Tudor Time: A Review of Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I, Red Rose of the House of Tudor by Kathyrn Lasky
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So I ventured out into the world recently, a scary thing I know, but I did. I went to Half-Priced Books. I went to sell some books and while I was waiting for my offer to be totaled, I perused the children’s book section. I had a mission. Find more Royal Diaries titles! And find them I did!
Please welcome to the stage: The Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I, Red Rose of The House of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky!
Yes, not only are we diving into The Royal Diaries again, but we’re also diving back into the pool that is Tudor England. I have a brand and I’m sticking to it! So let’s get to that synopsis.
As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned. I’m also going to include a content and trigger warning. Henry VIII is depicted as a shit father. I’d argue that Elizabeth I is a victim of mental and emotional abuse. This book is kinda dark, not gonna lie. We’ll get into that a little bit more later on, but for now, let’s get to the synopsis.
Our story begins in 1544, young Elizabeth I has just returned to Court after being exiled for a year. Queen Catherine Parr has convinced Henry VIII to allow Elizabeth to return AND gotten him to include Elizabeth and Mary in the line of succession again. Elizabeth has to be on her best behavior for fear of once again being exiled though. That doesn’t last too long because she sings a song she composed that offends Henry so Elizabeth is living in major fear of exile. Thankfully, the holiday season is approaching so everyone is in high spirits and she’s not sent away.
Sadly, the joy doesn’t last. England is going to war with France for Boulogne. Despite the sorry state he’s in, Henry VIII leads his troops to battle. Now the fun thing about the Tudor era holiday season, it lasts from summer till spring. Henry is back before the winter holidays, in great spirits cause he won the war, and Court is calm.
Naturally, the calm cannot last. This entry of The Royal Diaries takes readers from the summer of 1544 all the way to January of 1547. During this time there is Elizabeth’s constant fear of exile, the PTSD of Katherine Howard’s demise, the plot that almost cost Catherine Parr her life, and finally, Henry VIII’s death and Edward’s ascent to the throne. I never realized just how many important events took place during the course of these years. There’s a lot going on.
This was my first time reading Elizabeth I’s Royal Diaries entry. I must say, this is one traumatic book. This fictional version of Elizabeth I needs therapy. She talks a lot about her mother’s beheading, her father’s tyrannical nature, and the more recent disturbing events of Katherine Howard’s fall and execution; like I said, Elizabeth needs therapy. She’s nine-years-old at the start of this book and the target audience is roughly the same age; honestly, I would be traumatized if I read this book as a kid. It’s dark. I appreciate it greatly as an adult, but damn is it dark. Are we sure the target audience is pre-teen children?
I genuinely love this characterization of young Elizabeth I. She’s clearly intelligent with a love of learning. That’s something that’s showed throughout the entirety of story. Yet she’s still a kid. Despite having the weight of the world on her shoulders, she wants to spend her time playing outside and going sledding and learning how to hawk. These scenes are a lovely reminder that’s she’s a pre-teen and still wants to have fun even if members of the English Court are plotting against her.
Another great aspect is Elizabeth’s character growth. This book covers nearly three years of her life. She begins the story as a young girl simply wanting to play outside with her friends and younger brother. By the end she’s wisened to the dangers of Court and partakes in preventing multiple schemes and plots that haunt the halls of the various palaces she spends time in. Kathryn Lasky does an amazing job at keeping the character growth gradual. By the end there was a moment that slapped me in the face because I realized just how much she had grown in the span of 200-pages. Seriously, the character growth is this book’s greatest strength.
At this point, I should turn to historical accuracy. In my Marie Antoinette review, I talked about historical inaccuracies, teaching children history, and my thoughts on those matters. I don’t want to rehash what I discussed in this post though; I feel like I’d just state the same thing. If you are curious of my thoughts on the matter you can find my Marie Antoinette post here. There is one historical inaccuracy I do want to talk about though: Elizabeth doesn’t know the order of her father’s wives.
On page five, Elizabeth says Jane Seymour is Henry VIII’s fourth wife. Jane Seymour was the third wife. At first, I thought the author and editors didn’t catch this glaring mistake for like 20-years. I was screaming! How was this possible!? I feel everyone knows the rhyme, “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced beheaded, survived” and the correlating queen. How could a historical children’s book mess up so badly? Then I remembered something. On the first page, there is an off-hand comment from Elizabeth about how she can’t keep the order of the wives straight. This mistake was intentional. I hate it but I also love it. Also, sorry about that tiny misdirection.
The turnaround between Henry VIII’s wives was extremely quick. The longest time in between wives was roughly three years; during this time he was mourning the death of Jane Seymour. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Elizabeth I actually messed up the order of her father’s wives; especially at nine-years-old. Again, I both hate and love this small “error.” While children may view the mistake as historically accurate until told otherwise, it does show the main character as human. Royalty is often viewed as perfect, which is far from the truth, so a small touch like this adds a lot to Elizabeth’s characterization. Yes, this is once again me saying the characterization/character growth/character development/everything about our main character is this book’s highlight.
From a brief Googling, Elizabeth I seems to be a fan favorite of The Royal Diaries series. I can see why. This is a well-researched book with an interesting plot and great characters that doesn’t sugarcoat anything. While dark, Elizabeth I is a good entry point for children to learn about Tudor era history. That has always been my favorite aspect of both The Royal Diaries and My America series. Not A Coal Miner’s Bride though. That entry in the My America series was just fucking creepy.
And with that I shall bid you adieu. Thank you for joining me this week, I hope you all enjoyed going back to the 90’s once again. I’ll be back next week with something quite different.
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.