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. . . had to go some to achieve notoriety at the Court of King James I; he was a dirty old king and his passion for beautiful young men forced even the Queen into a panderer's role. Frances, Lady Essex, was a Howard, one of the family to which James owed political debts incurred during the long years of Elizabeth I's refusal to acknowledge him as heir. He presided at Lady Frances' first wedding at the age of thirteen to the sixteen-year-old Essex and, because bride and groom were too young to consummate the marriage, kept the beautiful girl at Court while Essex studied abroad. First, Fanny fell for the Prince of Wales and then she started slipping around with Robert Carr, the king's very favorite. Le Comte makes the scandal arising from this far easier to follow than it was in Beatrice White's Cast of Ravens (1967). By showing Cart as the hypotenuse of a series of interlocking bisexual triangles, Le Comte clarifies Fanny's route into court for the murder of Thomas Overbury, who died a protracted and disgusting death in the Tower, apparently poisoned by inches. As dumb, beautiful, indulged and fawned upon as any Hollywood starlet, Fanny left a paper trail as broad as it was long, incriminating herself and those in her service. They lost their heads but Fanny kept hers and Carr his. A poetic justice decreed that the once headlong lovers live together under a form of house arrest--and they hated it. Le Comte traces their shabby story's influence on such authors as Scott and Hawthorne, discusses the primary and secondary sources he has researched to produce this short book which has both scholarly value and general appeal.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1968
Publisher: Dial