Catalogue


My just desire : the life of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter /
Anna Beer.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Ballantine Books, 2003.
description
xxii, 292 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
ISBN
0345452909
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Ballantine Books, 2003.
isbn
0345452909
catalogue key
5200502
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 275-280) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
ONE "My One and Only Daughter": Growing Up Under Elizabeth She had been born in April 1565, a precious daughter to relatively elderly parents who had already produced six sons. Bess's father, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, fifty at the time of her birth, would live only another six years. It was thus her mother, Anne, and one of her older brothers, Arthur, who were to exert the greatest influence upon Bess as a young girl. Anne Throckmorton harbored great hopes for her daughter, hopes rooted in her own traumatic childhood experiences and her intimate and perilous involvement with the power struggles and shifting regimes that characterized the mid-sixteenth century. Historian Alison Plowden, reviewing the early years of the future Queen Elizabeth (whose mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed before her daughter was three, and stepmother Jane Seymour died soon after giving birth to Prince Edward, and a second stepmother was executed for adultery), argues that "it would be hardly surprising if by the time she was eight years old, a conviction that for the women in her family there existed an inescapable correlation between sexual intercourse and violent death had taken root in her subconscious." But this conviction may well have been shared by an entire generation of women, including the young Anne, who suffered, directly or indirectly, from the actions of their king as he slid into unhappy despotism in his search for a male heir and a loyal wife. Anne's father, Nicholas Carew, had been a loyal follower of Henry VIII, and, more problematically, of Henry's first wife, Katharine of Aragon. Carew survived the dangerous years in which Henry abandoned Katharine because of his desire for Anne Boleyn, and then, when convinced of Anne's adultery, swiftly married Jane Seymour, a mere eleven days after his second wife's execution. Throughout this time, Nicholas Carew continued to be one of Henry's closest friends, a "jolly gentleman" by all accounts. But the king was a dangerous friend, and with a suddenness that by this stage of Henry's despotism probably surprised no one, Nicholas Carew fell from favor. Execution swiftly followed. One of Anne's first, and by definition last, memories of her father would have been a visit to him the night before his death on March 3, 1539, to make her farewells. Her mother, Lady Carew, had done all she could to prevent her husband's fall, exhorting him "to obey the king in everything," but to no avail. Anne's mother lived on for another seven years. She would be buried with her "traitor" husband, leaving a few pounds to one daughter, her clothes to another, and nothing to adolescent Anne. Despite this traumatic start to life and her lack of a dowry, Anne made a respectable marriage, allying herself with another survivor of the troubled closing years of Henry VIII's reign: Nicholas Throckmorton. Her new husband's problem was not that he was one of nineteen children (although this would have minimized his inheritance prospects), but that his family remained loyal to the papacy despite England's move toward reformed religion and eventual Protestantism. Nicholas's father, George Throckmorton, a leading courtier in the early years of Henry's reign and the pleased recipient of generous gifts of land from his royal master, opposed the king's eventually successful plan to an- nul his marriage to Katharine of Aragon. This was politically unwise, and George was advised by Henry's chief minister, Thomas Crom- well, to "stay at home and meddle little." Over the following decades, Throckmortons were to fail, extremely conspicuously, to do just that. Home for the defiantly Catholic Throckmortons was (an
First Chapter

ONE

“My One and Only Daughter”: Growing Up Under Elizabeth


She had been born in April 1565, a precious daughter to relatively elderly parents who had already produced six sons. Bess’s father, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, fifty at the time of her birth, would live only another six years. It was thus her mother, Anne, and one of her older brothers, Arthur, who were to exert the greatest influence upon Bess as a young girl. Anne Throckmorton harbored great hopes for her daughter, hopes rooted in her own traumatic childhood experiences and her intimate and perilous involvement with the power struggles and shifting regimes that characterized the mid-sixteenth century. Historian Alison Plowden, reviewing the early years of the future Queen Elizabeth (whose mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed before her daughter was three, and stepmother Jane Seymour died soon after giving birth to Prince Edward, and a second stepmother was executed for adultery), argues that “it would be hardly surprising if by the time she was eight years old, a conviction that for the women in her family there existed an inescapable correlation between sexual intercourse and violent death had taken root in her subconscious.” But this conviction may well have been shared by an entire generation of women, including the young Anne, who suffered, directly or indirectly, from the actions of their king as he slid into unhappy despotism in his search for a male heir and a loyal wife.

Anne’s father, Nicholas Carew, had been a loyal follower of Henry VIII, and, more problematically, of Henry’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon. Carew survived the dangerous years in which Henry abandoned Katharine because of his desire for Anne Boleyn, and then, when convinced of Anne’s adultery, swiftly married Jane Seymour, a mere eleven days after his second wife’s execution. Throughout this time, Nicholas Carew continued to be one of Henry’s closest friends, a “jolly gentleman” by all accounts. But the king was a dangerous friend, and with a suddenness that by this stage of Henry’s despotism probably surprised no one, Nicholas Carew fell from favor. Execution swiftly followed. One of Anne’s first, and by definition last, memories of her father would have been a visit to him the night before his death on March 3, 1539, to make her farewells. Her mother, Lady Carew, had done all she could to prevent her husband’s fall, exhorting him “to obey the king in everything,” but to no avail. Anne’s mother lived on for another seven years. She would be buried with her “traitor” husband, leaving a few pounds to one daughter, her clothes to another, and nothing to adolescent Anne.

Despite this traumatic start to life and her lack of a dowry, Anne made a respectable marriage, allying herself with another survivor of the troubled closing years of Henry VIII’s reign: Nicholas Throckmorton. Her new husband’s problem was not that he was one of nineteen children (although this would have minimized his inheritance prospects), but that his family remained loyal to the papacy despite England’s move toward reformed religion and eventual Protestantism. Nicholas’s father, George Throckmorton, a leading courtier in the early years of Henry’s reign and the pleased recipient of generous gifts of land from his royal master, opposed the king’s eventually successful plan to an- nul his marriage to Katharine of Aragon. This was politically unwise, and George was advised by Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Crom- well, to “stay at home and meddle little.” Over the following decades, Throckmortons were to fail, extremely conspicuously, to do just that. Home for the defiantly Catholic Throckmortons was (and still remains) Coughton House in Warwickshire: those nineteen children remain in brass effigy in Coughton Church.

The following lines, from a long and execrable poem in which Sir Nicholas looks back over his life (poetic license being deployed since the protagonist actually dies during the poem), give an impression of a childhood surrounded by anxious women:

No joys approached near unto Coughton House: My sisters they did nothing else but whine; My Mother looked much like a drowned Mouse. No butter then would stick upon our Bread: We all did fear the loss of Father’s Head.

Nicholas’s father kept his head, just, but his son presumably learned from the experience and turned his back on the dangerous Catholicism of his family and embraced the new reformed state religion. He was therefore eligible to join the household of Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife, the staunchly Protestant Catherine Parr, and so began his long career as a courtier in July 1543. In Catherine Parr’s house, Nicholas was joined by two young girls, Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Their futures would become entangled with his for many years, and both Jane’s and Elizabeth’s shadows would fall over Bess, Nicholas’s only daughter, years after his death.

Through the 1540s, young Nicholas would have witnessed the actions of Lord Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr’s subsequent husband, as he attempted to control Princess Elizabeth both sexually and politically while she was still in her early teens. Historians are divided over the precise nature and extent of the relationship, but it is cer- tain that once Catherine Parr died, Seymour openly courted Elizabeth. Early in 1549, however, the tide turned against him, and his ambition to marry the young princess was construed as treasonous. He was executed in March of that year. Nicholas Throckmorton watched and studied what he saw and continued to rise. Three years later, he made the shrewd move of giving up an annuity of £100 in exchange for the manor of Paulerspury, thus establishing himself as a prominent landowner in Northamptonshire, independent of his Throckmorton relatives in Warwickshire. The deed for Paulerspury identifies him as a gentleman of the Private Chamber, and thus at the heart of the court of the boy king Edward VI, Henry VIII’s youngest child and only son, and thus, successor.

Although the precise date of their marriage is unclear, Anne Carew and the upwardly mobile Nicholas Throckmorton were certainly married when the still teenage King Edward recognized that he was dying and made moves to determine his own successor. Edward’s choice to follow him, or more important, the choice of the Earl of Northumberland, his chief adviser, was the young Lady Jane Grey, daughter of Frances, Duchess of Suffolk. Her tenuous claim to the throne rested on the fact that she was the daughter of the daughter of King Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. But her real value lay in her Protestantism and in the fact that Northumberland could marry her to his own son, Guilford Dudley. Edward VI himself encouraged this marriage as part of his continued attempts to set aside the claims of his older sisters, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. The accession of the fiercely Catholic Princess Mary Tudor to the throne was a disastrous prospect for Northumberland for good political reasons, and in ideological terms, King Edward opposed strongly the idea of a return to Rome. Between them, Edward and Northumberland overturned both Henry VIII’s will and the Succession Act of 1544, and a rash of dynastic marriages, orchestrated by Northumberland, took place that spring. As the historian Susan Brigden concludes, “Northumberland was kingmaker.”

The pace of events quickened still further as the young king’s health deteriorated. By June, Lady Jane Grey was suffering physically and mentally from the strain of expectation upon her. On July 6, 1553, Edward VI died, but the public announcement of his death was delayed for two days. A further two days later, Lady Jane was brought on a barge from Sion House, the Duke of Northumberland’s house, to the Tower of London, pausing at Westminster and Durham House. At the Tower she was proclaimed queen. Only nine days later, and in the face of a hostile response in London and elsewhere to Queen Jane, Princess Mary Tudor was proclaimed queen in London: “a conciliar conspiracy had put Queen Jane on the throne; a popular rising deprived her of it.”3 It appeared that the issue of legitimacy (Mary was Henry VIII’s daughter; Jane was only his great-niece) counted with the people, that Northumberland was widely distrusted if not hated, and perhaps most important, that the reformed religion that Jane represented had not taken as firm a root in the country as its Protestant leaders had thought or hoped. Lady Jane Grey became yet another casualty of the power struggles of the mid-sixteenth century, one of the many tragic ironies of her situation being that her own father ral- lied support for Queen Mary and renounced the regal claims of his daughter. Jane’s sister Catherine, who had been hastily married to Henry Herbert, was as hastily cast off by her new husband’s family when it became clear that she would not be sister to a queen. The convenient, and possibly valid, excuse was that the marriage had not been consummated.

Jane Grey’s father and mother, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, were pardoned by the merciful new Queen Mary, but Jane’s own fate remained uncertain. Only a few months later, however, in the first winter of Mary’s reign, Jane’s father was involved in a new rebellion against the Queen’s authority. His change of allegiance ensured not only his own execution, but that of his daughter, and on February 12, 1554, Lady Jane was beheaded.

Young Anne Throckmorton had backed the wrong queen. She had been dangerously close to the Grey faction, even deputizing for Queen Jane as godmother, on the very day, July 19, 1553, that Queen Mary was proclaimed sovereign in London. The accession of Mary, and the subsequent execution of Lady Jane, were politically disastrous for both Anne and for her husband, Sir Nicholas. Only a week after the execution of Lady Jane, Nicholas was imprisoned in the Tower for his part in the Duke of Suffolk’s recent conspiracy. Anne was heavily pregnant with her first child at this time and preparing for her first confinement. Two months later, in April, her husband’s case came to trial at the Guildhall, the charge being treason. For Anne Throckmorton, daughter of executed “traitor” Nicholas Carew, this was disturbingly familiar territory.

Astonishingly, Sir Nicholas was acquitted by the jury. Queen Mary was so distraught at the decision, without precedent in a treason trial, that she apparently took to her bed for three days. Once acquitted, Sir Nicholas made moves to ensure that Anne would be provided for, in case of further threats to his life. She meanwhile had given birth to a boy, christened William.

Having survived these early months of Queen Mary’s reign, Anne and Nicholas maintained a low profile. Anne gave birth, safely, to two further sons, Arthur, born in 1558, and Robert, probably born a year later. The Queen, struggling, but failing, to produce children her- self with her husband, King Philip of Spain, was not overly vindictive towards what remained of the family that had attempted to usurp her. She had ordered the execution of the husband, brother-in-law, daughter, and son-in-law of Frances Brandon, the Duchess of Suffolk, but showed leniency towards the Duchess herself and her surviving daughters. Frances seemed quite ready to move on in her own life. With something like indecent haste, Lady Jane Grey’s mother waited a mere three weeks after her husband’s execution before she married again. Her first marriage had been made for her when she was sixteen. This time she appears to have followed her own desires, although whether those desires should be described as personal or political, or a combination of the two, is hard to tell. Her choice was a young, indeed a very young, man called Adrian Stokes: Frances was thirty-seven, Adrian twenty-one. To make the marriage even more titillating to contemporaries, Stokes had been Frances’s secretary and groom of the chamber. Princess Elizabeth, Queen Mary’s younger sister, allegedly focused on the class issue rather than the age gap, commenting with horror that “the woman has so far forgotten herself as to marry [that is, mate with] a common groom!” Frances may not have “forgotten herself”: indeed it is quite possible that this was a marriage of political expediency, signaling that the Duchess of Suffolk had no intentions of making another dynastic marriage, and thus no intention of attempting to place another of her offspring on the throne. Queen Mary was generous to Frances and her new husband, Adrian, and to Lady Jane’s younger sisters, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey, who were allowed to live with the Queen at court although, as with Bess a generation later, there were good political reasons to keep the potential pretenders to the Crown where they could be watched.
Excerpted from My Just Desire: The Life of Bess Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter by Anna Beer
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-08-01:
Beer (English literature, Regent's Park Coll., Oxford) notes that generations of Sir Walter Ralegh biographers have written about his wife only from their hero's perspective. While he finds that approach understandable, he assumes the standpoint of Bess Ralegh, not "a passive and innocent victim" but an ambitious and politically astute player vying for power in the English court after Elizabeth I's reign. Most historians, in effect, end Bess's role with Sir Walter's execution in 1618-Ralegh's head placed in a red bag, his body wrapped in his nightgown and taken away in "a mourning coach of his Lady's." But, as the author points out, Bess survived Ralegh by some 29 years, dying at the age of 82. Beer's "revisionist" biography not only fascinates with its vivid re-creation of the tangled interrelationships, jealousies, alliances, and betrayals of English court life but also its detailed account of how Bess spent her final years helping to restore her son, Carew, "in blood" and to shore up Sir Walter's reputation. This insightful work is recommended for all libraries.-Robert C. Jones, Warrensburg, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-06-16:
Beer uses the life of Bess Ralegh (1565-1647?) to effectively illustrate the limited role of women in Elizabethan and Stuart England. During her nearly three decades of marriage to Sir Walter, he was largely absent because of expeditions or long stints in the Tower of London, and Bess was compelled to wear a number of "manly" hats: business manager, political infighter and guardian of her husband's reputation. As Beer makes abundantly clear, Bess succeeded quite nicely in all these roles. The couple were secretly married in 1591, while both were courtiers to Queen Elizabeth I. Beers stresses that the Elizabethan court was a dangerous place, filled with gossip and shifting loyalties. When news of the Raleghs' secret marriage leaked out, the queen considered the couple disloyal and imprisoned them. While in the Tower, Bess's infant son died. Beer uses Bess's pregnancy and childrearing as jumping off points to describe the life of mothers in Elizabethan England. Walter was imprisoned again (for treason) in 1603, and Bess lobbied tirelessly for his release and indeed, right before Walter's scheduled execution, he received a royal reprieve. When one of King James's favorites wanted to take Ralegh's home, Bess skillfully negotiated a highly favorable compensation package. After Ralegh was eventually executed in 1618, Bess worked heroically to rehabilitate his reputation. She was so successful that the "traitorous" Walter Ralegh is today viewed as the greatest hero of his day. This is recommended for those wishing to better understand the role of married women in Tudor and Stuart England. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"The extraordinary story of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter, has been overlooked for four centuries.My Just Desireis a riveting tale of intrigue, passion, skull-duggery and treachery. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of Elizabethan England's most beguiling women." -Giles Milton, author ofBig Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in AmericaandSamurai William: The Englishman Who Opened the East Praise forMy Just Desire "Anna Beer has lovingly restored Bess Ralegh to her rightful place among Elizabethan heroines. Brave, energetic, and resourceful to the point of audacityBess was a successful gambler against the odds. She rescued the reputation of her own husbandSir Walter Raleghand now, four centuries later, Anna Beer has returned the favor." AMANDA FOREMAN Author ofGeorgiana: Duchess of Devonshire "Beer has vividly recreated the period and added a wealth of wonderful detail . . . A gem of a book." ALISON WEIR Author ofMary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley "The extraordinary story of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter, has been overlooked for four centuries.My Just Desireis a riveting tale of intrigue, passion, skullduggery and treachery. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of Elizabethan England's most beguiling women." GILES MILTON Author ofBig Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America "Energetic and ambitious, Bess Raleigh was wife to the courtier-pirate-poet Sir Walter. Her tumultuous story is set against the plots and counterplots in the final years of the ageing Queen Elizabeth I, who presided over a glittering, corrupt and disintegrating court in which the Raleghs were always in favor or danger. Bess and her world come vividly to life in this fast-moving tale of a woman who had to be wife, mother, prisoner and politician." JANET TODD Author ofMary Wollstonecraft
"The extraordinary story of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter, has been overlooked for four centuries. My Just Desireis a riveting tale of intrigue, passion, skull-duggery and treachery. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of Elizabethan England's most beguiling women." - Giles Milton, author of Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in Americaand Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened the East Praise for My Just Desire "Anna Beer has lovingly restored Bess Ralegh to her rightful place among Elizabethan heroines. Brave, energetic, and resourceful to the point of audacityBess was a successful gambler against the odds. She rescued the reputation of her own husbandSir Walter Raleghand now, four centuries later, Anna Beer has returned the favor." AMANDA FOREMAN Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire "Beer has vividly recreated the period and added a wealth of wonderful detail . . . A gem of a book." ALISON WEIR Author of Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley "The extraordinary story of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter, has been overlooked for four centuries. My Just Desireis a riveting tale of intrigue, passion, skullduggery and treachery. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of Elizabethan England's most beguiling women." GILES MILTON Author of Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America "Energetic and ambitious, Bess Raleigh was wife to the courtier-pirate-poet Sir Walter. Her tumultuous story is set against the plots and counterplots in the final years of the ageing Queen Elizabeth I, who presided over a glittering, corrupt and disintegrating court in which the Raleghs were always in favor or danger. Bess and her world come vividly to life in this fast-moving tale of a woman who had to be wife, mother, prisoner and politician." JANET TODD Author of Mary Wollstonecraft
"The extraordinary story of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter, has been overlooked for four centuries. My Just Desire is a riveting tale of intrigue, passion, skull-duggery and treachery. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of Elizabethan England's most beguiling women." -Giles Milton, author of Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America and Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened the East Praise for My Just Desire "Anna Beer has lovingly restored Bess Ralegh to her rightful place among Elizabethan heroines. Brave, energetic, and resourceful to the point of audacityBess was a successful gambler against the odds. She rescued the reputation of her own husbandSir Walter Raleghand now, four centuries later, Anna Beer has returned the favor." AMANDA FOREMAN Author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire "Beer has vividly recreated the period and added a wealth of wonderful detail . . . A gem of a book." ALISON WEIR Author of Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley "The extraordinary story of Bess Ralegh, wife to Sir Walter, has been overlooked for four centuries. My Just Desire is a riveting tale of intrigue, passion, skullduggery and treachery. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of Elizabethan England's most beguiling women." GILES MILTON Author of Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America "Energetic and ambitious, Bess Raleigh was wife to the courtier-pirate-poet Sir Walter. Her tumultuous story is set against the plots and counterplots in the final years of the ageing Queen Elizabeth I, who presided over a glittering, corrupt and disintegrating court in which the Raleghs were always in favor or danger. Bess and her world come vividly to life in this fast-moving tale of a woman who had to be wife, mother, prisoner and politician." JANET TODD Author of Mary Wollstonecraft
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, June 2003
Booklist, August 2003
Library Journal, August 2003
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
Bess Raleigh finally emerges from her husband's shadow to stand as a central figure in the court of Elizabeth I.
Main Description
Young, beautiful, and connected by blood to the most powerful families in England, Bess Throckmorton had as much influence over Queen Elizabeth I as any woman in the realmbut she risked everything to marry the most charismatic man of the day. The secret marriage between Bess and the Queen's beloved Sir Walter Ralegh cost both of them their fortunes, their freedom, and very nearly their lives. Yet it was Bess, resilient, passionate, and politically shrewd, who would live to restore their name and reclaim her political influence. In this dazzling biography, Bess Ralegh finally emerges from her husband's shadow to stand as a complex, commanding figure in her own right. Writing with grace and drama, Anna Beer brings Bess to life as a woman, a wife and mother, an intimate friend of poets and courtiers, and a skilled political infighter in Europe's most powerful and most dangerous court. The only daughter of an ambitious aristocratic family, Bess was thrust at a tender age into the very epicenter of royal power when her parents secured her the position of Elizabeth's Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. Bess proved to be a natural player on this stage of extravagant mythmaking and covert sexual politics, until she fell in love with the Queen's Captain of the Guard, the handsome, virile, meteorically rising Ralegh. But their secret marriage, swiftly followed by the birth of their son, would have grave consequences for both of them. Brooking the Queen's wrath and her husband's refusal to acknowledge their marriage, Bess brilliantly stage-managed her social and political rehabilitation and emerged from prison as the leader of a brilliant, fast-living aristocratic set. She survived personal tragedy, the ruinous global voyages launched by her husband, and the vicious plots of high-placed enemies. Though Raleigh in the end fell afoul of court intrigue, Bess lived on into the reign of James I as a woman of hard-won wisdom and formidable power. With compelling historical insight, Anna Beer recreates here the vibrant pageant of Elizabethan Englandthe brilliant wit and vicious betrayals, the new discoveries and old rivalries, the violence and fierce sexuality of life at court. Peopled by poets and princes, spanning the reigns of two monarchs, moving between the palaces of London and the manor house outside the capital, My Just Desireis the portrait of a remarkable woman who lived at the center of an extraordinary time.
Main Description
Young, beautiful, and connected by blood to the most powerful families in England, Bess Throckmorton had as much influence over Queen Elizabeth I as any woman in the realmbut she risked everything to marry the most charismatic man of the day. The secret marriage between Bess and the Queen's beloved Sir Walter Ralegh cost both of them their fortunes, their freedom, and very nearly their lives. Yet it was Bess, resilient, passionate, and politically shrewd, who would live to restore their name and reclaim her political influence. In this dazzling biography, Bess Ralegh finally emerges from her husband's shadow to stand as a complex, commanding figure in her own right. Writing with grace and drama, Anna Beer brings Bess to life as a woman, a wife and mother, an intimate friend of poets and courtiers, and a skilled political infighter in Europe's most powerful and most dangerous court. The only daughter of an ambitious aristocratic family, Bess was thrust at a tender age into the very epicenter of royal power when her parents secured her the position of Elizabeth's Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. Bess proved to be a natural player on this stage of extravagant mythmaking and covert sexual politics, until she fell in love with the Queen's Captain of the Guard, the handsome, virile, meteorically rising Ralegh. But their secret marriage, swiftly followed by the birth of their son, would have grave consequences for both of them. Brooking the Queen's wrath and her husband's refusal to acknowledge their marriage, Bess brilliantly stage-managed her social and political rehabilitation and emerged from prison as the leader of a brilliant, fast-living aristocratic set. She survived personal tragedy, the ruinous global voyages launched by her husband, and the vicious plots of high-placed enemies. Though Raleigh in the end fell afoul of court intrigue, Bess lived on into the reign of James I as a woman of hard-won wisdom and formidable power. With compelling historical insight, Anna Beer recreates here the vibrant pageant of Elizabethan Englandthe brilliant wit and vicious betrayals, the new discoveries and old rivalries, the violence and fierce sexuality of life at court. Peopled by poets and princes, spanning the reigns of two monarchs, moving between the palaces of London and the manor house outside the capital,My Just Desireis the portrait of a remarkable woman who lived at the center of an extraordinary time.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: "Wantonness and Wit": The Court of the Virgin Queen, October 1591
Genealogy Charts
"My One and Only Daughter": Growing Up Under Elizabethp. 1
"True Within Ourselves": Bess and Sir Walterp. 48
"Him That I Am": Building a Life at Sherbornep. 69
"A Most Dangerous Woman": The Return to Powerp. 97
"My Dead Heart": The Traitor's Wifep. 135
"Of Liberty Deprived": The Tower Yearsp. 156
"God in Mercy Look on Us": Journey's Endp. 199
"Generosa Virago": Creating the Futurep. 222
Epiloguep. 258
Notesp. 267
Annotated Bibliographyp. 275
Note on Methodologyp. 281
Indexp. 283
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem