The Queen's Handmaiden
Berkley, Oct 2007, $14.00
Eloise Rousell is the same age as Princess Elizabeth as both were born in 1533. However, unlike the royalty, Eloise lived with a traveling troupe until her aristocratic mother is dumped as a pampered pathetic lady once her actor spouse died. The five years old is sent to live with her Aunt Kat, governess to the “defrocked” no longer a princess by royal decree of her sire when he beheaded her mother so Eloise moves to the court.
She becomes Elizabeth’s most trusted confident. Thus she is there when King Henry died; she sees his offspring young King Edward die in a rather short reign; and observes first hand Bloody Mary take the throne terrorizing her half sister Elizabeth and others. When Elizabeth becomes queen, Eloise’s importance to her highness is even greater. However, when Eloise falls in love, she fears her beloved might be endangered as those surrounding the Queen would do anything to gain an edge; she has not considered that she might also be in peril from those who want to gain power.
Jennifer Ashley provides a clever look at the life of Elizabeth I through a fictional confident Eloise Rousell. Royal events like queen beheadings are cleverly tied to moments in Eloise’s life. Thus fans obtain a deep biographical fiction that intelligently compares the big scenario of the royal stage to a minor participant influenced by what happens at center court.