In the vibrant, volatile court of Henry VIII, can even the most willful young woman direct her own fate and follow her heart in a world ruled by powerful men? Clever, headstrong Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne knows her duty. As the sole heiress to an old but impoverished noble family, Eliza must marry a man of wealth and title — it’s the only fate for a girl of her standing. But when a surprising turn of events lands her in the royal court as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, Eliza is drawn into the dizzying, dangerous orbit of Henry the Eighth and struggles to distinguish friend from foe. Is her glamorous flirt of a cousin, Katherine Howard, an ally in this deceptive place, or is she Eliza’s worst enemy? And then there’s Ned Barsby, the king’s handsome page, who is entirely unsuitable for Eliza but impossible to ignore. British historian Lucy Worsley provides a vivid, romantic glimpse of the treachery, tragedy, and thrills of life in the Tudor court.
Maid of the King's CourtFeatured
This novel offers a fresh take on a time period and characters that have been written about frequently. Queen Katherine Howard finally is given human motivations and dilemmas, instead of being painted as calculating and manipulative as history would have you believe. This story, in many ways, is written in defense of her, not necessarily condoning her decisions, but making them relatable. Additionally, Eliza, an entirely fictional character and the main protagonist, has a feisty spirit and a compelling view of the world around her. Though Eliza and the other maids function primarily for men’s pleasure, Worsley does not make the ladies weak or doting. It is for this reason that the novel manages to have contemporary appeal.
With that being said, the most compelling story arc is the forbidden relationship between Ned Barsby, the King’s page, and Eliza. However, often this budding romance takes a backseat to what is transpiring with the King and what is happening in court. In fact, the ending of the novel, which is the payoff I was waiting for the entire time, feels very rushed and unsatisfying. Personally, I would have loved the middle of the story to be shortened and then the plot extended to see how Eliza lives with the consequences of her actions. It seems as though the historical events are prioritized over the fictional elements, while the latter is the most intriguing part!
Overall, the novel definitely makes me reflect upon gender politics and what has both changed and stayed the same. It is always an extra bonus when a book is more than just entertainment, but also thought-provoking at the same time. MAID OF THE KING’S COURT is a coming of age story, but will appeal to an adult audience as well due to mature subjects.
What worked: I'm a huge fan of the Tudors. Worsley shows readers a glimpse of what might have happened in the Tudor Court. Political intrigue runs high and power plays happen daily.
We see Elizabeth first as a 12 year-old betrothed to a rich family. Women at this time were discouraged to be outspoken and their main purpose was to further their families roles and prestige in court. The author is the chief curator at the Historic Royal Palace and she uses this research to bring life to the Tudor court. Katherine is shown as a scheming young woman who uses her wits to gain the attention of King Henry the Eighth. I didn't find her that likable as she uses her looks to get ahead even to the point of using others, including Elizabeth, to get her way. But Worsley brings life to Katherine and shows readers many other layers to her personality. We see someone who isn't the airheaded queen who ended up being beheaded due to her poor choices. She's smart, conning, but also is determined to rise up in the court.
Vivid glimpse into the volatile Tudor court where men held the power over everything, including the destiny of women. Readers see the courage of Elizabeth and how she takes destiny into her own hands.