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Book Review: "Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" by Anne Clinard Barnhill

"Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" by Anne Clinard Barnhill

You cannot choose when or who you will love, not even when it disrupts a queen's plans. Queen Elizabeth I of England never married and she either expected her ladies-in-waiting to follow suit or she would be in charge of finding their husband. Finding love on your own and wedding without permission was simply not allowed at Queen Elizabeth's court. What happens when one of the favorites defies the queen and follows her own heart? In "Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" by Anne Clinard Barnhill, the bond between a queen and her lady is tested.

"Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" follows the point of view of two women with an extremely special bond. Mistress Mary Shelton is a distant cousin to Queen Elizabeth who becomes her ward at three years old. Queen Elizabeth becomes deeply attached to Mary and considers her like a daughter. With her beloved Robert Dudley and young Mary, Elizabeth considers this her little family, the only family she can have. As Mary grows into a great beauty she catches the eye of many at the court including Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford and Sir John Skydemore. The Earl of Oxford is licentious and cruel, but Sir John Skydemore is kind and gallant. Sir John and Mary fall in love despite Queen Elizabeth's plans to have the Earl of Oxford and Mary marry. Mary follows her heart to be with Sir John, but ends up breaking the heart of Queen Elizabeth, the only mother she's ever known. "Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" portrays how a mother/daughter relationship is tested.

"Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" is an extremely moving tale. Many novels have painted Queen Elizabeth as being domineering over her ladies and wanting to always be the center of attention, but Barnhill's Queen Elizabeth is much more complex. Her love and bond with Mary is special. She truly sees "Her Fawn" as her daughter and always watches out for her and protects her. This is not a case of Queen Elizabeth wanting to control the life of one of her ladies, but her wanting to protect and make sure the young woman she feels is like her daughter gets everything she deserves.

Another interesting part of the novel is how Mary views Queen Elizabeth. Mary has seen the queen as a mother figure for the majority of her life and believes her to above reproach, but when Mary witnesses Queen Elizabeth doing something that makes her look like a hypocrite, Mary begins to examine the queen and her relationship with her in a new light allowing Mary to take chances, make mistakes, and find her own path in life.

Love is another highlight of the novel and two relationships are specifically highlighted. The sweet love and loyalty between the widower Sir John and Mary is lovely. Meanwhile, the complicated, fiery, but constant love between Queen Elizabeth and her beloved Robert Dudley is also focused on. These two relationships differ in so many ways, but are both so powerful.

"Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" is a strong novel on the complex queen and one of her ladies-in-waiting. There is something truly special about seeing the motherless Queen Elizabeth and motherless Mary find such comfort in one another. This is a novel that truly celebrates motherhood and how unique and different motherhood can be.

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