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Y Earl of Leicester the ueen’s favorite and one time suitorThough she would not marry him herself Elizabeth was fiercely jealous of any woman who showed an interest in Leicester Knowing that she would likely earn the ueen’s enmity Lettice married Leicester in secret leading to her permanent banishment from court Elizabeth never forgave the new Countess for what she perceived to be a devastating. The sex scandal betrayal and political intrigue of the Elizabethan Era make the 21st Century look tame and tepid by comparison and that s just the lives one family

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Elizabeths Rival

Betrayal and Lettice permanently forfeited her favor She had become not just ueen Elizabeth’s adversary  She was her rival   But the Countess’ story does not end there  Surviving the death of two husbands and navigating the courts of three very different monarchs Henry VIII Elizabeth I and Charles I Lettice’s story offers an extraordinary and intimate perspective on the world she lived in. I ve read a lot about Tudor England but I never was aware of Lettice Knollys s story She was connected to both the courts of Henry VII and Elizabeth I She was the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn Anne s sister and likely also the granddaughter of Henry VII though that was not acknowledged She looked just like Elizabeth with red Tudor hair and dark eyes She was 10 years younger than Elizabeth and grew up with her She was a great favorite at Elizabeth s court until she took as a second husband the ueen s favorite Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester Although Leicester was forgiven Elizabeth banned Lettice from her court forever and had great animosity toward her Lettice was married first to Walter Devereux with whom she had four children Her oldest son Robert Devereux became Earl of Essex and Elizabeth s favorite despite her wrath toward his mother Her daughters Penelope and Dorothy were great Elizabethan beauties as well Remarkably for the times Lettice lived into her 90s Nicola Tallis has researched copiously and her story is well told If you are at all a Tudor fan I recommend this

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A kinswoman to Elizabeth I Lettice Knollys had begun the ueen’s glittering reign basking in favor and success  It was an honor that she would enjoy for two decades However on the morning of September 21st 1578 Lettice made a fateful decision  When the ueen learned of it the conseuences were swift Lettice had dared to marry without the ueen’s consent  But worse her new husband was Robert Dudle. Three little words When separate or combined with nearly any other words in the English language they seem innocuous Downright innocent even When you string them together well that s when they become the hardest words to say I was wrong Yes you read that right I was wrong In my defense this brilliant new biography by Nicola Tallis wasn t available when I was researching the illusive Lettice Knollys for my novel on her mother In fact there was almost nothing out there on Lettice or her mother for that matter What we did have often amounted to the worst kind of history the kind that we take as gospel without considering that it has been perverted by the writer s own opinions and biases Which in turn perverted my portrayal of Lettice in the novel It s an easy trap to fall into I m not the first writer to fall prey and I won t be the last but thankfully we have historians out there like Tallis who aim to set the record straight In her hands the grime and grit of five centuries of slander is stripped away so that the real Lettice Knollys can finally step out of the shadows Temptress harridan she wolf Lettice Knollys has been called those names and worse oftentimes by her own kinswoman ueen Elizabeth I What horrible acts did she commit to earn such abuse Well nothing really save dare to capture the attention of the ueen s most entirely beloved yet always out of reach favorite Robert Dudley At least that s the view Tallis takes and she s right However just because Lettice turns out to be far less sinister than her reputation implies it doesn t mean that her story is any less interesting Tallis begins with the early years Lettice spent doted upon by loving parents and surrounded by a boisterous brood of brothers and sisters at Rotherfield Greys While exploring how this loving environment shaped Lettice s relationship with her own children Tallis also emphasizes the outside influences her father s career at court the family s exile in Germany and her mother s ancestry Historians have debated Catherine Carey s paternity for centuries but Tallis makes it clear from the outset that Henry VIII and not William Carey was Catherine s biological father While I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment this is the one and only place where I caution a light tread Though the circumstantial evidence is plentiful there is nothing conclusive This is one instance in which there are no certainties as much as I desperately wish there were After the death of Mary I Lettice s story picks up with her debut at ueen Elizabeth s court and her marriage to the first of three husbands Walter Devereaux the Earl of Essex It is here where Tallis picks up speed on her uest to demolish every myth that has dogged Lettice since her death Rather than the disastrous marriage popular history would have us believe Tallis shows us a couple with deep admiration for each other Still one can t help but feel horrible for poor Essex Not because of his marriage to Lettice but because of his marriage to Ireland When the country finally claims the last it can from Essex his life Tallis brings us to the heart of her subject Lettice as a survivor It is this last great Elizabethan survivor who manages to outlive husbands children and rivals all while ever retaining her substance and dignity Far from being the villainous trope detractors would like her to be Tallis gives us an indomitable matriarch who deserves well earned admiration Jam packed with first rate research and built upon the strongest of foundations Elizabeth s Rival is a tour de force Tallis style is thorough yet engaging She delivers an immense amount of information in a way that is utterly accessible proving that popular narrative type history need not preclude true academic research I fiercely hope historians follow her lead My little history geek heart literally sang at the abundance of detailed footnotes and from truly impeccable sources I cannot stress enough how much I sincerely enjoyed Elizabeth s Rival both as an historian and as someone who has come to adore the entirety of the Knollys family through my own research Sometimes we care so deeply for an historical figure we set our expectations at unreasonably high levels it can often make reading about them torturous I held such expectations for the first true biography of Lettice Knollys and Nicola Tallis far surpassed every one of them Expertly researched and beautifully written this book was really a treat I look forward to great work from this rising star

10 thoughts on “Elizabeths Rival

  1. says:

    Readers of Elizabethan history are familiar with the figurehead of Lettice Knollys a kinswoman of Elizabeth Lettice became Elizabeth’s direct rival by marrying her royal favorite and husband in everything but name Robert Dudley Lettice lived a life of intrigue which than merits a full biography yet has not been executed Nicolla Tallis the resident historian of the Alison Weir tours focuses her sopho history release on

  2. says:

    Three little words  When separate or combined with nearly any other words in the English language they seem innocuous  Downright in

  3. says:

    The little I knew of Lettice Knollys created a picture of her as reckless perhaps even foolish in how she knowingly provoked the legendary fury of her friend and half sister? ueen Elizabeth but of course the truth is compl

  4. says:

    An interesting read about Lettice Knollys the woman who managed to steal the earl of Leicester from under ueen Elizabeth 1st's nose Considerin

  5. says:

    Excellent readable well researched biography of Lettice Knollys Elizabeth I's greatest romantic rival She was the ueen's own close kinswoman and even resembled her yet when Lettice dared to marry in secret in 1578 she incurred the wrath of the ueen especially because she wed the ueen's own favorite Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester Elizabeth

  6. says:

    The sex scandal betrayal and political intrigue of the Elizabethan Era make the 21st Century look tame and tepid

  7. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this biography on Lettice Knollys Countess of Leicester who married Elizabeth I's favorite and gained her wrat

  8. says:

    Excellent book well written and researched A treat for any Tudor fan

  9. says:

    I've read a lot about Tudor England but I never was aware of Lettice Knollys's story She was connected to both the courts of Henry VII and Elizabeth I She was the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn Anne's sister and likely also the granddaughter of Henry VII though that was not acknowledged She looked just like Elizabeth with red Tudor

  10. says:

    If you love Tudor history you might find this interesting but if you are not a die hard fan I would not suggest starting here to understand the era Why not? Well for one there's not a lot of helpful footnotes There are carefully indexed notes that indicate source material but that's it that's all they record Which means if you're reading an exact uote like the one on page 22 written in the English of 5 centuries back and the lan