Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin

Elizabeth, Captive Princess cover

Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin was first published in 1948 and it’s the second book in the author’s Queen Elizabeth I trilogy. I really enjoyed the first book Young Bess and although I didn’t like this one quite as much, I’ll definitely be reading the third book Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain.

The book begins at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire where the Lady Elizabeth is living. A messenger had arrived from Duke Dudley an hour or so ago and everyone had guessed why he was there. The young and ailing King Edward must have died so Elizabeth must ride to London, but the messenger has apparently come with a plea from Edward for his sister Elizabeth to visit him. At first Elizabeth is keen to go, but then she thinks better of it. Both Elizabeth and her elder half-sister have been proclaimed to be illegitimate by their father Henry VIII which leads to the possibility of Lady Jane Grey being next in line to the throne.

As Duke Dudley has recently married his son Guildford off to Lady Jane Grey Elizabeth smells a rat. If she goes to London will she end up being taken to the Tower, never to be seen again like the two young princes in the past? Unknown to Elizabeth her half-sister Mary is having much the same suspicion, but as the elder of the two women she begins to travel around to rally support for her claim to the throne.

This is possibly one of the saddest eras in English history with the young Lady Jane being used and abused by her own parents, something she had grown used to over the years, but she could never have expected them to go to the lengths that they did to gain power through her.

I felt that Mary was given quite an easy time of it in this book as she really became a monster when she did attain the throne and you don’t get much idea of her cruelty and nastiness – all in the name of the Roman Catholic faith. Maybe that will be spelled out in the next volume.

The nursery rhyme
Mary, Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row

is thought by some to be written about Bloody Mary as she came to be known, due to her enthusiasm for executing non Catholics, usually having them burnt at the stake. The silver bells being part of the mass and cockle shells standing for martyrdom – I think. But others say that they were instruments of torture, something else that Mary was keen on.

6 thoughts on “Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin

  1. I purchased Young Bess after you reviewed it and plan to read it this summer. Depending on how I like the writing, I will continue on the trilogy because I find Elizabeth I very interesting.

    • tracybham,
      I think you will like the book. The more you learn about Elizabeth I the more you realise how smart she was to be able to hang on to the throne when she got there, at a time when a queen had only ever been the wife of a king. Especially as her half-sister Mary made such a mess of it in the end.

  2. Hi Katrina,
    I loved Young Bess and A Captive Princess, which I read when I was 12 or 13, so many years ago. My mom, the librarian, recommended them for me, because we were both so interested in English royalty through the ages. She read them as well. I did not read the third, and did not realize there was a third book. Actually, I have a dim memory of my mother reading the third, but I was onto other books at that point, and I’m not sure she recommended it for me. My mother always felt so badly for Elizabeth being captive–I can recall conversations we had about that. And about lots of other “family issues” in the Tudor kingdom! I can recall how thoroughly we discussed every aspect of the film Anne of the Thousand Days–we saw it multiple times, not always together, mind you. Once I went with a bunch of girl friends, and another time with Mom. And later on television.

    • Judith,
      It’s years since I watched that film, I wish I could see it now. Do you know if your mother read and enjoyed any other Margaret Irwin books?
      Jack and I will both be taking part in Bookshelf Travelling this week – very soon in fact. It’s such fun! I’m finding books I forgot I had.

  3. There actually is a film of Young Bess and it is on YouTube – I watched the first few minutes recently but it seemed too silly for words so I stopped.

    When I visited Hay-on-Wye, I found a copy of The Proud Servant, which I enjoyed (although sobbed a bit) and I also liked her book about Prince Rupert. I don’t why these seemed more dated than the Elizabeth trilogy.

    Still She Wished for Company is a contemporary, as I recall, and also very good.

    • Constance,
      Thanks, I’ll definitely look for more of her books and particularly the ones you mention at secondhand bookshops – whenever they open up again – if any of them will still be in business!

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