Posted By Claire on July 21, 2015
Queen. Jewel, Mistress: A History of the Queens of England & Great Britain in Verse by Ruth Stacey is a very different book to what I usually get sent to review by authors and publishers. Usually, I receive novels, non-fiction books and biographies, so it was lovely to have a bit of a change and to receive a collection of poems.
Ruth covers every queen and queen consort from the 9th century Judith of Flanders, wife of two Kings of the House of Wessex, Æthelwulf and Æthelbald, all the way to our present queen, Elizabeth II. She also includes Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Not only is her book a collection of poetry, it is also a journey through history and this is helped by the seventeen pages of “Notes on the Queens of England and Great Britain” at the end of the book.
I have to admit to skipping to the section on the House of Tudor first – yes, I’m that predictable – and, of course, I read Anne Boleyn’s first. I was delighted by it. I love Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt” which is said to be about Anne Boleyn. His poem is about a hind being hunted down and it ends with the words:
“And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.”
Ruth carries on with this theme in her poem, portraying Anne as a doe watching Caesar hunt her. It is beautiful.
Through her poetry, Ruth really gives these historical women voices and I found her poetry very moving. If you love history and poetry, then this is a book to get hold of and treasure.
Listen to the voices of the Queens of England and Britain, from the Anglo- Saxon era to the modern age, as each one is evoked through poetry. Some poems are instantly recognisable as they mimic a familiar form; others are free verse or epistle. Each poem captures a distinct personality and gives the reader the experience of moving through different poetic styles as well as observing the changing role of a queen/consort.