Walter Scott’s take on on Robert Dudley and Amy Robsart
As the book opens, Amy Robsart has left her family home and has secretly married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Amy’s father, Sir Hugh and the man her father intended her to marry, Edmund Tressilian, have no knowledge of Amy’s whereabouts and suspect foul play at the hands of Dudley’s sneaky master of the horse, Richard Varney, and Tressilian goes in search of Amy at an old manor house, Cumnor Place. As Elizabeth I’s attraction to Dudley grows, so does Dudley’s ambitions to reach for the stars and a greater place at court than he ever dared for, and Amy becomes a bit of a liability — especially to Varney who hopes to rise in power alongside his master–and thus the game is on.
This is the first Walter Scott that I have read, with the exception of Ivanhoe and that was many years ago when I was a young child. I admit to almost giving up a couple of times, as the vernacular used by the characters was hard to follow at times, but it’s worth slugging through the first 50 or so pages until the story starts cooking along as Scott takes the reader on a grand ride through the court of Elizabeth Tudor. Even Walter Raleigh makes a wonderful secondary character, his characterization of Elizabeth I was spot on, and I loved the way Scott worked Dudley’s famous fete of Elizabeth at his castle at Kenilworth into Amy’s story.
Although Scott based this tale on an old English Ballad (which is printed in the back of the book) and not known history, it’s still a jolly good yarn peopled with interesting characters, poison, astrology, treachery and all the well known intrigues of the Court of Elizabeth I. Those of you who are well versed in Tudor history already know the fate of Amy Robsart and I will have to warn those potential readers who are picky about historical accuracy that Scott definitely diddles with history in this tale. But for those readers who are willing to forget what’s in the history books and ready to enjoy a jolly good yarn by a master storyteller about Elizabethan England, this is one book worth checking out, and I intend to read other books by this author.