About the book…
Despite widespread interest in Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, little has been written about him in decades past. In Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite, Sarah-Beth Watkins brings the story of his life, and death, back into the public eye.
In the later years of Elizabeth I’s reign, Robert Devereux became the ageing queen’s last favourite. The young upstart courtier was the stepson of her most famous love, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Although he tried, throughout his life, to live up to his stepfather’s memory, Essex would never be the man he was.
His love for the queen ran in tandem with undercurrents of selfishness and greed. Yet, Elizabeth showered him with affection, gifts and the tolerance only a mother could have for an errant son. In return, for a time, Essex flattered her and pandered to her every whim.
But, one disastrous commission after another befell the earl, from his military campaigns, to voyages seeking treasure, to his stint as spymaster. Ultimately, his relationship with the queen would suffer and his final act of rebellion would force Elizabeth I to ensure her last favourite troubled her no more.
My thoughts on Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite
I can’t resist a book on the tudors. And I can’t resist a historical biography written by Sarah-Beth Watkins, who I find has a wonderful way of writing – one that informs and educates without making me feel like I’m reading a textbook.
That was definitely the case here. I feel I learnt a lot about Robert Devereux, and about the time towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign when she was increasingly aware of her own mortality, and increasingly paranoid as a result.
What I didn’t get, however, was just why he was a favourite. I could find nothing appealing or redeeming in a man who seemed to stumble from bad decision to bad decision. I think if I had been Elizabeth, I’d have said ‘off with his head’ a lot sooner!
Perhaps if the book had been longer, I may have figured it out. Which is my only complaint with the book. It is way too short, coming in at just 142 pages. I wanted more (though if you read my other reviews of books by Sarah-Beth Watkins, you’ll find this a common refrain…they are never long enough!). Still, a really good read – 4 stars!
Please note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.
My Other Reviews of Books by Sarah-Beth Watkins
The Tragic Daughters of Charles I
Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots