Book review : Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester

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Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester.

Hardcover – 2 Nov 2017
by Nicola Tallis
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Michael O’Mara; 1st Edition edition
Language: English

A kinswoman to Elizabeth I, Lettice Knollys had begun the Queen’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 Queen learned of it, the consequences were swift. Lettice had dared to marry without the Queen’s consent. But worse, her new husband was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Queen’s favorite and one-time suitor.

Though 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 Queen’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 betrayal, and Lettice permanently forfeited her favor. She had become not just Queen 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.

Cousin to Elizabeth I – and very likely also Henry VIII’s illegitimate granddaughter – Lettice Knollys had a life of dizzying highs and pitiful lows. Darling of the court, entangled in a love triangle with Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I, banished from court, plagued by scandals of affairs and murder, embroiled in treason, Lettice would go on to lose a husband and beloved son to the executioner’s axe. Living to the astonishing age of ninety-one, Lettice’s tale gives us a remarkable, personal lens on to the grand sweep of the Tudor Age, with those closest to her often at the heart of the events that defined it.
In the first ever biography of this extraordinary woman, Nicola Tallis’s dramatic narrative takes us through those events, including the religious turmoil, plots and intrigues of Mary, Queen of Scots, attempted coups, and bloody Irish conflicts, among others. Surviving well into the reign of Charles I, Lettice truly was the last of the great Elizabethans.
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.
The 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.
Well researched book I enjoyed reading the book. Full of historical facts. I didn’t know much about Lettice Knollys and found out a lot more about the whole family.

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