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Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

Young Bess (1944)

by Margaret Irwin

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Elizabeth’s age in book one is somewhere between twelve and fifteen. In Young Bess, the story surrounds the court of Edward, and his relationship with his two uncles, Edward Seymour, The Protector and Tom Seymour, The Admiral. Without causing spoilers, Edward is portrayed as annoying and greedy, Tom is a shameless flirt and clueless about his brother’s ambition. Edward, the young king is a pawn on a chess board, easily manipulated by black and white to suit their own position. I truly loved Elizabeth in this novel, but I am biased as my adoration for her is high. Comparisons are often made to her mother, the infamous Nan Bullen (Anne Boleyn). Irwin shows her naivete as a young girl and then her shocking revelation as she envisions her own destiny. Does she love Tom Seymour? Is she a tempting vixen, or an innocent young girl infatuated by the attention paid to her by an attractive man? A significant moment occurs for Elizabeth when she is told by Katherine that her fate may someday be Queen of England. That she never expected or imagined herself as Queen of England until her teens is surprising to me and an interesting twist in this story. I naturally felt sorry for Elizabeth as I always do because she was brought up by four different stepmothers, and didn’t know her own mother. The fact that she was compared to her mother so often, couldn’t have been good for her self esteem, yet she is determined to triumph.

The story is excellent, the characters are fully realized and who wouldn’t like reading about Young Bess. My only complaint is there was not enough attention given to Elizabeth. The story was somewhat wordy and too much time and detail was given to the Seymour brothers. The book didn’t really turn around for me until almost half way through. The fact that I love reading about Queen Elizabeth and I plan on reading the entire trilogy, saved me from abandoning this one early.

What were they thinking.....

Elizabeth on marriage, speaking to Tom Seymour

“I won’t marry you, or anyone. I’ll not be tied and bound. A wedding ring is a yoke ring.”

“...I have not the slightest intention of being married, and if ever I should think of it (which I do not believe is possible) you would be the first to whom I should make known my resolution.” (275)

“I’ve learnt about marriage from my stepmothers,’ she said, sliding a look at him.”

“Seriously, my Lord, my first stepmother, Jane, died in childbed, and so was the only past wife he spoke of with respect; my second, big Anne Cleves, he shoved out of the way for my pretty cousin Cat Howard, whom he beheaded-and my last one gave me a step-stepfather,’ she finished, and this time she did not look at him.”(275)

King Henry VIII about Elizabeth:

“He blinked down the table at the girl, as lithe and whippy as a greyhound puppy, and the light glinting on her red-gold hair. ‘Nan Bullen’s brat!’ he muttered to himself, ‘a wheyfaced scrap of a thing like her mother, a green apple, a codling,’ he drooled on, regarding her with a fixed and menacing eye.” (50)

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011]. ( )
  WisteriaLeigh | Jul 8, 2011 |
Historical fiction based on Queen Elizabeth is available in great abundance. It is one of my favorite periods of time so I thought that I would enjoy another series. This book was a slow start and I finished the book but I don't have plans to read the rest of the series. In general I would not recommend this series unless you want an view of the young Elizabeth. ( )
  goth_marionette | Aug 20, 2010 |
Young Bess was wonderful story, centering around a time in Elizabeth's life when things still aren't certain for her. Danger, doubt and treachery are at every turn. The research that the author did for this book shines through in the writing. Ms. Irwin has given us a powerful tale of what life is like before the reign of the Golden Age. This was an enjoyable read, a must read for any Tudor fan. ( )
  vampiregirl76 | Jul 5, 2010 |
Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: DNF

While I was reading this book I had my moments where I was thinking “this is nice…this is cute…” the writing was very eloquent and good. However the plot was just… nonexistent. By page 85 not much had happened. I had no urge to continue reading and even though I enjoyed it while I was reading it, I had to force myself to sit down and read it. And you should never have to force yourself to read a book (except for school). I felt the same way about The Midnight Charter. Both of these were similar in that they both had a bit of politics in them.

I did like the characters (Loved Tom Seymour!) and the writing, again, was great. But nothing made me want to keep reading.

I didn’t get far enough into the book to be able to say what content was in it.

Young Bess was re-published by Sourcebooks March 1st. Please know that I am in the minority for those who didn’t like/finish it. See other reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. ( )
  haleyknitz | Mar 24, 2010 |
This is a reprint; the book was originally written in 1944. Elizabeth I is one of my favorite historical figures and I have done quite a bit of reading about her - but most of it is from the time after she ascended to the throne. It was very interesting to read a book that takes you back to the time when she was still a child. Before she became the political genius and great Queen of England.

The book was easy to read and is very detailed as to its period and time. My only issue is that at time it seems that the book switches tone from historical novel to history book in trying to put forth the necessary information to move the story forward. This was, of course, a very challenging time in England's history and there was much intrigue going on as Henry VIII faded away. After his death the short reign of Edward was fraught with strife due to his guardians. Elizabeth's position was precarious and she had many lessons to learn.
Yet it is often forgotten that she was still very young.

The book is an excellent starting point for someone wanting to learn about Elizabeth and this period in history. It is part of a trilogy and the other books are also due to be reprinted. I will eagerly await their publication. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Young Bess. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Mar 23, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0749080213, Paperback)

Growing up in the shadow of her dead mother, the infamous Anne Boleyn, young Princess Elizabeth has learnt to be continuously on the watch for the political games played out around her. It is never certain when one might rise, or precariously fall, out of royal favor. When her distant father, Henry VIII, dies, the future brightens for Elizabeth. She is able to set up a home with Henry's last wife, Katherine Parr who now has a new husband, Tom Seymour. Tom, however, is playing a risky game. Marrying a widowed queen is one thing, flirting with the King's daughter and second in line to the throne is another. As the adolescent Elizabeth finds herself dangerously attracted to him, danger encroaches upon herself and the kingdom...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Growing up in the shadow of her dead mother, the infamous Anne Boleyn, young Princess Elizabeth has learnt to be continuously on the watch for the political games played out around her. When her distant father, Henry VIII, dies, the future brightens for Elizabeth. Originally published: London: Chatto & Windus, 1944.… (more)

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