review: Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin

Elizabeth, Captive Princess

by Margaret Irwin

This is the middle of a trilogy about Queen Elizabeth I when she was a Princess, the first being titled Young Bess and the last Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain. Elizabeth, Captive Princess begins with Edward VI’s death, as she is summoned to his side—though she immediately sees through the ruse to capture her. Through Jane Grey’s short reign and subsequent imprisonment and execution, and then her own captivity, we get a glimpse of Elizabeth’s steely nature and uncanny instinct to survive.

I would have enjoyed this read a little more had I read the first in the series. Though I know the history well enough to know the characters and understand the religious and political stances, a reader new to historical fiction (or, at least, this era) would be lost—it’s not a book that can be picked up and enjoyed by anyone.

There is a fair amount of slang, whether antiquated or more modern British I cannot tell. While it gives a historical feel to the writing, it can also be confusing or exhausting to read. This is especially abundant in the first chapter, giving a Margaret Irwin newbie (like me) quite a shock at the writing style—but, once used to it, has its charm.

I did learn some new details, such as how the people viewed both Mary and Elizabeth, and the reasons why some chose Catholicism and some Protestantism. Also explained is the reason France was staunchly Catholic– to the same tune that Henry VIII confiscated the riches of the monasteries: money in the King’s pocket, which I had not realized before the POV shown in this novel. The Englishmen’s feelings toward a Spanish marriage are critiqued, especially toward the end, gearing the reader up for the next in the series.

I would highly recommend starting with Young Bess before taking on this second in the series—even for veteran Tudor fans. None of the characters are fleshed out and many names are dropped at the very beginning. This is a worthy read, just not for a beginner.

“She thought, was this religion?—a snare to make one fall into the hands of one’s enemies? Were holy things always to be abused, and words of love and worship turned into a death-trap? Should one man’s belief be set up against another’s, and men kill each other for not holding the same ideas, it would mean wars without end throughout the world, for it was the glory of men’s minds to hold different thoughts, and the only thing by which they could be judged was their actions, right or wrong.” pg. 238

“The world has grown grey with dispute, there’s a bitter east wind blowing over it, the breath of millions who teach the love of God as shown by hatred of their fellow-man.” pg. 302