Queen Elizabeth's Daughter
Anne Clinard Barnhill
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From Anne Barnhill, the author of At the Mercy of the Queen, comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court
Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.
Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.
him I have no fear of my beloved people. I shall not return but shall go onward as promised. I shall let my people see me and receive their love as they shall receive mine. Now, Lord Robert, lead on!” said the queen. The courtiers threw up their caps and cheered. Mary saw a look of concern pass over Lord Robert’s features and he called for the Gentlemen Pensioners to surround Her Majesty’s litter before they progressed. Then, the long train of wagons and mules and horses and litters moved slowly
streaming down her back, though one of the serving wenches fanned her and the queen with a large palmlike leaf. They sat on pillows, side by side, with Lord Robert caring for the horses at the riverbank across from them. Mary smiled at Sir John, who was talking with Sir James and Oxford. Sir John winked his eye at her when no one was looking. “Majesty, is it true you are to marry the French duke?” said Mary, biting into a soft, sweet plum. “We are discussing such a move—remember, dear Fawn,
this is the result of such a scare, I would wish carts to run at us every day,” said Sir John, holding her close. She looked up at him, his wavy hair moving slightly in the wind, his aqua eyes staring into her own. Before she thought, she kissed him, there, in the middle of the street. They had avoided each other in public places. Rather, by assignation, they had met a few times, talking about their plans and stealing kisses and caresses. Mary found it more and more difficult to restrain herself
they stood still. Then a gaggle of serving women walked toward the kitchens. When they saw the drawn sword, they stopped and stared. Oxford’s face had turned red and his arms shook with rage. He looked directly at Mary. “I won’t forget this, Mistress Mary,” he said. Then he turned to Sir John. “How dare you draw your sword on me? You will pay for this affront—of that you can be sure. Come, Lusty. Let us be away from here,” said Oxford, turning to his friend. Together, they stumbled away from
children with golden curls and pale eyes. She walked so slowly toward me, I could sense how terrified she was. Her eyes were wide and she could not stop gazing at me, at my jewels … and when she curtsied to me, just like a grown-up woman, I smiled at her. I couldn’t stop myself from holding out my arms to her and she ran into them just as if I’d been her own mother. You told me then of how her parents had died within days of each other, the sweats, you thought. Her brother, Sir Ralph, had