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August 5, 2010


Posted by Dana

In today's guest post, author Jeane Westin talks about the relationship between Queen Elizabeith I and the Earl of Leicester and why she felt it had to be written about.  The idea that our communication has become so casual, so electronic, so instant and so impersonal makes this story even more compelling to me.

His-Last-Letter-Westin-Jeane-9780451230126.jpgThe idea for HIS LAST LETTER grew out of my lifetime of reading history and the specific research for my first Tudor novel THE VIRGIN’S DAUGHTERS. Although that novel was focused on two ladies of Elizabeth I’s court, the queen’s personality was so strong that the book revolved about her needs and power. 

I was fascinated by the idea that over 400 years ago, a woman had ruled a kingdom so completely at a time when it was thought (known really) that a woman’s brain could not possibly grasp the intricacies of politics, diplomacy or war.  She clutched her power firmly to her for almost a half-century though it was apparent that she was attracted to and I think deeply in love with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  But she loved her power more.  Always.  What had Elizabeth’s choice  done to them?  He was devoted to her, but ambitious. They had incredible shouting matches heard everywhere in the palace.  They would separate, only to be miserable and come together again, crying and swearing never to quarrel again.  Yet, their volatile tempers would inevitably explode again in jealousy or hurt feelings.  Robin would leave court and she would call him back or go after him. They must have exhausted each other. 

Remember when you shared a young passion like this? Imagine it lasting for a lifetime!

When I finished writing THE VIRGIN’S DAUGHTERS, I knew that I had to write about Elizabeth and her Sweet Robin and try to discover the hidden secrets in their life together.   Who would not want to know?

It was fascinating to me that so many of their mature experiences were really rooted in their earlier years and I built their story from their final three years back to those earlier years.

During intensive research, I found little bits of information that illuminated their behavior for me.  One of the most meaningful for me was the time Elizabeth discovered that Robin had secretly married her hated Boleyn cousin, Lettice Knollys.  He needed an heir and had finally accepted that Elizabeth would never marry him.  But in the queen’s mind it was a great betrayal and she banished him from court.

What made it even more interesting for me was coming across this intriguing bit of information: within days of Robin’s banishment, the wonderfully complete records of Elizabeth’s reign show she was gone from court for three days…whereabouts unknown.  Where could she have been?  Where, but with Robin at his country estate, Wanstead.  He had a habit of becoming ill whenever he was out of her favor and she would run to him. Was it fake on his part or a real inability to live without her?  The romantic in me insists on the latter.

HIS LAST LETTER is focused on the one page letter found in Elizabeth’s treasures after she died. The three words "His Last Letter" were written in the queen’s hand on the outside and it was indeed the last letter the Earl of Leicester wrote to her.  Robin wrote thanking her for her medicine (Elizabeth, like her father Henry VIII, believed in herbals of their own concoction) and Robin sent a kiss for her foot.  The actual letter is reproduced in the back of my book.

He knew he was dying.  Would medicine and feet be the only things on his mind?  Would he not want to say a more loving farewell, remembering for the last time what had been between them?  I believed he would and that is when I thought there had to be more than one page, another page that Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, could not allow seen by any other eyes.

She took the letter into the royal apartment and locked herself in, refusing to come out, to eat or drink for several days.  Her chief councilor Baron Burleigh, finally, in fear of her life, had guards break down the door.

That act, to me, signals a love that never died, and a secret story that had to be told.

As you read HIS LAST LETTER, I hope you will see in their life together what I saw…a love for the ages.

-- Jeane Westin, Author (