I took the girls to the library last Saturday and was actually able to get them to stay in the children’s portion of the library for long enough for me to pick out some books. There is a member of the Historical Fiction board named Divia who happens to make spectacular book suggestions and I was curious to see how many of those books were available. I’m not typically a big user of the library as I have a hard time returning books on time. Still, even the small fines do not come close to the total amount of buying a book. In 2008 I’m vowing to buy very few books (no more than one per month – unless I get gift cards or find out that I’m the only living beneficiary for an amazingly huge inheritance).
While I picked up Nefertiti and The Blood of Flowers, I also looked up what was available by Norah Lofts. I’ve recently started to hear good things about her, but didn’t expect to find anything because it is somewhat old. To my delight, the library system has a few of her books. The branch we were visiting had the Queens of England and I couldn’t resist picking it up as well. While the girls sat in the miniature tepee and read Christmas books to each other (Allison’s stories border on the bizarre with sentences almost always ending in “he/she said), I opened the book and started reading. I absolutely loved the overviews on each queen. There wasn’t a great deal of coverage on any one woman, but there was just enough to give you a feel for what she might have been like.
I was not surprised in the least that the Kings of England were not faithful to their Queens, I did find the number of sexually ambiguous or homosexual Kings interesting. While Queen Isabella is vilified as the She-Devil of France, Edward II had many male “favorites.” In fact, he so “favored” the Despensers (a father and son) over his wife and his duties as the King that he ended up losing his crown as a result. All the same, it is her reputation that was ruined. Go figure…
There were a couple of times where I got a little lost in Lofts’ narrative from time to time. For some odd reason, it was usually within the second paragraph written about the current queen. As I didn’t have this problem with Elizabeth of York through Elizabeth I, this had more to do with my limited knowledge of British history than it does with Lofts’ writing.
As Elizabeth II was the reigning monarch in 1977, the year in which this book was published, there is a chapter devoted to her. I found that to be my favorite portion of the book. Ever since watching “The Queen” this year, I’ve become quite fond of her. Without any history other than what was ever reported in the tabloids about her children and daughters-in-law, I didn’t think much of her at all. I can very distinctly remember being upset for Princess Diana after her death because of the way the Queen and company were acting. That movie and reading this book in particular have opened my eyes a great deal to the role of the monarchy. As Diana grew up with royal blood in England,she would have known the very basic information that was covered in this book. As such, she could not have gone into her courtship and marriage to Charles as the innocent lamb she would have liked everyone to believe. She knew what she was getting herself into. I am thinking specifically about her statement that there was “three of us in this marriage.” Only one mistress – and a female at that? Those are much better odds than many of the past Princesses of Wales had.
What I really took away from this book was a much broader picture of the history of the British monarchy. As my loyal readers are well aware, I’ve spent a good portion of 2007 with Henry VIII, his six queens, and his three heirs to the throne. It was really nice to learn where it all started.