Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain
Margaret Irwin’s third book in a trilogy about the young Elizabeth I was first published in the early 1950s. This reissue of Irwin’s work shows how popular well-researched novels about Tudor England continue to be. This volume finds the Princess Elizabeth in grave danger from her half-sister, Queen Mary, or Bloody Mary, as she is better known. Though Mary tries to fight the hatred she feels toward Elizabeth, a loathing that began when Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, stole Henry VIII from Mary’s own mother, Queen Catherine of Aragon, she cannot. Elizabeth is everything Mary is not: young, attractive, filled with life and a crackling intelligence. Worst of all, Elizabeth is a Protestant. For this, Mary is convinced that Elizabeth must die.
However, Mary’s decision to act against her sister is stopped by her persuasive and attractive husband, Philip of Spain. Against the will of her people, Mary marries the foreigner and reinstitutes the Catholic religion. When Philip finally observes Elizabeth from behind a tapestry, he is taken with her beauty and spirit. He convinces his wife to spare Elizabeth and treat her more according to her position as next in line to the throne. As events unfurl, Philip falls more and more under Elizabeth’s spell. This attraction is noticed by the pregnant Queen Mary, who overlooks it while she waits for the birth of the son for whom she prays daily. Meanwhile, Philip tries to woo the elusive Elizabeth at every opportunity.
This novel is filled with authenticity and insightful psychological analysis of the love triangle. Modern readers will notice a difference in narrative style; after all, the book was written sixty years ago. However, the attention to detail, the accuracy of events, and the incisive understanding of the complex relationships among the queen, her consort, her sister, and her court work to make this a compelling and satisfying read.