Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Watch the Lady by Elizaveth Freemantle

Penelope Devereux

One of the great beauties of her day, Penelope Devereux was no shrinking violet. She was impulsive, tenacious, and was unafraid to scheme and plot and flirt with danger with the best! Soon, she became an attendant at the queen's court. Once there, she was noticed by many because of her lovely singing voice and her dancing skills. Her blonde hair and beautiful eyes also helped her gain notice and popularity.
Her father, the Earl of Essex knew he was dying and he was eager to tie up any loose ends, so to speak. One of those loose ends was to see his daughter, Penelope, well married and taken care of before he died. 

Penelope's Father

Walter Devereux

1st Earl of Essex

From his deathbed, Walter Devereux sent a letter to Philip Sidney, asking him to marry Penelope.

Sir Philip Sidney
Poet and Composer 

Sidney wrote several sonnets about a woman named "Stella" said to be inspired by the lovely Penelope. In the 16th century, however, everything depended on inheritance, and possibly to preserve a future inheritance, Sidney broke off the betrothal. 

Soon another marriage was arranged for her. This time, to a man named Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich. he was young and eligible and had just succeeded to his title and considerable property. The match was a veritable disaster. He was a most unpleasant man, foul, vindictive, and with a nasty temper. Penelope Devereaux was forced to marry him. This was in spite of stamping her feet and refusing in the ceremony and having to be taken into the vestry by her uncle and persuaded by the threat that she would be turned penniless out into the street if she didn't. Ultimately, she was left no choice and lost the battle and became the Lady Rich. 

Trapped in an unhappy, loveless marriage, Penelope fell in love with Charles Blount, the 8th Baron Mountjoy and they began a secret affair. 

Sir Charles Blount
8th Baron Mountjoy

Penelope even bore Charles' children. But secrets are hard to keep and Lord Rich soon learned of his wife's betrayal. He couldn't do a thing about it, however, because of Penelope's brother Robert, the 2nd Earl of Essex, was a favourite of the queen.

Penelope's Brother
Robert Devereux
2nd Earl of Essex

Robert was involved in many a devious plot, which tainted Penelope by association. After his rebellion failed, he denounced Penelope as a traitor. He was later exectuted for treason. This is when her husband, Lord Rich made his move against her. He cast Penelope and her children by Mountjoy out! It was easy enough to do especially since Mountjoy was implicated in the Essex rebellion too. The queen intervened and granted them clemency. 

With nothing holding her back, Lady Penelope Rich now moved in with Mountjoy. They no longer hid their affair. In fact, Penelope remained in the queen's favor, become a Lady of the Bedchamber. Mountjoy became the Earl of Devonshire. Tired of his wayward wife, Rich sued for a divorce. Instead of contesting the divorce, Penelope welcomed it. There was nothing she wanted more than to marry Blount and legitimize their children. She publicly admitted to adultery and the divorce was granted. Sadly, her requests to remarry and legitimise her children were refused.

Ever defiant, and contrary to canon law, Penelope and Blount ignored the decree. They were secretly married by Chaplain William Laud who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Disgraced, the couple were banished by King James. They continued to live together as husband and wife with their children until their deaths. 

Penelope Devereux's life has been recreated in a stunning new novel by Elizabeth Freemantle entitled Watch The Lady. It is comprehensive in detail and richly portrayed, bringing successfully to life, this fascinating woman. The novel is full of shocking events, scandalous happenings, treachery, power struggles, and ultimate betrayal. Plenty of machinations to keep the pages turning. A wonderful story that strives for historical accuracy!

"The wax sizzles as it drips, releasing an acrid whiff. Penelope presses in her seal, twisting it slightly to make it unreadable, wondering if it - this letter - is folly, if it could be construed as treason were it to fall into the wrong hands." Opening Paragraph

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction” (People), comes the mesmerizing story of Lady Penelope Devereux—the daring young beauty in the Tudor court, who inspired Sir Philip Sidney’s famous sonnets even while she plotted against Queen Elizabeth.Penelope Devereux arrives at Queen Elizabeth’s court where she and her brother, the Earl of Essex, are drawn into the aging Queen’s favor. Young and na├»ve, Penelope, though promised elsewhere, falls in love with Philip Sidney who pours his heartbreak into the now classic sonnet series Astrophil and Stella. But Penelope is soon married off to a man who loathes her. Never fainthearted, she chooses her moment and strikes a deal with her husband: after she gives birth to two sons, she will be free to live as she chooses, with whom she chooses. But she is to discover that the course of true love is never smooth.

Meanwhile Robert Cecil, ever loyal to Elizabeth, has his eye on Penelope and her brother. Although it seems the Earl of Essex can do no wrong in the eyes of the Queen, as his influence grows, so his enemies gather. Penelope must draw on all her political savvy to save her brother from his own ballooning ambition and Cecil’s trap, while daring to plan for an event it is treason even to think about.

Unfolding over the course of two decades and told from the perspectives of Penelope and her greatest enemy, the devious politician Cecil, Watch the Lady chronicles the last gasps of Elizabeth’s reign, and the deadly scramble for power in a dying dynasty.

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