Lovers of Tudor-era fiction know that there are countless books already written about Good Queen Bess and her court. Therefore, it’s always a nice surprise when a novel focuses on one of the lesser-known courtiers from that time. Queen Elizabeth's Daughter is primarily the story of Mary Shelton, the queen’s ward and cousin.
As she did with her first novel, At the Mercy of the Queen, the author looked into her own family history to write this novel. A descendent of the Shelton family, she quite naturally chose to focus on her ancestors’ roles in the Tudor court.
Orphaned at a young age, Mary Shelton was taken under Elizabeth’s wing and raised at court. Elizabeth loves Mary like a daughter and gives her the best of everything. When Mary blossoms into a beautiful and accomplished young woman, Elizabeth starts planning to marry her off to a man of high position and esteem. However, teenaged Mary has a mind of her own and risks everything by defying her queen in pursuit of her own happiness.
Interspersed with Mary’s story are short chapters told from Elizabeth’s point of view, addressed to her personal attendant, Blanche Parry. These small narratives reveal Elizabeth’s thoughts on her relationships with Mary and Robert Dudley and her concerns about the various threats to her crown.
I thought the liberal use of oaths like “God’s teeth!” and “God’s blood!” got to be a bit too distracting, even though the queen was known to swear. I was also confused by the opening chapter. Expecting the beginning of Mary’s story, I instead read an overview of the Elizabethan court of 1569 and a short biography of Mary Shelton. Mary’s story doesn’t even begin until the second chapter.
But overall, Queen Elizabeth's Daughter is an enjoyable novel that is rich in detail, historical fact and character development. Anyone who enjoys stories about the intrigues of Elizabethan court should consider giving this novel a read.