The Lady of the Tower

Written by Elizabeth St. John
Review by Jane Hill

“Silver drizzle veiled the stone walls rising from the stagnant water. To the North the White Tower glistened but bade no welcome, for all its shining… the kept must have their keepers…”

I recommend this book to readers who are interested in the Court of King James I after he succeeded to the English throne of Elizabeth I, and the early years of Charles I’s reign. This was an era of glittering pageantry when debauchery was disguised as ‘Courtly love’, when ladies anticipated seduction, and were to be pitied if they did not gain a suitable marriage.

Written in first person, this is the story of Lucy St John (an ancestress of the author) and depicts her life – from the first romantic flirtations at court that end rather unhappily, to her marriage to Sir Allen Aspley, Constable of the Tower and chief quartermaster to the Royal Navy. Historical figures such as Walter Raleigh, George Villiers and Frances Howard step in and out of the pages – some as courtiers, some as unwilling guests at the Tower.

Few authors tackle this period, opting for the more popular eras, but Elizabeth St John has brought the early Stuart Court in the years before the English Civil War vividly to life. She weaves together the known facts of Lucy’s life with colourful scenes of fictional imagination, drawing on innocent romance and bleak deception to create a believable heroine, and an intriguing plot.