The Queen’s Progress

Written by M.J. Trow
Review by Tom Vallar

Since the reign of Henry VIII, monarchs have ventured into the countryside in the summertime to escape the oppressive heat (and sometimes plague) of London. A “progress” has many additional benefits: enjoying the hospitality of noblemen in their grand houses, receiving gifts to increase the royal coffers, and offering commoners a glimpse of pomp and pageantry nearer their home towns, thereby increasing the monarch’s popularity and authority. In 1591, spymaster Robert Cecil has intelligence that Elizabeth’s progress might be fraught with peril from a yet unknown source.

Kit Marlowe again forsakes his joy of writing for the theatre and charges into harm’s way to protect his Queen. The fine families with whom she will lodge reveal different challenges, because he encounters two murders and two unsuccessful attempts on his journey. He can’t quite get to the bottom of the conspiracy, so he invites the remaining representatives of these four families to join the Queen in Titchfield, a more neutral site, for this year’s progress. He recruits master thespians, along with Will Shaxpear, as part of his ruse to force the hand of the Queen’s enemies.

Trow delightfully recreates the time period and peoples it with intriguing minor characters. His plot device this time is a political struggle that has led to war in the recent past. As usual in this series, Kit introduces lines of dialogue that will be recorded for posterity in a play or two, as he shepherds his motley flock to save the Queen. This is escapism at its best for fans of the period.