The Courtships of Queen Elizabeth I
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The pursuit of Elizabeth Tudor was the greatest hunt in history. For more than half a century, kings, princes, nobles, and knights, Frenchmen, Austrians, Spaniards, Swedes, and “mere English” joined the chase, lured by the magnificent quarry who pranced before them, leaping away, doubling back, sometimes halting and seeming to yield, but always at last disappearing over the horizon. Instinct and experience taught Elizabeth not to surrender, but political expediency, emotional cravings, and the exhilaration of the sport combined in her head and heart to keep the great hunt going. From her babyhood into her old age, in spite of her avowals of perpetual virginity, in spite of rich rumors to the contrary, the most splendid men in Europe succeeded one another in the field as suitors to the queen.
Noli me tangere—do not touch me; it would have been a fitting motto for Elizabeth, but she was not born when Sir Thomas Wyatt wrote the sonnet, bitter with love for her mother, Anne Boleyn. Giddy, seductive Anne had no need of lesser lovers such as Wyatt while Henry VIII , England’s mighty Caesar, courted her with exuberant tenderness, drawing hearts and initials on his love letters like a schoolboy, disrupting the religious and social orders to make her his wife. She was not a classic beauty, but she had the luscious dark eyes and nervy delicacy of a doe, and she dressed with sophisticated, expensive taste; above all, she knew how to make men ache with desire. Women in the London crowds shouted abuse at her and the imperial ambassador Chapuys sneered knowingly and referred to her as “the Concubine” in his dispatches. After the birth of Elizabeth, in September 1533, he wrote, “The christening has been like her mother’s coronation, very cold and disagreeable both to the court and to the city.” It was a serious blow to Henry VIII that the baby, born seven months after his marriage to Anne, was not a boy; however, the new queen’s ability to bear children was now proved, and the all-important male heir to the throne would no doubt follow. The baby Elizabeth was healthy and indeed had a certain value as bait for a future foreign marriage alliance. But the king’s passion for his wife faded as the months paced on and no son was born. Anne’s brittle charm cracked into neurosis, her peals of inappropriate laughter sounded hysterical, her shrewishness vented itself in orders to threaten and bully the king’s disgraced elder daughter, Mary. More than ever Anne seemed “wild for to hold,” carelessly coquettish with any man from the common musician Mark Smeaton to her own brother Viscount Rochford, flirting and teasing and fishing for compliments, seeking reassurance that she was still desirable. Then, in January 1536, she gave birth prematurely to a stillborn boy, and Henry had no more tolerance.
Noli me tangere . . . the lascivious incitements by which she roused her lovers included “touchings,” it was stated at her trial. The bald obscenity of the official reports had nothing in common with Wyatt’s courtly erotic yearnings, or the king’s boisterous love letters.
Copyright © 1975, 2005, 2011, 2012 by Josephine Ross. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
Elizabeth I of England refused to commit herself to any man, although one illustrious suitor after another endeavored to ally himself with her in the most intimate of treaties. The colorful, often tempestuous courtships of the “Virgin Queen” come to breathtaking life in The Men Who Would Be King, a thrilling, utterly fascinating popular history by Josephine Ross, author of The Winter Queen and The Tudors.
With impeccable attention to historical detail, Ross captures all the splendors of the royal court, and all the delicious intrigues surrounding the romances of the powerful daughter of King Henry VIII during her glorious reign. We meet the many men who competed fruitlessly for Elizabeth’s hand and affections—most important among them the ambitious, devious Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, suspected of having murdered his wife. During the intricate marriage negotiations, romance inextricably blended with diplomacy, and Elizabeth played one prospective groom against the other, always exploiting the situation for England’s profit and her own pleasure.
The Men Who Would Be King is spirited British history at its most captivating and eminently readable.
Hardcover Book : 240 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Co Inc "Don'T Us ( August 07, 2012 )
Item #: 13-616563
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