Elizabeth de Valois, Queen of Spain

Elizabeth de Valois, Queen of Spain, and the Court of Philip II:

From numerous unpublished sources, in the archives of France, Italy, and Spain. Vols 1 and 2

by Martha Walker Freer

Married at 14 to a foreigner she had never met — a man twice-widowed and more than twice her age, and one reputed to be stern and reserved, disdainful of every person and thing not Spanish — it is not surprising that Elizabeth was filled with dread during her lengthy journey towards her new husband.

This double volume begins with Elizabeth the child — her birth and baptism; growing up with the young Mary Queen of Scots; her wedding and the traumas of adjusting to the rigid etiquette of the Spanish court. But the greater part of the book focuses on Elizabeth the Queen — beautiful, gracious, beloved by the husband she'd once feared, and equally devoted to him.

My knowledge of Philip II, before editing this book, was limited to his marriage to Queen Mary of England — a time of mutual hostility between Spanish and English, with the exception of the poor Queen. I found myself warming to the Philip described in this book and sorrowing with him about the degeneration of his son Carlos into insanity, followed soon by the early death of Elizabeth.

I can't resist sharing with you this extract about Isabella, eldest daughter of Philip and Elizabeth:

This little daughter always remained the king's idol throughout life; and next to Elizabeth, who was loved by Philip with a devotion he never afterwards bestowed upon another, the infanta eventually possessed more of her father's confidence than any other personage. In his old age, it was upon the arm of Elizabeth's daughter that Philip loved to rest: and to the eldest child of his most beloved consort, the king by his will made the splendid bequest of the Low Countries in heritage. When Isabel was little more than three months old, Philip caused her to be affianced to the archduke Rodolph, eldest son of the Emperor; yet such was the king's attachment for his daughter that, during her father's life, the infanta remained unmarried that she might not be compelled to quit Spain. For the advancement and prosperity of the infanta, Philip undertook some of his most famous enterprises. He promoted the civil wars of the League in France against Henri IV, chiefly with the view of placing the diadem of her mother's ancestors on the brow of Isabel. When this design failed in consequence of the universal acceptance by the French nation of the chivalrous Henri for their sovereign, Philip was heard to express regret that his son, the offspring of a fourth alliance, was destined to wear the crown of Spain to the exclusion of his beloved daughter.

In his will, Philip commits his daughter to the care and affection of her brother, the future king, in these words: "Take care of your sister so dearly beloved by me; for she was my joy and the very light of my eyes."

Elizabeth de Valois: Amazon US / Amazon UK

The Dunnett connection:

The Dunnett connection: the first part of this book  —  from Elizabeth's childhood to the marriage of her companion, Mary Queen of Scots  —  gives background to books 2 and 6 of the Lymond series, and gives a deeper understanding of some of the senior members of the Court of France.