Thursday, May 8, 2008

William's Wife by Jean Plaidy

As someone who loves history, I was happy to find a novel by Jean Plaidy that was a fictionalized account of the lives of William and Mary who ruled England a little more than three hundred years ago. The book is well written and, through later research, I found the names and positions of all the key characters are accurate to history. Women’s rights and women’s attitudes have changed a lot in three hundred years. You would have trouble finding a woman today who would make the same life choices made by Queen Mary, II.

Mary and William married for foreign policy reasons and she was repulsed by the man twelve years older than her 15 years of age. She did, however, come to love him and his country, Holland, though she was very homesick for England. William, on the other hand, was cold and indifferent toward his wife their entire marriage. Mary’s lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth Villiers was William’s mistress, which made life difficult for Mary, who had to face the woman regularly at court. Mary never confronted William about Elizabeth. Her self-imposed subservience to her husband lead her to allow him to be king when she could have left him as prince consort and ruled solely as Queen of England. I kept waiting for her to finally stand up to him or at least win the battle over the mistress, but she seemed to cling to the belief that he would love her if she let him have his way. Maybe I am too modern to enjoy a story of someone who’s world and values seem so archaic, but “William’s Wife” left me frustrated.