Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain by Margaret Irwin

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 336pp
ISBN-13: 9781402229985

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Margaret Irwin on the WEB: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Wikipedia

Excerpt from Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain, courtesy of Aisle B

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Philip, prince of Spain, the unwilling bridegroom of Queen Mary, has been warned about the queen's half sister Elizabeth. According to all reports, she is a heretic, a rebel, and a potential enemy, and has a "spirit full of enchantment." Philip is immediately intrigued. Idolized by his aging wife, Philip holds the power to save the young princess, who has been accused of treachery by Mary and is under threat of death. The brilliant Elizabeth must walk the razor-thin line between Blood Mary's jealousy and Philip's uneasy ardor. The final book in Irwin's timeless trilogy, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain follows the triumphs and tragedies, the battles of wit and will, between Henry VIII's spirited daughters.


Margaret Irwin (1889-1969) is a quintessential writer of historical fiction. Her works have captivated readers for decades and the reprint of the final book in her trilogy based on Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain is a remarkable look into the lives of Henry VIII's daughters. Readers who have never read Irwin's work will fall in love with her descriptive prowess and smooth writing style. Long time fans will relish in the fact that Irwin's books are still in print and available to a new audience.

Princess Elizabeth is constantly a thorn in the side of her powerful and ruthless half-sister, Mary. The dynamic Elizabeth intrigues just about everyone she meets, including Mary's unwilling husband, Philip, Prince of Spain. Philip and Mary have similar views and ideas on most things from religion to the crown, but Elizabeth a Protestant arouses Philip with her intelligence and beauty. When Mary figures out a way to get rid of Elizabeth by accusing her of treachery, Philip holds her life in his hands. Mary loves Philip desperately and it is in his power to change her mind about Elizabeth. Mary, who is known as Bloody Mary to her subjects and Philip will decide the fate of one of the most interesting players in English history.

Margaret Irwin's book, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain was originally published in 1953 to great acclaim. It is the final book in her "young Bess" series, which has been re-told many times and made into a movie. Irwin's ability to write about the Tudor women has garnered her a great following. She takes the reader inside court life to the heart of the relationship between King Henry's VIII's daughters.

The rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth is brought into sharp focus in this book. Mary wants nothing more than to be free of Elizabeth. She sees her as a enemy and a heretic most of the time. She realizes that Elizabeth has the potential to destroy her and on top of that Mary's husband Philip is quite taken with Elizabeth. Irwin descriptions of court life and the tension that brewed between Mary and Elizabeth is a thing of beauty. Her writing brings out the stark reality that Elizabeth was facing. Mary was often ruthless and uncompromising, and Philip's ardor was something Elizabeth had to keep in check at the risk of her life. I thought Irwin's portrayal of Mary was masterful. Mary really came to life under Irwin's pen. She became not only a historical woman who was known for her brutality but also a woman who feared what her sister could do to her. She was a very three-dimensional character.

Elizabeth's rise to power and her later rule as Queen are never more in danger than during this time in her life. She is caught between Mary and Philip in such a way that if she made one wrong move, her life would be at an end. Irwin's portrayal of the pressure that rested on Elizabeth was remarkable. Irwin showed the reader just how perilously close Elizabeth came to being nothing more than Mary's half-sister. Irwin's ability to get into the head of Elizabeth sets this book apart. She was able to show Elizabeth as young, vibrant woman, on the edge of greatness. Both Mary and Elizabeth are drawn as exceptional women who had the ability to make history, while still being vulnerable and susceptible to the cruelty of others.

I really enjoyed this book as well as the other two books in the trilogy. I recommend this one to fans of Irwin and historical fiction lovers. If you are interested in King Henry the VIII and his family this a great book for you. It is filled with great historical detail and it's easy to see why Irwin is regarded as one of the great writers of historical fiction. It is not a long book or difficult to read. It can easily be read as a stand alone or as part of the Young Bess series.

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Margaret Irwin (1889-1969) was a master of historical fiction, blending meticulous research with real storytelling flair to create some of England's best-loved and most widely acclaimed novels including, Young Bess, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain, The Gay Galliard and The Stranger Prince.