A nicely fleshed-out portrait of Elizabeth I (1533–1603), with new revelations of the queen in love and the man who sought desperately to marry her.
Two years into her reign, Elizabeth was besotted with the dark, athletic Lord Robert Dudley, whose father had been beheaded by Queen Mary for his treasonous backing of the short-lived Lady Jane Grey. Elizabeth and Dudley had known each other since childhood, sharing the same tutors, and he was given the plum job of Master of the Queen’s Stable, allowing him daily access to her and an assured rise of his fortune and titles. Elizabeth was expected to marry, wooed by all the princes of Europe, while Dudley, of a lower status, was married to Amy Robsart—probably out of love, though their marriage remained childless. In September 1560, just as rumors about the queen and Dudley were rampant, Amy was found dead at the base of a short stairwell at Cumnor Place. Her neck was broken, though the coroner’s report noted several “dyntes” in her skull, which could have resulted from the fall. The death caused a scandal, and suspicion fell on Dudley, although he was absolved of wrongdoing. British author Skidmore (History/Bristol Univ.; Edward VI: The Lost King of England, 2007) moves engagingly back and forth in the story, dwelling on how fresh scrutiny of the evidence may point to the answer of this terrible death. Some of the evidence is well-known: Amy had been acting strangely that morning, praying on her knees, and insisted that the entire household attend a nearby fair, as if she had “an evil toy in her mind.” Moreover, there were indications in her correspondence that she might have been suffering from breast cancer. On the other hand, there had been rumors at court that Dudley was planning to poison her. Skidmore revisits a libelous tract that appeared in 1584, Leicester’s Commonwealth, as well as other accounts, in his thorough sifting of the historical record.
A fresh elucidation of this precarious period of Elizabeth’s reign.