Random musings from a "rabid" reader. The title comes from my admiration of John Updike and his Rabbit Angstrom series.When I read a review of a book I have not read, I only read enough to get a general idea of the content. If it sounds interesting, I make a note of the review, read the book, and only then do I go back and read the review completely. I intend these short musings to convey that spirit and idea to the readers of "RabbitReader."
Friday, March 07, 2014
The Queen's Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth's Court by Anna Whitelock
I have frequently written about my fondness for the Tudor
Dynasty, which lasted from 1485 to 1603.The period featured scads of colorful and interesting characters, drama,
espionage, treachery, love, hate, corruption, and nearly any other positive or
negative activity from tennis to mass executions one can imagine.
Anna Whitelock’s recently published volume, The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of
Elizabeth [I]’s Court peers into the most closely guarded secrets of the
Court of the Virgin Queen.These secrets
involve the women closest to her.This
platoon of servants were with her from dawn to dusk; from the moment she opened
her eyes in the morning through her several-hour ordeal of dressing, primping,
and applying makeup, until she is disassembled and readied for a night’s
sleep.The most favored women share her
bed chamber through the night, and sometimes even her bed.
Rumors of scandals quickly began swirling around Elizabeth
almost from the moment she received the crown of England.The rumors largely revolved around her single
researched and documented work stuns the reader with its depth and breadth of
detail.Eight pages of color pictures – including
well-known portraits of Elizabeth and those of her Ladies-in-Waiting and Maids
of the Chamber -- are a treasure trove of insights into one of the most
powerful women in history.
Among a series of epigrams, Whitelock quotes the queen, “We
princes, I tell you, are set on stages in the sight and view of all the world
duly observed; the eyes of many behold our actions, a spot is soon spied in our
garments; a blemish noted quickly in our doings.”This was in the days long before cameras,
paparazzi, and gossip columns.
Whitelock writes, “The Queen’s Bedchamber was at once a
private and public space.The Queen’s
body was more than its fleshly parts; her body natural represented the body
politic, the very state itself.The
health and sanctity of Elizabeth’s body determined the strength and stability
of the realm” (8).As pressure grew on
England from without – the excommunication by the pope, plots by her cousin
Mary, Queen of Scots, and Spanish supporters of Mary I, her deceased
half-sister, and from within that she should marry and produce an heir,
Elizabeth maintained her kingdom.William Cecil, Lord Burghley, her most trusted advisor said, “The state
of this crown depends only on the breath of one person, our sovereign lady.”
We also learn some astounding statistics.“The court [included] more than a thousand
servants and attendants, ranging from brewers and bakers, cooks, tailors and
stable hands to courtiers and ambassadors” (17). Whitelock notes, when Elizabeth
moved between her homes, three hundred carts of personal possessions moved with
her (17).146 yeoman of the Guard
accompanied the queen wherever she happened to be (18).
Anna Whitelock’s, The
Queen’s Bed, provides endless fascination for readers of history and
biography of significant women on the world’s stage.5 stars