- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (Aug. 26 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345452909
- ISBN-13: 978-0345452900
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 463 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #879,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
My Just Desire: The Life of Bess Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter Hardcover – Aug 26 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The name of Elizabethan adventurer Walter Ralegh is familiar to many people, but few know anything about his wife, Bess. Born Elizabeth Throckmorton, her appointment as lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I was considered an important step for her family in an age when power and influence were achieved primarily through one's connections. At court she met the dashing Ralegh, and they were secretly wed. Ralegh was a royal favorite who had already had a hand in establishing a colony in North America and defeating the Spanish Armada, but this did not prevent his downfall when the queen learned of his marriage. Through years of Ralegh's imprisonment and further exploits to regain his status, it was left to Bess to keep the family estates together and preserve a legacy for her sons. The fact that it is not known exactly when she died attests to the difficulties involved in reconstructing the often hidden lives of women, even when they are prominent and powerful. Nevertheless, Beer fleshes out her readable account with fascinating details. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Opening with her own fictionalised account of Bess early morning as Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, we find our subject, Bess Throckmorton, five months pregnant which leads to a brief discourse on the sexual politics that pervaded much of Elizabethan politics. In chronological manner, Beer gives an early account of Bess life, of her Throckmorton relatives who constantly interfered in matters political meaning they often got send to Court, of her mother Anna and her presentation to the Court in 1584. Beer also weaves in an account of the major events of the time featuring Mary, Queen of Scots, Essex, Dudley et al before focusing on Bess' education which was "neither democratizing nor meritocratic". In parallel runs the biography of her future husband, Walter Ralegh and the sexual scandals that seem to have been rife at Court.
Beer, in a simple and entertaining style, has created a story of a woman who was, at first, infatuated with a charming adventurer, then married to one of the most powerful men in England, risking her Queen's fury, then a stoical and steadfast wife displaying brilliant political and legal acumen to keep the Ralegh and Throckmorton family afloat during years of political upheaval and royal dynastical change. Ever-loyal to her increasingly disillusioned husband and afterwards the consummate matriarch it lends credence to the statement that behind every great man there stands a greater woman.
Well worth reading.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I highly recommend reading this book for anyone interested in discovering more about the powerful and influential people during Queen Elizabeth's time period. It helps to further understand the consequences of Elizabeth's decisions and, who knows, you may find yourself discovering a whole new heroine.
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