cover image The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I

The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I

Alison Weir. Ballantine, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-0-345-51191-1

Weir deftly follows The Lady Elizabeth, her 2008 novel about the young Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603). Here Weir trains her spotlight on Elizabeth’s equivocations over marriage from her accession to the throne in 1558 until the death of her most persistent suitor, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 30 years later. Weir posits that Elizabeth, deeply scarred by early experience, never intended to marry and had numerous personal and political reasons to avoid it. Yet her council pressured her repeatedly to provide an heir, while innumerable Catholic and Protestant courtiers and royalty sought her hand, hoping to cement an alliance. Elizabeth exasperated everyone with promises, flirting, impossible demands, and prevarication. Lively bedroom scenes and discordant council meetings reveal Elizabeth’s complexities, depicting her as a wily coquette determined to rule England alone. Mindful always of England’s interests and the vulnerability of her throne, Elizabeth made several anguished decisions regarding both “the marriage game” and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. A nuanced portrait of Dudley, whose love for Elizabeth remained steadfast despite her vacillation and his other marriages, balances Weir’s sympathy for her subject. Weir’s credible characters and blend of the personal and political will sweep up readers of this engrossing behind-the-scenes psychological portrait of Elizabeth. (Feb.)