1535. Henry VIII is on the throne. Twelve-year-old Eliza Camperdowne, only child of a noble but impoverished family, knows that she must marry well. She longs to get away from her boring home life and she dreams of going to Court. Then she meets her cousin, the worldly-wise and sexy Katherine Howard, and both girls become Maids of Honour to the new queen, Anne of Cleves. Katherine has her eye on Henry and doesn’t scruple to taunt Eliza about her ignorance of Court ways.
Lucy Worsley offers a no-holds-barred view of Tudor Court life from the plotting and damaging rumours to glittering Court Masques and handsome young courtiers, eager to pay a compliment or steal a kiss. Gradually, Eliza learns how dangerous court life is. How far are she and Katherine prepared to go to climb the slippery steps of power?
This is a first-person account seen through the naïve Eliza’s eyes, so we get her shock at the realities of Court life as well as her longings for extravagance and pleasure. Unfortunately, Lucy Worsley tends to tell us how Eliza feels rather than letting us see inside Eliza’s head for ourselves. For example, Eliza’s account of Katherine’s execution – and she was present – is worryingly prosaic when surely she’d have been terrified and traumatized.
Lucy Worsley’s Eliza Rose demonstrates a very different side to working as a maid of honour at Hampton Court. I loved how you get a sense of seeing history through Eliza’s eyes. Unlike History classes at school, the book allows you to form your own idea of what each historical character was like, and it lets you understand the reasons for some of the characters’ actions. The combination of historical and fictional writing works very well and makes for an extremely enjoyable read.
Freya Sutcliffe, age 15