Sixteenth Century England and Queen Elizabeth I is on the throne, but she has no heir. Lady Arbella Stuart, cousin to the Queen, is descended from Henry VII and also has a Tudor bloodline, is seen as the natural heir to he throne. She is imprisoned at Hardwick Hall by her grandmother Bess of Hardwick, to keep her safe from any political alliances wishing to overthrow the Queen and make Arbella queen. This is a period where women are silenced, and it is not seemly to have to many opinions, a time when Arbella could be made a puppet for those out for their own motives, a fact that could see her tried for treason and killed
Arbella just wants to be free, to lead a different life, to love and be loved and not be a contender for the throne, but who can she trust, who really has her best interests at heart. Arbella’s story is re imagined in this tense historical thriller.
The Girl in the Glass Tower weaves together the stories of Arbella Stuart and poet Aemilia Lanyer, both historical figures, educated women in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Elizabeth Fremantle does admit that they were both at the Royal Court at the same time, probably in Queen Anne’s rooms, there is no actual evidence that they met. This is a historical fiction and Elizabeth Fremantle uses Aemilia Lanyer and her poetry as a way to tell the story of Arbella Stuart, a lesser known and shadow figure in the Tudor dynasty. Both women are feisty and want to be incharge of their destiny at a time when that was not possible. Lanyer, may not have been the first female poet, but she was the first women to declare herself a poet, a very radical thing to do.
The plot follows Arbella’s life, and also Aemilia who is reading writings by Arbella about her life in the hope of finding some sort of forgiveness for an act that we are not privy to until the end of the book. The only problem was that the chapters were not labeled as to where they are in both date and who they are about; I think doing this would have made reading this book a bit easier as there are jumps in time which can cause some confusion. I would also have liked a family tree at the beginning of the book to refer to to help make sense of all the family relationships. I had a digital copy to read so I am not sure if it was included in a print copy, but it would have made a difference to my reading experience. Apart from that it is well written, and it is obvious that Elizabeth Fremantle has done a vast amount of research into the characters and cultural history of the time. I found myself looking into the characters on the internet to refresh my memory of the details of the characters and the period. I have added two pictures at the end of my review of Arbella Stuart and Aemilia Lanyer for you to look at if interested.
I found The Girl in the Glass Tower to be an interesting and engaging read, full of historical fact and political and social intrigue in post Elizabethan England.
Picture of Lady Arbella Stuart, top and Aemilia Lanyer bottom.