Reading Notes for the fictional memoir ELIZABETH

A closer look at a Story within a Story

To begin with, and to clear up any ambiguity as to the nature of this little volume, which might best be described as a ‘fictional memoir,’ here is an extract from a relevant article, written in 2014.

“The aim has been to go beyond the usual reading experience encountered by those of us who enjoy Tudor history, an experience in which we are presented with either a work of scholarly non-fiction, or else a novel with variable qualities of historical accuracy. I wanted, instead, to generate a certain ‘magical uncertainty’ with the facts – combining truth and fiction in which the sum becomes greater than its parts. This, I hope, might provide the reader with an overall impression of having learned and yet been entertained all at the same time.
It is, in other words, a collection of short stories set within a larger story – a special moment in time and space where reality and the world of the past and its inhabitants all meet up in the company of the reader.”

And now on to the book itself …

Method of Leadership

Consider Elizabeth’s use of her ‘availability’ in the marriage market of 16th Century European politics. How did she make use of this in order to wield power over so many strong and determined men, both allies and foe?


The Tudor/Elizabethan era, sometimes termed the ‘English Renaissance,’ was one in which the re-discovery of platonic philosophy was at the centre of intellectual thought and the of arts. Do you feel the book conveys the concept of the eternal nature of ideas as presented in neo-Platonism? If so, where is this suggested, and how? What is the significance of structuring the book in the form of a story within a story, especially in the light of Dr DeJon’s concluding remarks?

Robert Dudley

What do you think was the relationship between Elizabeth and her undisputed favourite, Dudley – Earl of Leicester? Did they or didn’t they? It is an eternal question that shows no signs of ever being resolved one way or another. But that shouldn’t stop us trying.

Francis Walsingham

The chapter on Walsingham raises some points as to who actually knew about the intended execution of Mary Queen of Scots and when. Do you think Elizabeth knew all along what was about to take place and simply shifted the blame onto others when it occured? Did Walsingham know that she knew it was going to happen?


Is it to our folly that we judge Elizabeth by our own modern standards – and do we reach the wrong conclusions as a result? Was it possible to live and remain a virgin for one who was pursued so vigorously when young and then exposed to so much temptation later on as a woman of the world?

An Evening Stroll

In chapter 8, the narrator of the book encounters a lady in Elizabethan dress on the terrace after dinner. Who was this? And do you agree with what she said?


What do you think of the narrator of the memoir. Given the slightly unreal situation in which we find him: a weekend retreat in a location that can no longer be found, and in which the guests seems to have mingled with elements of the ghosts of the past, should we believe a word of it? Are we meant to believe a word of it? And who has really written the text, anyway – is it the speaker Dr Dejon? Is it the narrator of the book, who is nameless, or is it the author?
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Elizabethan Era
Elizabeth Sieve Portrait - allegory and meaning
thumbnail image shows face of Elizabeth Tudor as queen
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