Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

Young Bess cover

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin is the first book in a trilogy about Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was first published in 1944. I’ve been reading quite a lot of historical fiction recently, I think it’s because they take you well away from the worries of today and Covid-19 although having said that they do often mention plagues and fevers. I thought that maybe this book would be disappointing after reading The Mirror and the Light – but it wasn’t, I really enjoyed it and have ordered the next one in the series.

I’ve read a fair amount about the Tudor period but hadn’t read anything about the early life of Elizabeth, who was known as Bess and I was really pleased to read that Margaret Irwin was well known for the accuracy of her historical research.

The book begins when Bess is 12 years old and her father King Henry VIII is coming to the end of his life. Henry seems to have accepted that he will only have one son – the nine year old Edward to keep the Tudor line going and is rather dismissive of his two older daughters, both of whom have been deemed to be illegitimate.

Bess is very aware of what happened to her mother, Anne Boleyn. She’s keen to hear what her mother was really like from people who knew Anne. She realises that only her sickly half brother Edward and her sister Mary stand between her and the throne. But when Tom Seymour, brother of the late Jane Seymour begins to flirt with Bess and her step-mother Katherine Parr his actions incense those in the highest circles. They can see that he’s determined to grab power one way or another. It looks like madness but as his brother Edward Seymour had made himself ‘Protector’ of the young King Edward after the death of Henry, presumably Tom thought he had some protection himself. He couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a great read.

Again I had to resort to reading my copy of the Chamber’s Biographical Dictionary to remind myself what actually happened in the end to some of the characters in the book, I just couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I’m so looking forward to getting the second book in this series – Elizabeth, Captive Princess.

12 thoughts on “Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

  1. I remember this being one of my favorite books when I read it when I was in My early teens. I’d forgotten all about and didn’t know it was a trilogy. I may need to find a copy and reread this one. I have been immersed in books revolving around WWII of late, leading up to it, during, and aftermath, both fiction and non. Perhaps reading about one worldwide disaster and people carrying on helps me look past this current situation.

    • Teri,
      WW2 settings are really my favourites, my mother didn’t telly me fairy tales, she told me about her wartime experiences in Glasgow instead, so they have a real feel of nostalgia for me. I don’t have any WW2 books in my house that I haven’t already read though. I agree that when you read about disastrous things that happened in the past it makes you think that – this too will pass. I hope you enjoy the Young Bess book if you do decide on a reread.

  2. I, too, loved this as a teenager. I read the next in the series, too. It’s fun to read about it again, and as Teri says, maybe it would be good to have a re-read.

    • Sulie,
      I’ve ordered the next one and when it arrives I think I’ll be reading that one straight away, despite having a long TBR pile. Did you read the third book in the series?
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.
      Katrina

  3. I have been reading more historical fiction this year too, Katrina. Although several were read in January before I was really that aware of the coronavirus threat. I do agree that it helps to read about another time and place. After reading the first two books in the Wolf Hall trilogy, I was interested in reading more about Elizabeth also, but did not know how to find good historical fiction on the subject. This sounds like a good option.

    I am ready to read The Master and Margarita anytime this month if that is a good time for you. Let me know when you would like to start if it is.

    • tracybham,
      I think you would enjoy this one. I’ve just finished reading Joseph Knight which is the book about the slave who was brought to Scotland from Jamaica in the 18th century, so I’m ready to start The Master and Margarita now if you want.

  4. I’ve read the first two books in this trilogy and enjoyed them, particularly this first one. I still need to find a copy of the third one, but I also have another of Margaret Irwin’s books, about Charles II’s sister Minette, which I’ll probably read first.

    • Helen,
      I think the third book in the trilogy might be quite difficult to find, especially as I want an old hardback copy of it. That book about Minette sounds like it will be interesting.

    • Constance,
      Thanks for the link. I’ve just blogged about Elizabeth, Captive Princess which I really enjoyed but not quite as much as Young Bess. For a few years I lived down south not far from Hatfield House and never did get around to visiting it, of course I’m now kicking myself but I’ll get there some day I hope.

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