Monday, April 26, 2010

A Discussion About Spring and High School and The Lady Elizabeth

Do you think I can do it? 300 pages by 6:00 p.m. (ha). Good thing I watch The Tudors on Showtime from time to time. This is an accurate depiction of Henry VIII, right? We have had such fabulous weather this month that my evening time has turned into going for runs, weeding, washing my car, sitting on the back porch, chatting with neighbors and after dinner walks. Which means my nights have turned into DVR catch up since I have missed my evening shows while doing all of the above. What can I say... I ADORE SPRING! This time of year makes me want to frolic about the tulips, not sit down and read! Not being a history buff, I was reluctant to start this book. But I did, and found that it is very well written and easy to follow even if, like me, you know NOTHING about that time period. I must have been designing my homecoming dress or writing love notes, or something much more important than paying attention in history class when the 1500's were taught! This is exactly what my homecoming dress looked like in 1994. Hey, bows were totally cool from 1993-1995 (a little piece of history for you).
Questions for Discussion
1.What kind of obligation do you think a historical novelist has to the facts of history? Should a writer let facts stand in the way of telling a good story? Are there parts of The Lady Elizabeth where you felt that Weir erred on one side or the other?

2. How does Elizabeth’s girlhood determine the woman she grows up to be? What are some of the events that shape the kind of queen she will become?

3. Although Weir relies on unproven assertions in her portrayal of Elizabeth’s relationship with Thomas Seymour, some of the most shocking episodes, such as the scene where Elizabeth’s clothes are cut away, are recorded events. How could the two women charged with supervising Elizabeth, Kat Astley and Katherine Parr, allow these sorts of “games” to go on, and even participate in them? Do you think that this sort of abuse was a relic of less-civilized times, or is it something that could still happen today?

4. How do Elizabeth’s views on religion change over the course of the novel, and what contributes to those changes? Compare her religious beliefs with those of her society; is she typical of her times?

5. In the Tudor era, religion and politics were virtually synonymous. In twenty-first century America, religion has once again become bound up with politics, despite the constitutional separation of church and state. Does the Tudor experience, as detailed in The Lady Elizabeth, have any lessons for modern-day America?

6. Do you share Weir’s sympathy for Henry VIII? Why or why not?

7. Torture plays a significant part in The Lady Elizabeth. The threat of it is omnipresent, and it is used almost as a matter of course by a government intent on eliciting the answers it requires from its citizens. How effective is torture for Henry’s government as a political strategy, regardless of any moral considerations? Compare the attitude toward torture in Tudor times and the current debate about the use of torture in the War on Terrorism. Are there significant differences?

8. Twice in the novel, Elizabeth encounters what she believes to be the ghost of her executed mother, Anne Boleyn. Does Weir want us to believe that she has really seen her mother’s spirit? What other explanations might there be?

9. How do Mary’s feelings toward Elizabeth change over the course of her life, especially once she becomes queen? Why do you think these changes occur?

10. Queen Mary is advised by many to imprison or even execute Elizabeth. Do you think that she is too lenient toward her younger sister? Does she allow her personal feelings to trump her duties as head of state? What would you have done in Mary’s position?

11. When Elizabeth learns of the plots against Mary, why doesn’t she alert her sister? Is she right to hold her tongue? 12. What lessons do you think Elizabeth learns from Henry and Mary about how to rule, and about how not to rule?

Questions adapted from


3egirls said...

Did you really design your own homecoming dress??!!!

Amanda said...

No, but didn't you used to sketch designs of dance dresses on the backs of notebooks? We always did. Right beside TLA (all connected together of course)and 4-ever.