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The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I [Kindle Edition]

Sally Varlow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £14.99
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Book Description

Penelope Devereux was the brightest star who ever shone in the court of Queen Elizabeth I in sixteenth-century England. She was the most beautiful woman of her generation and muse to countless poets and musicians, yet her story ended in tragedy: she died in disgrace on 7th July 1607, a widow, outcast from court, and stripped of all her titles. Her life touched on every great event of the age – the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the arrival of King James and the Gunpowder Plot – and she knew many of the celebrated artistic figures of the day including William Shakespeare. The Lady Penelope is a dramatic, visual, emotional and ultimately tragic story set against the character of Queen Elizabeth I and the staged pageantry of her Court, and will have immediate appeal to lovers of historical biographies.

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"Excellent". -- The Lady, June 12, 2007

"Really masterly. This authoritative history tells what
eventually happened to 'The Other Boleyn Girl' - and her great-granddauter,
The Lady Penelope." -- Philippa Gregory, June 20, 2007

"Sally Varlow vividly tells the story of her life, her famous
admirers, the Court intrigues, and the momentous events of the time in a
lively biography".
-- Leicester Mercury, June 19, 2007

"Shines a new light on this unusual woman, and the drama of
her story can hardly fail to grip". -- Western Daily Press, June 2, 2007

"Varlow returns the lady to her place in the spotlight". --Wales on Sunday, June 3, 2007

From the Author

400 years after Penelope died it is time to challenge the
usual historians' view that she was merely a footnote to famous men's

They have cast her as simply a glittering Court figure who
flaunted her beauty in brazen love affairs; most famously with the great
soldier-poet, Sir Philip Sidney, who made her the heroine,"Stella",
of his 100+ love sonnets, "Astrophil and Stella".

But what
political significance did she hold with her brother, Essex, and the Queen?
Why did Essex name her as a major player in the coup that cost him his
head? And how did she walk free? What was she doing having secret meetings
with the most hunted Jesuit priest in England? What lay behind the special
affection and tolerance Queen Elizabeth always showed her? Most important
of all, if "The Other Boleyn Girl" - Mary Boleyn - was her
great-grandmother, was King Henry VIII her great-grandfather?

These were
just some of the intriguing questions that led me to re-tell the life of
"The Lady Penelope".

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 17 Aug. 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a truly wonderful book about a truly remarkable woman! Married to one man she loathed, she had the audacity to begin an affair with another man which would last until his death!! Not only that but she also gave birth to her lovers children who bore her husband's name and eventually divorced her husband to marry him. Then to top it all when her second husband died and his family challenged his will, Penelope took on the full force of the legal system and WON!What a truly remarkable woman. Her immense strength of character and the love she had for those around her simply shine out of this fantastic book. It makes such a change to read about such a person from this era of our history and all I have is admiration for the author who must have felt such an empathy for Penelope. Please, read this book. You will not be disappointed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The first in-depth study of Lady Penelope Devereux, sister to the ill-fated Earl of Essex is a brilliantly written and extemely well researched study of this forgotten star of the Elizabethan court. Long believed to be the cousin of Elizabeth 1, Sally Varlow debunks this myth in this first few pages. Found in a Latin dictionary belonging to Sir Francis Knollys(grandfather to the Lady Penelope) is the proof that Mary Boleyn, grandmother to the Lady Penelope was in fact the daughter of Henry the eighth and not of William Carey, her husband. This fact goes a long way to explain Elizabeh's extraordinary patience with the rebellion of Robert, Earl of Essex and the Lady Penelope who was just as deeply involved as he - if not more so.

The book traces the tragically short life of this intelligent, strong-willed woman through her childhood and youth at Elizabeth's court, her desperately unhappy marriage, and her long love affair with Charles Blount. She adored her brother Robert Earl of Essex and the author shows her to be the driving force behind the rebellion which cost him his life. The Lady Penelope's relationship with Charles Blount, on whom Elizabeth relied saved her from reprisals. Finally she fell from grace under King James because of her eventual marriage to her lover. The book offers facinating new insights into the politics and relationships of Elizabeth's court. I only wish there are more extant portraits of The Lady Penelope, a truly beautiful woman.

I have already read it twice, the second time with increasing pleasure. I shall re-read it and I thoroughly recommend this book to anybody interested in the Eizabethan period and women's history.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This true story of the life, loves and political intrigues of a strong, beautiful and multi-talented woman at the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st reads as if the Lady Penelope had only died yesterday, so vividly does Sally Varlow bring her subject to life. I thoroughly recommend this book, but be warned - long after you have finished it you will find your thoughts returning again and again to this bewitching figure from history.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
For all its verve and colour, the Tudor court was a treacherous place. The ambitious needed quick wits, strong nerves, connections and a great deal of luck to survive. Even favourites were vulnerable; an unwise liaison, an unsought pregnancy, the slightest smear on the reputation of someone near the Queen could bring sudden disaster. Sally Varlow's admiration and sympathy for her heroine is clear and her considerable achievement has been to provide an account of Penelope Devereux's life which is detailed yet utterly readable, and which leaves you caring about the outcome. If Tudor England is your thing `The Lady Penelope' should certainly be on your bookshelf.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and Drama In Tudor England 4 Aug. 2007
The author has managed to bring Lady Penelope to life, no wonder that she was at the centre of so much intrigue and drama at court. I keep being drawn back to the wonderful portrait that the author has found and used for the cover which already show a woman of great beauty but also those eyes suggest someone of tremendous charm, intelligence and charisma. I started the book quite slowly because of the huge cast of characters, many with similar names, but with the help of the family trees at the back and the engaging way in which the book is written, I was soon drawn into the extraordinary story of this woman who apparently participated in many of the events of those turbulent times. It is clear that very careful research has gone into this book but it is never dry and I was completely enthralled as the story unfolded. It is hard to understand how someone so passionate and 'alive' and likeable can have been ruthlessly airbrushed from history. What a great film heroine she would make!
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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
This book peels away centuries of mis-information and insults, and gives the real story of Penelope Devereux, the most beautiful woman during "The Golden Age" of Queen Elizabeth I.

It must be difficult to piece together a life that ended 400 years ago, but well worth the effort when so many of us love Tudor history, and when we are intrigued by stories of "The Other Boleyn Girl" ~ who turns out to be Penelope's great-grandmother.

As I began reading this account of the woman who became Lady Rich, I felt I was in the hands of a writer who knows the politics, the religious controversies and the romance of 16th-century England in depth ~ and could convey them in a brilliantly readable style. This is an utterly absorbing book. Though packed with details it is never a hard read. It is always written with a touch of wit. "Really?" as the author asks at one point in the story. Yes, really.

From the day she was baptised, in January 1563, with the Queen as her godmother, Penelope was destined to be a Court insider and she lived through countless great events. So the threat of the Spanish Armada, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth's death, James's arrival from Scotland, even the Gunpowder Plot, come vividly alive in this book ~ along with everyone in Tudor high society.

Sir Philip Sidney was inspired by Penelope to write his celebrated love sonnets, "Astrophil and Stella". Lord Leicester (Queen Elizabeth's greatest love) was Penelope's step-father. Lettice Knollys (the flame-haired beauty Elizabeth loathed) was her mother. Sir Francis Knollys (Elizabeth's trusted councillor) was her grandfather. Walter Ralegh was her friend, for a time, and she fixed his secret marriage to his pregnant mistress.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Theories not backed up well with evidence.
I bought the book thinking it was a historical biography but the book was more in the style of historical fiction with regards to sources and justifying opinions. Read more
Published 6 months ago by aethelred
5.0 out of 5 stars Read
Now I like this book, very good read.
Published 11 months ago by buster
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Might have loved it but never received
Published 12 months ago by jules2711
1.0 out of 5 stars the lady penelope
I was absolutely bored to tears with this book and thought a waste of money although I love historical novels
Published 18 months ago by kathleen kitchen
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I bought this book as I had heard of Penelope Rich, however the story which I had heard was of a woman who was able to divorce her husband for his impotence & was then named... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Sekhem Ma'at
5.0 out of 5 stars Knew of this lady...
but not such an in-depth study. Well researched and written.
Really brings her to life..and realise how precarious life at the time actually was....

Good one!!
Published 20 months ago by Smokies Mum
4.0 out of 5 stars Lady Penelope
Really liked this book as it was written about someone i'd never really heard of. Could have been a bit less wordy and more descriptive.
Published 21 months ago by murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good historical novel
A very good and interesting historical novel about the intrigues of Elizabethan life at court, Centred around Lady Penelope and her family
Published 21 months ago by Renee Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars good historical acount
it was good and i felt it was quiet honest as much as the author could be. i enjoyed reading it
Published 21 months ago by mesopotamia
3.0 out of 5 stars Another PhD thesis?
I'm interested in this period of British history - and I'm also a Penelope. I'd certainly never heard about this Lady Rich who became Lady Devonshire so I picked up this book. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Anne Lovell
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