestant church. The tension is increased by the jealousy evoked by Prince Philip's interest and leniency towards Elizabeth. Prince Philip, aged 27, marries Queen Mary, aged 38,  as a political move to increase the power of Spain. Philip convinces Mary to show mercy and release Elizabeth from The Tower and allow her to live freely, if guardedly. 

    Elizabeth is portrayed as a bright young woman who draws men, young and old, to her ethereal manner and charms the common masses with her natural exuberance. She continually chants  in word games and speaks in riddles to keep her meaning ambiguous or at least uncommitted.  The author catches this character so well that, for me, it made the reading slower as I had to pay close attention to catch the nuances and think about the implications of what Elizabeth is saying outwardly compared to what she is thinking or feeling that she is not expressing.

    It appears that the author did detailed research into the important events and times of the story and into the known letters written by the participants. These then are fleshed out in fiction that gives the characters depth - and life. A large part of the story focuses on portraying the development and character of Philip before shifting back to Elizabeth. It can not be known how they truly interacted and felt, but the author pulls you into their lives in a vivid way. The book made me want to look up what factually happened to these historical characters and try to determine how close to reality the story is.

    The story makes me glad that I do not live a life that must play such political games of manipulation. It was somewhat surprising that Elizabeth was allowed to live by Queen Mary. This was due in great part to Prince Philip who was inclined to subtly be with Elizabeth with the hope they might be together if Mary died.  Ultimately Elizabeth does succeed to the throne upon Mary’s death but she continues to keep Philip at bay. As the bookmakers in Europe took bets that Elizabeth’s reign would not make it past six months one gets a glimpse from the author of the matters of state, marriage proposals and considerations that Elizabeth had to  juggle. This is a remarkable historical portrayal of very interesting historical figures.

    Thank you to Sourcebooks for the book to read and review.


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