Elizabeth, Captive Princess

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9780151283613: Elizabeth, Captive Princess

A brother dead; a cousin executed; imprisonment in the Tower--in the aftermath of Edward VI's demise England is in turmoil and young Elizabeth s position is precarious. But while she is prey to the Queen's jealous suspicions, Queen Mary is fading; while Elizabeth is twenty and healthy. The country looks to the young princess for its future. Imperious, high spirited, fighting for her life, Elizabeth already shows the diplomacy, the baffling changes of mood, and the power to win men's devotion for which she would be famous as Queen. This is the second book in the series started in Queen Bess

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About the Author:

Margaret Irwin was a noted authority on the Elizabethan era. Allison & Busby has published "Young Bess," "Elizabeth and the Prince and Spain," and "Elizabeth, Captive Princess" to complete her classic trilogy about Elizabeth I as well as her superb biography of Sir Walter Raleigh, "That Great Lucifer."

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Chapter One

The fields were deep and ruddy with uncut corn, the orchards heavy with ripening fruit. Set in their coloured ring, the courtyard of the great house at Hatfield lay quivering in the dancing light reflected off stone and brick and smooth cobbles. The waiting horses stamped and champed their bits, clanked their harness, tossed their heads, shook off the clustering flies that rose in angry clouds only to sink and settle again, sent their shrill whinnyings spinning up into the sunlight, complaining to each other that yet again their young lady was late.

The subdued voices of the men standing at their heads grumbled in concert with them and the buzz of the disturbed lies; the men had scurried and sweated to get themselves and their mounts ready on the instant they had been ordered, and here they had been banging about in this courtyard for the past half-hour at least. What could the girl be doing to keep them all dangling like this? Surely she didn't need to titivate all this time in order to ride and see her brother before he died? For most of them there knew or guessed by now what message had been brought by the rider in Duke Dudley's livery who had urged his spent horse into this courtyard an hour or so ago, slid from the saddle rubbing his sleeve across a face dripping with sweat, and demanded to see the Lady Elizabeth. She had seen him, she had given order that an escort was to make ready on the instant to ride with her to London; she herself, but just returned from riding in the great park, would not wait even to change her dress. Had she changed her mind instead? since she did that almost as often. But would a girl of nineteen be so heartless, and one so fond of her young half-brother, and he the King? No one had said openly that King Edward lay seriously ill in his palace at Greenwich, but that was the noise in London, and noises from London travelled fast.

The noises in the courtyard hummed and heaved; they killed off King Edward easily enough, a sickly boy who was always having colds and had been worked too hard at his books, though some murmured sympathetically that it was a pity, for the lad had shown a great keenness for sport since Duke Dudley had taken charge of him. Some of them put his much elder half-sister, the Lady Mary, on the throne, and supposed she'd down the Duke and bring back the old religion. Some thought the Duke would make a bid to keep his place by setting up her cousin, the little Lady Jane Grey, instead as Queen, in the name of the new Protestant faith; he'd just married her off to his younger son, Guildford, which looked as though he had been planning some such move. Others again said if England must keep a Protestant sovereign, why not their Lady Elizabeth, own half-sister to the King instead of mere cousin? and a likely lass with a fine taste in horseflesh, for all she had kept them stewing and sweating in this leaden cup of a courtyard where the sun poured down like molten brass.

The murmurs and questions buzzed in the hot air, and then at last there was a stir within the silent house.

A door banged somewhere. A voice called. Steps were heard running up and down the stairs. The great doors were flung wide, opening a dark cool hollow in the glare of white heat. The Steward of the Household, Mr Thomas Parry, came out puffily, blinked like an owl at the sunlight, turned his back on it and bowed low.

The men in the courtyard could just see a slight figure moving towards them like a shadow through the dim recesses of the hall; a girl in a grey dress came out to the top of the steps and there stood still, the sun beating down on her sparkling red hair and the winking jewels and buttons of her cap and riding-dress. There she stood and stared, her eyes narrowing in a face grown suddenly thin and white; stared, not at the brilliant coloured scene before her, but at a hidden danger just come to light in the sun. Her eyes closed against it, her face shut into a mask.

Suddenly it flashed open. 'Take away the horses,' she called out in a clear and ringing voice where the note of command could not quite disguise an undertone of terror. 'Take them all away. I'm not going.'

There was a rustle of amazement, of alarm. Mr Thomas Parry asked with obsequious anxiety if anything were wrong. 'I-think-so,' was the baffling reply.

'Is Your Grace not feeling well?'

She turned her eyes towards him with a look that might mean gratitude. She paused, then nodded, then swayed, then put out a groping hand, and the long fingers clutched his arm so sharply that he winced.

'Yes, that is it. I feel giddy. Take me back to my room, Parry. Tell them I am ill. I cannot ride to London. I am going to bed.'

She turned and went back, leaning helplessly upon his arm, and their retreating figures disappeared within the dim cool cave of the hall. The great doors were shut to.

The men in the courtyard looked at each other, nodded, swore softly. Their young lady had changed her mind again. What did it mean? Was she ill? Was it a sham? She could always be ill if she'd a mind to, they fancied. But why should she have a mind to, now, when her brother who loved her best in the world lay at the point of death?

'A hard-hearted young bitch,' the Duke's messenger muttered as he took horse again to ride back with the news-and no doubt the Duke would give him small thanks for it. 'The boy longed to see his sweet sister once again'-that was the moving message he had brought. But it had only moved her for a moment-and then she had gone to bed.

He cursed and rode out of the courtyard. The men left it to lead their horses back to the stables. Soon it was emptied of all life and noise, even of the flies, and became a barrenly blazing cup of silence, and sunlight reflected on the stones, until the shadows lengthened over it and the dusk deepened into dark and the moon rose.

And next day, and the day after, the sun rose hot and bright again, and there was the noise of men and horses again outside the house. But the Lady Elizabeth stayed in bed.

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