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Nicola Tallis has done a superb job in documenting the life of this great Tudor lady whose long life extended into the reign of Charles the First. Lettice Knollys was a close relative of Elizabeth the First, and as such was for a long time a close companion and personal favourite of the queen. Her physical resemblance to Elizabeth was very marked, and she was not only personally attractive, she was fertile and sought after.
However, relationship broke down over time as Lettice, in one of her widowhoods, became close to Elizabeth's other great favourite, Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester. Dudley was the queen's great love and if she had married anyone, it would have been him. To have to accept the secret wedding of these two and the subsequent birth of their son, was excruciating for the queen and although Dudley was eventually returned to favour, Lettice was never again welcome in her cousin's presence.
The two most famous Knollys children, Penelope Devereux ( Lady Rich) and Elizabeth's last male favourite, the Earl of Essex both caused her great pain towards the end of her reign; failed military efforts in Ireland and a failed rebellion forced her into another awful decision, which mirrored the tribulations she had endured around the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.
This is highly competent biography, which places all participants fully in their time and place and does not ignore the human elements of this long and event filled life. Absolutely recommended and an excellently paced read.
U 50x66 Michele's review Jun 19, 2018 · edit it was amazing
This is a really interesting and easy to read biography of an extraordinary life in Tudor England. The author has conducted extensive research (my Kindle edition finishes showing 65% read so the remainder is references!) and, most importantly, has written in style that is interesting and engaging. I had studied Tudor history at school, many years ago, and this book brings the court of Elizabeth to life, adding a lot more detail about the lives and legacies of characters with whom we are familiar. Queen Elizabeth 1 was certainly a difficult woman to know, especially for the ladies around her - censoring their relationships and banning them from court if they married or crossed her. Being her favourite as a man wasn't much easier, it must be said! Lettuce Knollys was a remarkable woman who was related to Elizabeth, became her friend and foe, marrying three times and dying at over 90 years old. Her resilience in the face of the Queen's anger against her and those around her was truly amazing, and her bravery for marrying the Queen's favourite (the Earl of Essex) was astounding. A great read that I would recommend. P.S. The only problem with a Kindle edition is that there are no illustrations and the family trees are so small as to be illegible!
Other reviewers' comments warned me about the "perhaps" and "maybe" in this book but I was further shocked by the poor grasp of English grammar by the author: "who" instead of "whom", a single subject noun followed by a plural verb, and also ""may" instead of "might". In one chapter I lost count of the number of times we were reminded that Elizabeth was the Virgin Queen. Throughout the book there were several examples of sentence inflation such as "the entirety of her reign". This is a technique used by students to pad out an essay when a particular word count is needed. Surely a university lecturer should be able to do better than that.
It is just possible that Tallis could have produced with a readable book by using more imagination to produce a historical novel from the thin source material available.
This new biography tells the extraordinary life of Lettice Knollys, Countless of Leicester who lived through to the age of 91 outliving three husbands and all of her children and many of her grand-children. Tudor historian Nicola Tallis recounts her life in 22 concise and distinct chapters which reveal her fascinating and complex life. For two decades Lettice had been the darling of the court and was Queen Elizabeth I,s, closest and most important lady of the bedchamber! Lettice had married Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex and the father of her children. Their marriage had been somewhat ill-tempered and hot-headed. Essex went to serve the Queen in Ireland and the endless campaigns and awful weather took its toll on the Earl's' health and he died an early death thus creating Lettice a widow! In 1578 The Countess of Essex remarried in secret to none-other than the Queens favorite courtier Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. This outraged the notoriously hot-headed Queen and Lettice was banished from the court and faced long periods of prison and isolation. Despite these difficulties this was a happy marriage marred only by the death of their only son Robert, Lord Denbigh at the age of just 7. After Dudley's' death she mourned him ardently for the rest of her life but she did marry for a third time to Christopher Blount. The Countess of Leicester never regained favor at court but was a good mother and had an excellent relationship with her large and extended family. Her son Robert, Earl of Essex did become Elizabeth's' chief favorite and darling in the later years of her reign but he over-reached himself and openly rebelled against her which failed dramatically, resulting in his execution in 1601. This was a death-knell for his grieving mother but she recovered to become a formidable matriarch living on into the reign of King Charles I. Her life was full of passion, grandeur, lovers and wealth but also times of penury, exile and disgrace. This brilliant book by a brilliant new Tudor historian is a lively and engaging read which will have you hooked from beginning to end. Its about an amazing and intriguing woman who will leave you breathless from beginning to end! I urge you to order your copy from amazon now.
Lettice Knollys, (pronounced Knowles) certainly merits a full length book, and this does the subject justice. A woman who survived the tumultuous late Elizabethan years well into the 17th century, she is best known for being the second wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Queen's favourite. A lesser historian might have been tempted to drop fanciful imagined thoughts and feelings into the narrative, but this author pays no attention to romantic novels and presents meticulous research in readable prose. Because few of Lettice's own letters survive, and no diaries, it's not possible to get inside her mind, but plenty of contemporary documents are quoted which bring the period to life. Lettice outlived all her children, sadly, and their lives are equally fascinating. Her eldest son, the Earl of Essex, has been written about many times and deserves his big part here. Her eldest daughter, Penelope, muse of the poet Sir Philip Sidney, has quite a profile too. I've just finished a historical novel about Penelope, so I was delighted to read facts about her. All in all, a book well worth reading.
With extensive research, the author has given us an insight of a woman whose life was connected to just about every one worth a mention in Tudor and Stuart times. her life, like this book, was so full and interesting that I felt really sad when reading about her end. I've given this book 5 very well earned stars and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in women/ people of this time in history.
Highly recommend this very interesting, factual book on Tudor life & Elizabeth I . So much research/details through books, letters & art works by Nicola. Lettuce Knollys was certainly a very interesting person who lived to a great age. Found monies spent in Tudor times & comparisons now fascinating.
really looked forward to reading this but I'm finding it hard going. Full of historical facts, it goes off on such a tangent at times i find I'm frequently losing the thread of the main character Lettice Knollys. I keep having to re read bits to keep it all straight in my head.